Pregnancy and Lactation Weekly Digest

For the week ending on January 22, 2017

Weekly DigestTalk to your baby!

It has long been known that babies hear and process language very early in development, as early as in utero. Now, it seems that babies retain their first language – even if they never actually acquire it. South Korean babies who were adopted by Dutch families when they were as young as six months old had an easier time learning Korean as adults than people who had never heard Korean in their youth. Read more here.

This is important for you because, even if you fell silly talking out loud to your baby – or your fetus!, – it can help them develop their later verbal abilities.

Weekly DigestMRIs for preemies

At least 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely (before 37 weeks’ gestation) in the United States. These tiny infants are especially vulnerable to damage in the frontal lobe of the brain, the area that will be responsible for decision making and judgement later in life. Researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, took MRI images of preemies just after birth and were able to correlate damage seen in specific brain regions to learning and motor deficits when the children were 18 months old. Thus, MRIs may become part of the standard care for preemies, so doctors and parents can better prepare appropriate treatments for them as they grow. Read more here.

This is important for you because prematurity is common and a carefully performed MRI right after birth could help improve the baby’s life.

Weekly DigestAcupuncture may help colic. Or it may not.

Colic – defined as “excessive” crying for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, and usually peaking when babies are about six weeks old – is torturous for parents. It is notoriously difficult to alleviate, probably because its cause remains unknown. A new study suggests that colicky babies who received acupuncture cried for a shorter length of time, and cried less intensely, than those who did not. This is not the first study to make such a claim; however, critics maintain that the evidence is still not statistically robust. Read more here.

This is important for you because, if your baby is colicky, you have options. However, the only guaranteed factor known to make the condition disappear once and for all is time!

Weekly DigestWomen with congenital heart disease can have successful pregnancies

The American Heart Association issued new guidelines last week for women with congenital heart disease. It was previously thought that pregnancy was too risky for these women, possibly even endangering their lives. However, the new guidelines state that, as long as these moms are in the constant care of a cardiologist and have a responsible birth plan, they can safely bear healthy babies. Read more here.

This is important for you because, even if you weren’t born with a heart defect, it is nice to know that medical advances are enabling women various health challenges to safely carry pregnancies to term.

Weekly DigestPreconception maternal blood pressure might be linked to baby’s gender

There is currently no known way to influence the gender of the baby you conceive. But, a study in China has just shown that women with lower blood pressure before they got pregnant were more likely to have girls, whereas those with higher blood pressure were more likely to have boys. This correlation is certainly interesting – but it hardly suggests that by altering your blood pressure you can determine the gender of your baby! Read more here.

This is important for you because the gender of your baby exemplifies a parenting maxim you will later use frequently: you get what you get, and you don’t get upset!

Weekly DigestThe most popular article on The Pulse this week is about the “pregnancy glow” – the healthier and stronger hair, nails, and skin that some lucky women experience in their second trimester. The hormones progesterone and estrogen that make your whole body more hospitable to the fetus often give this happy side effect – although they can cause skin problems too. Read it here.

This is important for you because, if you have noticed stronger hair and nails and clearer skin, know that it is not in your head – it is real! But, unlike some of the other changes pregnancy wreaks on your body, this one is temporary.

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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