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Is There Scientific Evidence Suggesting Risks Associated With Prenatal Ultrasounds?

Several questionable sources are spreading alarms about the possible dangers of prenatal ultrasound exams (sonograms). An example is Christine Anderson’s article on the ExpertClick website. In the heading, it says she “Never Liked Ultrasound Technology.”

[She] has never been sold on the safety using Ultrasounds for checking on the fetuses of pregnant women, and for the last decade her fears have been confirmed with a series of studies pointing to possible brain damage to the babies from this technology.

Should We Believe Her?

Should we avoid ultrasounds because Anderson never liked them? Should we trust her judgment that her fears have been confirmed by studies? Who is she?

“Dr.” Christine Anderson is a pediatric chiropractor in Hollywood who believes a lot of things that are not supported by science or reason. Her website mission statement includes

We acknowledge the devastating effects of the vertebral subluxation on human health and therefore recognize that the spines of all children need to be checked soon after birth, so they may grow up healthy.

It also states that “drugs interfere… and weaken the mind, body, and spirit.” Anderson is Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Research Shows That A Pregnant Woman’s Diet Might Influence Baby’s Palate

Attention, pregnant women!  The foods you eat now might influence your babies’ palates after they are born.  New research published in the journal Pediatrics, shows that the fetus actually drinks amniotic fluid in the womb.  The amniotic fluid is flavored by the foods the mother has recently eaten and flavors can be transmitted to the amniotic fluid and mother’s milk.

It makes sense that as the baby is developing, memories are being created by a sense of taste.  Could what a mother eats influence food preferences and odor preferences for life?  Researchers fed babies cereal flavored with carrot juice vs. water.  They showed that babies who experienced daily carrots in amniotic fluid or mother’s milk ate more carrot-flavored cereal and made less negative faces when eating it.

Julie Mennella studies taste in infants at the Monell Chemical Senses Center (Philadelphia) and she says Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Affordable Prenatal Fitness For Pregnant Women

Low cost, prenatal fitness classes. What a progressive thought. The New York City Prenatal Fitness Initiative is a community model that should be replicated on a national scale. A nurse midwife, Marilinda Pascoe and Andrea Bachrach Mata, an aquatic fitness instructor founded a program that offers prenatal water exercise and yoga to low-income pregnant women in North Manhattan and the Bronx at an affordable cost. For 7 weeks, pregnant women will be able to do light aerobics, swim, dance, gentle stretching and exercise for a total cost of $60.00 in a community pool. Not only will these women have fun by releasing endorphins (substances released by the brain that make you feel happy) but they will also be reducing their risks of developing gestational diabetes, obesity and other potential complications. Three weeks ago the program sponsored a community walk and invited pregnant women to participate. Read more »

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

New Study Supports Previous Evidence That Autism Is Triggered In Utero

Science has found no evidence that vaccines cause autism; but the true cause(s) of autism have not yet been determined. So far the available evidence has pointed towards a largely genetic cause with possible interaction with environmental factors. A new study supports that interpretation. It also supports previous evidence that autism is triggered prior to birth, rather than at the time of vaccinations.

Schmidt et al. published a study in Epidemiology on May 23, 2011, entitled “Prenatal Vitamins, One-carbon Metabolism Gene Variants, and Risk for Autism.” It was a population-based case control study of 566 subjects comparing a group of autistic children to a matched control group of children with normal development. They looked at maternal intake of prenatal vitamins in the 3 months before conception and the first month of pregnancy, and they looked for genotypes associated with autism. They found that mothers who didn’t take prenatal vitamins were at greater risk of having an autistic child, and certain genetic markers markedly increased the risk. There was a dose/response relationship: the more prenatal vitamins a woman took, the less likely she would have an autistic child. There was no association with other types of multivitamins, and no association with prenatal vitamin intake during months 2-9 of pregnancy.

They had a large sample size, and they tried to eliminate confounders. They looked for these potential confounders of the association between prenatal vitamin intake and autism: child’s sex, birth year, parent-reported race/ethnicity, family history of mental health conditions, paternal age at child’s birth, maternal age at child’s birth, education, prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) category, cereal intake from 3 months before through the first month of pregnancy, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and residence with a smoker during the period 3 months before pregnancy to delivery. Only maternal education and the child’s year of birth proved to be confounders. They adjusted for these two factors in their analyses. A weakness of their study is that it depends on patient recall long after the fact. Also, it did not attempt to gather any diet information.

Mothers of children with autism were less likely to report taking prenatal vitamins (odds ratio 0.62). Having certain genotypes increased the odds that a vitamin-omitting woman would have an autistic child. Children with the COMT 472 AA gene were at increased risk of autism. If their mothers took prenatal vitamins, the odds ratio for the risk of autism was 1.8; if their mothers didn’t, the odds ratio jumped to 7.2.  This suggests that the maternal-fetal environment can magnify the effects of a child susceptibility gene. There was an association with certain maternal genes as well: those odds ratios went as high as 4.5.

The association was robust. The authors think Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Expectant Fathers: How To Prepare For A Healthy Baby

Some of the most endearing moments I have witnessed as an obstetrician involved observing men in the labor room. There was the hip Jewish dad from Brooklyn who brought his Anita Baker tape and played it while his wife was in labor. Because she was one of my favorite artists, I was constantly in their room under the guise of watching the fetal monitor, just so that I could listen to the music. Another memorable moment was the dad who cried tears of joy when his wife was returned back to her room after having a c. section. The love and admiration that beamed in his eyes almost tempted me to ask him if he had a friend (this was of course, when I was single). The point is, expectant dads can play a significant role in helping their wives or girlfriends have a healthy baby. Here’s how: Read more »

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

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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