There are a number of stories about pregnancy in the news these past few days, all of them full of advice on how to have a healthy pregnancy and what the latest research says about pregnancy in general. Articles abound: about secondhand smoke inhalation and pregnancy, acetaminophen use and its side effects on fetuses, about prices for testing for Down’s Syndrome in the unborn, about how women could be gaining too much weight or not enough weight while pregnant and about new fetal tests available for expectant mothers. The list goes on. Pregnancy is currently a big topic in the news.
Teen pregnancy is down in the United Kingdom, being at its slowest rate since 1969. At less than 30 pregnancies per 1,000 girls between ages 15 and 17, the downward trend in the numbers seems to come from the fact that conceptions are happening with less frequency due to prevalent, if patchy, sex education for teens. As well, most adolescents under 14 who fall pregnant have been seen to have abortions. Older women contribute to a lower number of conceptions across the board in Great Britain as they wait for better financial straits and established careers before choosing to have children. As teens go, though, the U.K. is lagging somewhat behind the rest of Europe in that only six in 1,000 teens are becoming pregnant in most of Europe whereas numbers for teen pregnancies in the U.K. still soar above 27 in 1,000.
DNA studies are advancing pregnancy screenings. There is a new test for Down’s Syndrome available on the market. The test signals an advance in our ability to detect the syndrome with DNA sequencing. This is a promising development, since previous tests often yielded false positives and have required much more invasive tests of actual fetal cells to confirm the presence of the syndrome. The DNA sequencing test is thus likely be requested by most expecting mothers to ensure the well-being of their infants in utero. The only problem is that it costs between $700 and $2,500 to have the screening for your fetus. There is a positive in this picture, however, in that the pricing of this test means that approximately six million mothers per year would try to afford it, thus forcing other Down’s Syndrome tests to bring their prices down as well so that they can remain competitive.
Acetaminophen, once touted as the “safe” painkiller for pregnant women, is making headlines as the newest culprit for fetal damage. A six-year study in Denmark with a follow-up seven years later found a correlation in that women who used acetaminophen during pregnancy had children with between a twenty percent up to a two-fold increase in behavioral problems such as ADHD and other hyperkinetic disorders in their now school-age children. This link may be due to acetaminophen’s ability to disrupt the endocrine system. Doctors in the U.S. have concluded from this study that acetaminophen should be taken sparingly during pregnancy, and that if pain persists for weeks, other options should be discussed with medical professionals. Doctors have also stated that massage and hot showers could be preferable to treat aches and pains resulting from maternal stress on the body.
More headlines abound. Pregnancy health and health risks for fetuses is really the big topic in news today. Cigarette smoke, a long-known culprit of fetal damage, is getting yet another look. A new study shows that the risks of secondhand smoke are as great as the risks when a mother is a smoker herself. Unsurprisingly, women who have never smoked have shown symptoms that are more often seen with women who had actually themselves smoked in their lives; effects including stillbirth, miscarriage, and tubal ectopic pregnancies. The reason this story is in the news is that the study did not focus solely on women exposed to secondhand smoke while pregnant, but women who were exposed to secondhand smoke throughout their lives. The study garnered evidence that had as yet been unavailable relating to the effects of secondhand smoke exposure. Most studies had previously focused on the direct effects of cigarette smoking on women who were pregnant or might become pregnant.
Finally, people who have previously encouraged women to “eat for two” are eating their words today, as new studies show that this practice can actually cause women to gain too much weight, and can contribute to unhealthy pregnancies and premature delivery. Eating too little while pregnant, of course, is not suggested either, leading doctors to revise their advice more toward getting pregnancy weight gain guidelines from ob/gyns early in maternity so that women have both a top and bottom target number for healthy pregnant weights. The hope is that women who track their weight during pregnancy will be more food conscious, and simply eat better rather than increasing calories. If women do no not eat double servings of food to “eat for two” and continue to exercise in healthy ways, it is possible that they will give into cravings less often, and will generally experience less discomfort during maternity and have healthy babies.
Pregnancy is big news for both expectant parents and for news outlets, it seems, with pregnancy as a topic making rounds across the Internet. With so many new studies coming out every day, maternity is becoming an informed process. The steady diet of pregnancy topics in the news can make the world of maternity seem less lonely, full of instructive guidelines, if sometimes a harrowing one for women who are already trying to be as healthy as possible.
By Kat Turner