Pregnancy and Lactation Weekly Digest

For the Week Ending June 6, 2021. 

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Cellular body clocks are set up during embryogenesis

The “segmentation clock” appears about three weeks into embryogenesis. It creates repeating body segments, like vertebra. It also determines the rates at which different animals grow, mature, and die, which is roughly inversely proportional to size (mouse cells are faster than whale cells). Now, scientists can study human segmentation clocks in the lab. Their new findings may start to explain “unique features of human development, such as our oversized brains, protracted childhoods and long lives, relative to many other species.” Read more here.

This is important for you because maybe the little one you’re carrying will grow up to be a heterochronist: a scientist who studies the variation in the speeds at which different body parts develop.


The Democrats’ new paid leave proposal includes new spending on child care as well as a paid family caregiving leave benefit. But it only gives money to new parents with prior work experience, which would leave out about a third of them. Read more here and here.

This is important for you because we are one of the few nations in the world whose government does not provide paid parental leave; this is certainly a step in the right direction, but only one step.


A baby’s first poop is called meconium. It is generally dark, thick, and sludgy. Analyzing it can reveal how diverse the baby’s microbiome is, and therefore if she is at a higher risk of developing allergies. Read more here.

This is important for you because taking your baby outside, and eating a wide variety of food if you’re nursing can lower your baby’s risk of allergies. Also, don’t give her antibiotics unnecessarily.

New ultrasound technique detects fetal circulation problems in placenta

Detecting problems with the placenta has been notoriously difficult to do. A new technological advance looks at wave reflections in the umbilical artery as a way of detecting them. One day it might be used to alert physicians to an increased need for fetal monitoring or even early delivery. Read more here.

This is important for you because placental issues often cause pregnancy complications, but they are really tough to diagnose.

The most popular article on The Pulse this week was Hiatal Hernia and Pregnancy. 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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