Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Smoking During Pregnancy Raises Risk for Finger, Toe Deformities

Smoking During Pregnancy Raises Risk for Finger, Toe Deformities
Odds rise with number of cigarettes smoked per day, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking during pregnancy greatly increases the risk of having a baby with finger or toe deformities, according to a study covering more than 6.8 million births in the United States during 2001 and 2002.

The study identified 5,171 children with either extra, webbed or missing fingers and toes born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy. The mothers did not report other health risk factors such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Women who smoked one to 10 cigarettes a day during pregnancy had a 29 percent increased risk of having a baby with finger or toe deformities, the study found. Smoking 11 to 20 cigarettes a day raised the risk by 38 percent, while smoking 21 or more cigarettes a day raised the risk by 78 percent.

The study appears in the January issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

"The results of this study were interesting. We suspected that smoking was a cause of digital anomalies but didn't expect the results to be so dramatic," study author Dr. Benjamin Chang, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a prepared statement.

"Smoking is so addictive that pregnant women often can't stop the habit, no matter what the consequences. Our hope is this study will show expectant mothers another danger of lighting up," Chang said.

In the United States, webbed fingers or toes occur in one of every 2,000 to 2,500 live births and excess fingers or toes occur in one in every 600 live births, the researchers said.

Chang said these kinds of abnormalities are the most common kinds of problems he treats.

"Parents would ask why this happened to their child, but I didn't have an answer. This study shows that even minimal smoking during pregnancy can significantly increase the risk of having a child with various toe and finger defects."

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Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy Predict Kids' Bone Health

Vitamin D Levels During Pregnancy Predict Kids' Bone Health
Moms who take extra supplements may protect offspring from osteoporosis, study suggests

FRIDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Mothers who take extra vitamin D while pregnant could be protecting their children from osteoporosis later in life.

A study appearing in the Jan. 7 issue of The Lancet reports that children born to mothers with insufficient vitamin D during pregnancy had weaker bones when they were 9 years old.

"It's not the holy grail, but it's another piece of information that suggests that events beginning from gestation influence ultimate bone health and bone strength," said Dr. Stephen Honig, director of the Osteoporosis Center at the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City. "This is easily correctable, and seems to be something that comes at no particular cost, either economic or from an adverse-effect standpoint."

"It's very interesting and very suggestive," added Dr. Loren Wissner Greene, a clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine and co-director of the Bone Density Unit at New York University.

Many people show a vitamin D deficiency, and this includes otherwise healthy women during pregnancy.

Vitamin D is required for optimal calcium absorption, which is critical to bone growth. The main source of vitamin D is sunlight, and most people don't get enough of that.

"There has been a recognition that a lot of people in the United States are vitamin D-deficient in these days of sunscreen," Greene said.

At the same time, accumulating evidence suggests that environmental factors early in life can influence a person's chance of developing osteoporosis. For instance, birth weight can predict bone mass later on, while poor intrauterine and childhood growth are associated with double the risk of hip fracture 60 years later. A mother's build, nutrition, smoking and physical activity level during pregnancy can also influence bone mass of the baby at birth.

No one has yet looked at a relationship between the mother's vitamin D status during pregnancy and skeletal growth of their children. The authors of this study hypothesized that maternal vitamin D insufficiency during pregnancy had a long-lasting effect on childhood bone mass.

The researchers studied 198 children born in 1991 and 1992 at a hospital in Southampton, England. They assessed mothers' body build, nutrition and vitamin D status during pregnancy; children's body size and bone mass were measured nine years later.

Women who had reduced levels of vitamin D during the later part of their pregnancies had children with reduced bone-mineral content at 9 years of age.

Women who took vitamin D supplements and who were exposed to more sunshine were less likely to have a vitamin D deficiency. Reduced concentration of calcium in the umbilical cord blood was also associated with a reduced bone mass in the offspring.

"Their point is that there may be a programming effect that goes on in utero that effects calcium and bone accrual," Honig said. "Something happens in the last trimester that influences the transport of calcium across the placenta, and somehow that situation changes the developmental period over a prolonged timeframe."

The findings need to be confirmed, but they fit in well with other studies that have shown that issues early in life, such as low birth weight, can impact osteoporosis risk later in life.

"These are all things that are lending credibility to the need to think about bone growth and development as starting from gestation onward, rather than just thinking about this as diseases that occur after menopause," Honig said. "That's a significant thing."

The authors suggested that giving vitamin D supplements to pregnant women, especially if the third trimester occurs during the winter when there is less sunlight, could contribute to stronger bones in their children.

Going to be a dad? Pregnant partner? Visit for more info on pregnancy and life as an expectant dad!

Healthy Aging: The 30s -- And Baby Makes Three

Healthy Aging: The 30s -- And Baby Makes Three
As women age, they must take extra care to ensure a healthy pregnancy

TUESDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDay News) -- In 1970, the average American woman was 21.4 years old when she gave birth to her first child. By 2000, that figure had climbed to 25, according to federal statistics.

The increase in age reflects the fact that many couples today are postponing childrearing until their 30s and 40s.

But as women age, they must take extra care to ensure a healthy pregnancy, experts say.

"That means, first and foremost, getting proper prenatal care," said Dr. Thomas Weida, a spokesman for the American Academy of Family Physicians.

"In some cases, experts are even advocating a preconception visit -- either to the family doctor or an ob-gyn, to look for any risk factors that might complicate pregnancy, things like smoking, drinking, drug use," he said. Every woman knows -- or should know -- that drinking, smoking and pregnancy don't mix, but studies show that a significant percentage of women still ignore these warnings.

Fertility in women begins a gradual decline in the mid-30s, Weida said, while men's fertility remains stable until much later in life. Once conception has occurred, regular visits to the doctor can reassure moms- and dads-to-be that all's well.

"There's regular ultrasound, of course, as well as tests for certain genetic defects," said Weida, who is also a professor of family and community medicine at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine in Hershey. "As women get older -- say, from 35 into their 40s -- you also have the possibility of doing amniocentesis to look for defects."

Weida always advises women to take a multivitamin during their pregnancy, as well as folic acid, which protects against severe neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Then there's delivery. The most common, serious complication is preeclampsia, where the mother's blood pressure suddenly soars. "It's tough to predict this, because you can get preeclampsia and be of average weight and never have had high blood pressure," Weida said. "Certainly though, if you do have medical problems such as diabetes, that puts you at slightly higher risk. Those things are usually looked for during prenatal visits," he said.

A healthy delivery means a newborn needing lots of nourishment to grow. "Experts now agree that breast-feeding is the 'formula' of choice," Weida said, with hundreds of studies confirming breast milk's power in speeding development and boosting infant immune systems. "During this period, moms obviously need to hydrate themselves and keep up their nutrition," he added. "So, sometimes I'll continue vitamin supplements after delivery, too."

New moms and those who love them also need to be on the lookout for postpartum depression. "It's all about duration and intensity," Weida said. Short-term "blues" shouldn't be of great concern, "but severe depression that goes on for a couple weeks -- that's certainly an issue that needs to be looked at," he said.

And what about Dad? According to Weida, his role in this family drama is basically as key supporting player -- with Mom and Baby the stars. "As most new fathers know, this means a lot of getting up at night," he said.

Going to be a dad? Pregnant partner? Visit for more info on pregnancy and life as an expectant dad!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Britney Spears Give Birth to a Baby Boy

THURSDAY, Sept. 15 (CNN) -- The singer underwent a caesarean at Santa Monica's UCLA Medical Center, near Los Angeles, according to the magazine US Weekly and television show "Access Hollywood."

Britney, 23, and her husband Kevin Federline announced the pregnancy in April.

Reports suggest that they will call the baby either London Preston or Preston Michael. Her top name for a girl was Addison Shye.

It is the first child for Britney, while Kevin, 27, has two young children -- Kori, three, and one-year-old Kaleb -- with ex-girlfriend, Shar Jackson.

Last month, the singer revealed: "I have a feeling I'm going to have an operation. I don't know why but I hope so.

"My mom said giving birth was the most excruciating thing she's ever gone through in her life. So if a caesarian doesn't happen, I'll be like, 'Epidural, please.' "

The star, who has sold more than 60 million albums, has made no secret of her wish to start a family and has said she can see herself as a mother.

Shortly after tying the knot in a private ceremony last September, she announced she would be taking a break from music to enjoy married life and focus on motherhood.

"I've had a career since I was 16, have traveled around the world and back and even kissed Madonna," she wrote on her Web site.

"The only thing I haven't done so far is experience the closest thing to God and that's having a baby. I can't wait."

Britney hosted a Moroccan-themed baby shower at her Malibu home last month.

Presents included a white wrought-iron bassinet from her mother, Lynne, a car seat, a stroller, an infant bathtub and lots of stuffed animals.

Going to be a dad? Pregnant partner? Visit for more info on pregnancy and life as an expectant dad!