This week's Healthy Household column is devoted to moms and dads-to-be as we focus on news related to pregnancy and birth. Those nine months -- and the few beyond that -- are an incredible journey. So here's the latest info to help you through.
Eating for two
No, you don't need to double your calories in order to nourish your growing baby. But you do need to pay attention to what nutrients you're getting (or skimping on). Researchers have found that when moms consumed more choline, a nutrient found in eggs and meat, it caused changes in their babies' epigenetic markers, which cause genes to turn on or off. The more choline, the less of the stress hormone cortisol the baby produced, even into adulthood. And less cortisol production over a person's lifetime can decrease his or her risk of stress-related illnesses, such as high blood pressure and metabolic disorders. The current recommendation for choline is 450 milligrams daily, but the researchers found that women consuming 930 mg a day (in food and supplements) had greater effects on their offspring.
News on the fertility frontier
Anyone who's dealt with infertility knows that the treatments are financially, emotionally and physically exhausting. So anything that can increase the odds of success is a huge boon. Now, researchers have found that they can dramatically increase the success rates of IVF by freezing the embryos, then thawing and transferring them during the woman's next monthly cycle, rather than using them immediately. Data from three small studies found that pregnancy rates with fresh embryos were 38 percent compared with 50 percent when using recently frozen embryos. One theory is that all of the drugs a woman uses during the cycle in order to produce extra eggs may negatively affect the lining of the uterus. By waiting until the hormonal effects of those drugs has subsided, the embryo can be transferred into a more natural environment. Another theory: Since freezing and thawing can be tough on embryos, only the strongest ones -- and those most likely to result in pregnancy -- survive.
Back isn't best
If you're pregnant, you've probably already been warned against lying on your back for prolonged periods (especially later on in the pregnancy). That's because when you lie like that, the increasing weight of the baby presses on a vital blood vessel and restricts essential blood flow to the baby. And a five-year study of 295 women in Australia found that back sleeping was associated with stillbirth. The researchers caution that this study merely shows an association (not causation), but it's worth reminding yourself to turn over. Sleeping on your left side will provide the most blood flow to your baby.
Eat the right fish
This seemingly contradictory news may be hard to swallow. Research has linked low levels of mercury exposure in pregnant women (which often sneaks into the system when eating fish) with an increased risk of your kid having ADHD. But research has also linked fish consumption during pregnancy to helping to reduce the risk of ADHD. The trick: Eat fish, but only the kinds that are low in mercury. It's best to avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and albacore tuna because of their mercury content. But you should make other fish -- such as flounder, salmon and haddock -- part of your prenatal diet.
Forget the formula
Many new mothers leave the hospital carrying not only their infant, but also a bagful of hospital gifts, including samples of formula. But increasingly, there are campaigns to ban such bags, in the hopes of encouraging new moms to persevere with breastfeeding. Hospitals in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have stopped the practice of passing out free samples, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's "Latch On NYC" campaign urges hospitals to keep formula only for those women who medically need it or specifically request it. Critics of the free samples maintain that it makes it too easy for women to fill a bottle with formula instead of breastfeeding. Others think it's a nice perk. And the formula companies? Well, they're just happy to get their product into more mom hands, of course.
Don't forget to check back in for next week's edition of The Healthy Household when we'll once again share health news for the whole family.
Your guide to imperfect parenting: MSN Living's Family Room blog!
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