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Pregnant Women And Exposure To Paint

I came across an article the other day about paint and pregnancy. Yes, that paint — the kind that you put on a canvas or slap on your walls. Did you know that paint is made of pigment particles in a liquid base called a medium? Oil paints are thinned or cleaned with paint thinners. Latex paints are thinned or cleaned with water. Most paint that’s used in the home is latex.

Can environmental forces affected pregnancy? The short answer is “yes,” according to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS), whose mission is to study malformations of the unborn.

Regarding paint and pregnancy, the amount of exposure is important. A one-time household exposure causes fewer problems than ongoing exposure through a work setting. And there have been medical studies documenting babies being born with problems if their mothers abused toluene-containing paint in order to “get high.” Toluene is a paint thinner that can cause low birth weight, premature labor, small head size, and developmental delays. Again, these problems only occur if pregnant women have been exposed to very high levels of toluene — much higher levels than exposure based on a hobby or a professional painter.

According to OTIS, working as a painter doesn’t pose concrete risks to the pregnancy. However, any reduction in chemical exposure is always a good thing. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

The Importance Of Diagnosing Birth Defects

Birth defects, particularly those of the blood vessels, account for the majority of infant deaths, especially after the first week of life. Congenital heart disease (CHD) — meaning defects of the heart – is responsible for one-third of deaths between birth and the first year of life. Therefore, the diagnosis of CHD is critical in order to plan life-saving treatments, such as the proper place for the delivery, the type of delivery, and its timing. If it’s known in advance that an unborn baby has a heart problem and is delivered in a hospital that provides special care, its survival and future health will increase dramatically.

Who’s at risk for having CHD and which expectant moms should have further evaluation? Families who have a history of CHD — especially mothers, fathers, and siblings — should receive genetic counseling. Multiple medical studies over the past fifteen years have demonstrated the significance of genetics as a main culprit of CHD. Parents of a child with CHD have a two percent to three percent chance of having another affected child. If a mother or father has CHD, a fetal cardiac echo (an ultrasound of the heart) is definitely warranted.

Because the treatment of CHD in many cases is surgical, there’s an increasing number of patients who have survived into adulthood and have ultimately become parents. Research has documented that 4.1 percent of their children will have CHD. Children with mothers who have CHD are at a greater risk of inheriting the disease than if they have fathers with CHD. Mothers with cyanotic heart disease — that is, blood that is without oxygen that bypasses the lungs and goes directly to the blood vessels — also have a greater risk of having a baby with CHD. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Artificial Sweeteners And Telling Pregnant Women “In Moderation”

I can already tell that this pregnancy is different from my first. When I was pregnant with Little Isis, I drank no caffeine and took no over-the-counter medication. I remember having a few headaches and Mr. Isis fighting with me to take a headache pill. I would then proclaim dramatically, “But I can’t! What if it hurts the baby?!”

This morning, now pregnant with my second, I washed down a Zyrtec and two Tylenol with a cup of coffee. The little bugger is going to have to grow up with Little Isis. He might as well start building up his tolerance to exogenous substances at some point. I figure, now that its got a closed neural tube and a beating heart, we might as well begin.

Still, you can’t blame a pregnant woman for being a bit neurotic. The feeling that one is solely responsible for the well-being of a developing creature, combined with often contradictory advice, is enough to make anyone nuts. Most online advice is completely and utterly useless. Take this answer from Russell Turk, M.D. on the popular pregnancy website BabyCenter in response to the common question, “Is it safe to drink diet soda during pregnancy?” He answers:

Diet sodas often contain both caffeine and an artificial sweetener. There are several types of artificial sweeteners you may see on nutrition labels:

Aspartame (NutraSweet): Seems to be okay when consumed in moderation (the amount found in one or two 12-ounce servings of soda per day).

Saccharin (Sweet’n Low): Saccharin was found to cause birth defects in laboratory rats when consumed in very high amounts. Because its safety in smaller amounts is hard to prove, I would advise avoiding it.

Sucralose (Splenda): This relatively new sweetener, a modified form of regular table sugar, appears to be safe. But because it hasn’t been extensively studied, it’s best used in moderation.

It’s generally bad advice and leaves one wondering: “What is moderation? Will one soda hurt my baby? Will two sodas hurt my baby? How about three?” The default answer when we don’t know seems to be to tell women to do things in “moderation.” This places the sole responsibility on her to know what moderation means, and allows her to feel the guilt if something goes wrong. I think that these imprecise answers leave many women feeling helpless and afraid. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Brain Confounds Everything*

Dental Fillings And Birth Defects: What Moms-To-Be Should Know

Although the first trimester of pregnancy is sacred, there will be patients who will encounter problems at that time. During the first trimester, the brain and the central nervous system develops from 6 to 10 weeks, a time period commonly known as organogenesis. To minimize the risk of developing birth defects, medications and invasive procedures are usually postponed until the arrival of the second trimester.

A recent article in the October 2010 issue of Ob.Gyn. News reported some disturbing findings: Dental fillings in the first trimester were linked to the development of a cleft palate. A cleft palate is a birth defect that has a slit in the roof of the mouth because it failed to close during the first trimester.

The article by Susan London described a study in Norway where pregnant women had dental filings in the first trimester and their babies subsequently developed cleft palates. Ideally, dental problems should be addressed prior to becoming pregnant, however that is not always an option. Dental problems can occur during pregnancy because of the increased calcium requirements of the fetus as well as hormonal changes of the pregnancy. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Smiley Faces Foundation: Promoting Awareness And Amazing Kids

We live in a society obsessed with outside beauty, so it’s no wonder that parents whose children are born with any imperfection worry endlessly about how their child will be accepted in society.

As parents, though, our job is to make sure our kids see themselves as much more than whatever obstacles are tossed their way, as tough as that may be.

Adam and Donna Bell felt that anguish first hand in 2005 when their son Ethan was born with cleft lip and palate. Ethan now has an adorable smile and hardly a scar at all thanks to the amazingly talented doctors at the NYU Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery.

Wanting to do more to raise awareness about the nearly 1 in 600 infants born with cleft (opening) lip or palate each year, the Bell’s founded Smiley Faces Foundation, a nonprofit who strives to not only assist the Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, but also help provide treatment for all children who need cleft lip and palate repair in the United States. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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