Healthy Pregnancy Lengths Surprisingly Vary

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The length of healthy pregnancies can change by five weeks, despite doctors accurately figuring the conception date, says a recent study.

Though healthy pregnancy lengths vary, part of the discrepancy was believed to be because of errors in figuring the baby’s age, said researchers.

The research accurately pinpoints conception day by examining urine specimens from 125 females who were attempting to conceive early in the 1980s. Differences in the urine’s hormone levels were utilized to figure the ovulation date, assumed as the day of conception, in addition to when the embryo was embedded in the uterus.

In general, pregnancies went 38 weeks from conception day to the baby’s birth, or approximately 40 to 41 weeks after the date of the female’s latest menstruation.

However, despite omitting children who were premature, pregnancy length varied from roughly 35 to 40 weeks from conception day to the baby’s birth (or approximately 38 to 43 weeks from when the women last menstruated.)

The scientists were amazed to see this much variation despite accurate determinations about the conception day, stated researcher Dr. Anne Marie Jukic from the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Durham, N.C.

The conclusions propose that giving women an accurate due date isn’t necessarily the greatest way to convey pregnancy duration. Approximately 4 percent of expectants deliver specifically on their given date, and is normally estimated at 280 days after the woman’s last menstruation.

“The emphasis of the lone due date makes the pregnancy’s term seem more reliable than it truly is,” said Jukic. Giving women a timeframe of dates is a more acceptable way to effectively communicate the pregnancy’s duration, said Jukic.

The duration of participants’ prior pregnancies was also closely tied to the duration of their current condition, indicating that this measurement may also assist with factoring a woman’s “natural” pregnancy duration, said researchers.

The research also concluded that tendencies of birthing early may give clues about due dates. Embryos that took longer to form also took longer to birth, and pregnancies with embryos that displayed a late increase in a hormone named progesterone were roughly 12 days less than those with an early increase.

However, a few experts disagreed with this research. Dr. Tomer Singer, an infertility specialist and reproductive endocrinologist from Lenox Hill Hospital at New York, claimed the research didn’t add to the information that was already known. While talking with expecting mothers, doctors agree that few expectants give birth on their actual due date, said Singer. He said that he informs mothers-to-be that they’re apt to give birth within 37 and 42 weeks their last menstruation (a range of five-weeks).

Additionally, the research was small. White, young women without fertility issues were the primary participants, so the findings may not be relevant to the population as a whole, said Singer. The research also took place 30 years ago, a time when there were less obstetric interventions to extend pregnancy were performed, said Singer.


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Fish Consumption During Pregnancy Isn’t Linked to Autism

Halibut on lentils with chard

As it turns out, children don’t display autism-like behaviors when the corresponding expecting mothers consume fish. The fear was that low levels of mercury that may be found in some fish was a cause of autism in unborn children.

Scientists went through more than 30 years of examinations in the Republic of Seychelles, an island country in the Indian Ocean, where the inhabitants eat an average of ten times the amount of fish than residents of Europe and the U.S. They found no significant relationship between fetuses being exposed to mercury and development of autism-like tendencies, which include difficulties in language and speech progression and social skills.

The research involved kids whose mothers ate an average of 12  fish meals every week in a typical week while pregnant, said head writer Edwin van Wijngaarden, an associate professor in the department of public health sciences at New York’s University of Rochester Medical Center.

“These conclusions add to the increasing body of knowledge that imply that exposure to mercury doesn’t warrant a significant role in the onset of these behaviors,” van Wijngaarden stated in his paper.

Mercury in its natural form originates from sources like volcanoes, in addition to many man-made sources, like coal-burning power facilities. Most of the planet’s mercury makes its way to the oceans, where it then infiltrates the food chain and, subsequently, into fish.

Fish are contain high levels of nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, that assist with proper brain development, and commonly contain minimal amounts of mercury. However, research shows that exposure to increased levels of mercury is tied to developmental issues, so exposure for expecting mothers is an issue. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends expecting mothers minimize how much fish they consume, but the consequences of low-level mercury exposure is still undetermined, the scientists said.

The research is part of a continuing project named the Seychelles Child Development Study. It involves 1,784 children, from birth to age 18, and their mothers. The researchers utilized hair samples taken from the mothers near the time of their child’s birth to figure out the level of prenatal exposure to mercury.

Two surveys, one answered by the parents and another answered by the children’s teachers, were used to decide if the research participants showed autism-like tendencies.

“Although the amount of fish eaten in the Seychelles is considerably higher than in other countries in the modernized world, it’s still deemed as low-level exposure,” said Philip Davidson, lead analyst of the research and professor emeritus at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“This research reveals there’s no significant relationship in children whose mothers were tested with mercury levels that were up to 10 times greater than the levels found in the Europe and the U.S.” Davidson stated. “This is a sentinel society, and if it doesn’t exist here, then it likely doesn’t exist to a significant degree.”

The detailed conclusions were released in the journal Epidemiology online on July 23.


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Essential Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

Every woman hopes that her pregnancy will be a happy and healthy one. Surprisingly, there are some basic steps that some women aren’t necessarily aware of that can dramatically increase the odds that the pregnancy will be both happy and healthy. While there are literally hundreds of pregnancy tips online and in various books, here are some of the most important in terms of having a healthy pregnancy:

  • Learn everything you can. Learn about how your body is changing and how it’s going to change. Learn how your baby will grow. Talk to other moms about pregnancy, labor, delivery, and even those first few weeks of life. Keep current with pregnancy blogs like this one. Attend a pregnancy and childbirth class, and watch videos to learn about what exactly you should expect.
  • Make some important decisions regarding health care. Decide whether you want to give birth at home or in a medical facility. Pick a doctor that will help you with giving birth where you choose, and who will be patient and answer any questions you might have along the way.
  • Watch your diet. You’re eating for two (nutritionally, not in terms of calories). Get the recommended amounts of protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy products. Take your prenatal vitamin, and make sure it’s one with folic acid. Get at least six to 10 glasses of water each day.
  • Keep active. You can continue most exercise routines you were engaged in before pregnancy, but always talk to your doctor first. If you didn’t exercise regularly, consider adding a regimen of yoga, swimming or walking.
  • Get rid of bad habits. Tobacco, alcohol and drugs can all harm you and your baby during pregnancy. Pay careful attention to medications you’re taking, even over the counter medications. Talk to your health care provider about the safety of the various medications you’re taking.
  • Minimize your stress. This is often easier said than done, of course. Get your exercise, and learn stress management techniques like deep breathing and relaxation exercises.

So, what about you? What tips would you add for a healthy pregnancy?



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Drinking While Pregnant Still Questionable

Responsible or educated mothers-to-be would never drink alcohol while pregnant for fear of harming their unborn baby. The biggest problem is, research results about drinking while pregnant has never been clear. However, there are currently new studies that that may give definitive answers.

Two new studies from Denmark and the U.K. could further confuse the issue. After researching children for an average of six years, researchers discovered no developmental troubles that typically correlate with women who consumed six or less drinks over the course of a week.

However, binge drinking while pregnant is still considered a poor choice. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which the unborn are exposed to enormous amounts of alcohol, can stunt growth and is also known to propagate mental retardation. While FAS is linked with excessive drinking during pregnancy, there’s less information about using lesser amounts of alcohol. This data is difficult to find because you can’t randomly assign expectant mothers to consume different amounts and then see the way their children turn out.

Socioeconomic Status

However, this new study is starting to come to light. It’s not saying that light drinking while pregnant is definitively safe, and it’s certainly not approval of drinking as a habit. Authors from some of the most recent research stated that their conclusions could be from other causes. For instance, the authors propose that it’s likely that differences in socioeconomic status (SES) among groups of mothers could play a part. Women who binge drink while pregnant are normally low SES. Low SES females are more apt to have unstable pregnancies, unhealthier infants and less prenatal care than their higher SES peers. This is only one reason it’s difficult to provide definitive information and solid advice for other potential mothers.

U.S. Policies vs. U.K. Policies

The official stance in the U.S. is clear: Women who are either pregnant or are trying to conceive shouldn’t drink any alcohol whatsoever. The only way to stop fetal alcohol syndrome is to not consume alcohol while pregnant. The stance provided by the National Health Service in the U.K. is less strict. To decrease risk to the fetus, we recommend women shouldn’t drink more than a couple units a few times a week and should never become intoxicated.

The Information Age

In the age of information, with Millennials searching Google for all questions big or small, what kind of messages should be available regarding the safety of consuming alcohol while pregnant? We could head towards evidence based advocacy, and inform women that avoiding drinking is best; but a couple drinks within a week probably won’t harm their baby. However, there might be some concern that this would affect the current attitude regarding alcohol while pregnant; there are still signs that drinking daily can be harmful to the fetus.

Would women use lessened protocols as a reason to drink irresponsibly? There are distinct aspects that research like this can’t justify; everyone metabolizes alcohol differently, so consumption levels that are considered safe will vary.



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Decrease Anxiety by Eating Fish

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There’s lots of choices available to pregnant women when they eat for two. Which cheeses to avoid, whether alcohol is safe to drink, what supplements to take, and types of fish to shy away from. With all these choices with food alone, it’s no surprise that expecting mothers experience anxiety.

Scientists from Brazil’s Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and UK’s Bristol University revealed that expecting mothers who consume seafood regularly are likely experience decreased levels of anxiety than pregnant women who don’t.

The research kept track of 9,530 expecting mothers who filled out a food survey that documented their dietary consumption throughout their pregnancy. At 32 weeks, the team measured the women’s anxiety symptoms.

The women who didn’t eat seafood were 53% more likely to experience increased anxiety levels, compared to women who ate seafood frequently.

Additionally, the research showed that expecting mothers who were vegetarians were 25% more likely to experience high anxiety than women who ate fish and meat.

Pregnancy anxiety risks

Expecting mothers are encouraged to consume different kinds of fish with low mercury content, like salmon.

The researchers said “concurring studies associate gestational anxiety with shorter pregnancies and low birth weight.” Additionally, high anxiety while pregnant is tied to negative impressions on the neurodevelopment of babies, states the authors.

According to the scientists, this research is the first of its type to establish relationships between excessive anxiety levels and nutritional patterns while pregnant. Specifically, this research is the first to link low intake of fish and n-3 PUFA to increased anxiety symptoms.

What amount and what kind of seafood is safe to eat while pregnant?

Although the conclusions serve as guidelines to consume fish during pregnancy, there are recommendations expecting mothers should consider.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that although fish and shellfish are an important part of a balanced diet, practically all of them have, at minimum, minute amounts of mercury. In large amounts, can have negative effects on a newborn’s maturing nervous system.

The FDA suggest the three following recommendations:

  • Don’t eat tilefish, king mackerel, swordfish or shark due to their high mercury content
  • Eat roughly 12 ounces (approximately 28 grams) per week of fish/shellfish that contain less mercury. Example include catfish, pollock, salmon, shrimp and canned light tuna.
  • Find out whether fish your friends and family catch locally are safe

Because one of the newer conclusions in recent studies found vegetarians were 25% more likely to develop elevated anxiety while pregnant than others who ate fish or meat, the researchers suggest implementing seafood into vegetarian meals when possible.

Researcher Pauline Emmet said “Some vegetarians occasionally consume seafood and we promote this, particularly since we’re unsure which ingredient in seafood works most.”

The researchers claim their conclusions show dietary counseling while pregnant, concentrating on heightened n-3 PUFA consumption, is a good for women experiencing high anxiety. However, they state clinical trials need to happen first to benchmark how well the program works.


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