Pregnancy and Lactation Weekly Digest

For the Week Ending May 20, 2018. 

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Sugar Mommy

Sugars in human milk spur the growth of beneficial bacteria in babies’ guts, at the expense of pathogens. That means that breastfed babies are less likely to get harmful infections. Read more here.

This is important for you because it is yet more evidence that you should breastfeed you baby for as long as you can. But if you can’t – researchers are trying to figure out exactly how these sugars work so that they can make infant formulas that mimic breastmilk’s beneficial effects.

Uterus transplants

Uterus transplants can allow certain infertile women to experience pregnancy. But just like surrogacy, it can exploit the bodies of low-income women to satisfy the desires of high income women. It is a riskier procedure than surrogacy – for the donor, the recipient, and maybe even the fetus – and the desire it satisfies is not even for a baby, but for the feeling of being pregnant. Read more about this fascinating bioethical vanguard here.

This is important for you because as abortions are becoming harder to come by in certain states, it is worth thinking about: how fundamental is being a mother to womanhood? How fundamental is pregnancy to womanhood? And who gets to decide?

It’s Not Easy Being a Mom

Mother’s Day is lovely. No really, it is. But all of those breakfasts in bed don’t negate the fact that mothers in this country – especially new mothers and working mothers – often do not get the support that all mothers need to raise their children. It is a communal job, and American communities are often failing at it. Read more about this sobering situation here.

This is important for you because you WILL need help right after giving birth. All new moms do, and always have. Take advantage of any friends, relatives, neighbors – and make sure you get to the doctor for postpartum care.

What Does Your Baby Want? This Computer Knows.

The free app Chatterbaby was invented by a computational neuropsychologist mom who, after having three kids, could finally discern the “I’m hungry” cry from the “I’m tired” cry and trained an algorithm to do the same. The audio files it collects will all be stored and analyzed, and possibly one day signs of neurological disorders like autism could be found in the babies’ cries. Read more here.

This is important for you because it is really hard to figure out what your baby wants from the sound of her cry. And this is a very cool application of machine learning and AI.

On-time Births are Good

Maternal mortality rates in this country are abysmally high. But at least stillbirths and infant mortality seem to be dropping. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has reported that this is likely due to a decrease in preterm births, including elective, scheduled births before 39 weeks of gestation. Read more here.

This is important for you because if you can last, a full-term birth is safest for your baby.

The most popular article on The Pulse this week was Can a Fever During Pregnancy Harm My Baby? It can, but medicine can help. Read it here.

Diana Gitig
Dr. Diana Gitig has a Ph.D. in cell biology and genetics from Cornell University, and has been writing about issues in biology – from molecular biology to cancer to immunology to neuroscience to nutrition to agriculture - for the past fifteen years. She has three teenaged children.

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