Pregnancy and Lactation Weekly Digest

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For the Week Ending May 26, 2019. 

Beware stem cell claims

Stem cells, and their ability to mature into different cell types, are real; the miraculous healing powers that have been attributed to them are not. And anyway, it is only embryonic stem cells that can turn into any cell type. Amniotic stem cells and stem cells from umbilical cord blood, which are the stem cell types that mothers can donate, are much more limited. Read more here.

This is important for you because if you are thinking about donating amniotic stem cells, think carefully. If someone tries to pressure you into it as you are giving birth, remember that stem cell treatments are neither tested nor regulated, so may not achieve the noble ends you will be promised that they will achieve.

Is it safe to take that?

Pregnant and lactating women and their doctors often don’t know if medications are safe for fetuses and babies largely because, for ethical concerns, most of them were never tested. Now, the FDA has provided two new drafts on how to include pregnant and lactating women in drug trials. Read more here.

This is important for you because more information can make new and existing drugs safer for everyone.

The power of the placenta

The placenta is the only temporary human organ, grown specifically to manage the intersection between mother and fetus. Many ancient cultures have rituals surrounding how it is discarded, to show respect and gratitude for the amazing things it does. None of them seem to eat it, though – that practice seems to be reserved to modern Western cultures, and mammals other than humans. Read more here.

This is important for you because whatever you do with your placenta after birth, at least acknowledge its essential and remarkable function.

Baby’s first flu

The NIH has just funded two long term, large studies to assess how the first flu strain to which a baby is exposed shapes her growing immune system. Ideally, the data they generate could help develop a universal flu vaccine instead of the suboptimal vaccines we have now, which target only certain flu strains and thus must be administered annually. Read more here.

This is important for you because we know that pathogen exposures in babyhood shape the immune system, but we don’t yet know exactly how. These studies could start to get at that.

The most popular article on The Pulse this week was Signs to Know That Your Baby Has Allergies. Symptoms can vary, and babies are at higher risk if they have siblings and/or parents with allergies. 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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