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Maternal Weight and Congenital Malformations

Higher body-mass index leads to greater risk of malformations.

Expectant mothers who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for having infants with congenital malformations. The higher their weight, the greater the risk. Using data from Swedish health registries, researchers found overweight mothers (BMI 25-29.9) had a 5% greater risk. This risk increased incrementally to 37% for obese mothers with BMIs of 35-39.9.

PositiveTip: Women planning to bear children should be encouraged to attain normal weight before pregnancy.

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Prenatal Smoking Impacts Offspring in Teen Years

Smoking just 10 cigarettes a day disrupts child's executive functions in high school.

The short-term risks of smoking during pregnancy have long been recognized. Boston researchers found negative impacts last well into the child's future life. When the mother smoked as few as 10 cigarettes per day during pregnancy, the child suffered organizational, attention span, and time management skill deficits--along with a decreased ability to self-manage their behaviors as a teen.

PositiveTip: Encourage every woman smoker you know of child-bearing age to stop smoking before they become pregnant.

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Traveler Warnings for Zika Virus

Expectant moms or those planning a pregnancy urged to avoid travel where Zika exposure likely.

The U. S. Centers for Disease Control is warning pregnant women in any trimester and those who plan to become pregnant to avoid travel to 14 areas of the Caribbean and Central and South America. This comes because of a surge in microcephalic infant births believed to be caused by Zika virus infection. So far there is no specific treatment or vaccine for Zika.

PositiveTip: Those who must travel to these areas should strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites.

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Weight Gain in Pregnancy

Less than a third of pregnant American women experience healthy weight gain.

Researchers have found more than 2/3 of pregnant women in the U.S. gain too much weight or too little weight during their pregnancy. Only 32% of pregnant ladies experienced appropriate weight gain, while 48% were excessive, and 20% were inadequate. Those obese or overweight before pregnancy had the highest risk of excessive gain, and those underweight the highest risk of inadequate gain.

PositiveTip: If you are pregnant, visit the Institute of Medicine website to find valuable guidance on a healthy weight.

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Marijuana Use in Pregnant Moms

Pot smoking pregnant mothers likely to use other drugs as well.

A small study of mothers and their newborns found one quarter of those who tested positive for marijuana use also had evidence of other illegal drugs: 11.6% were positive for opioids, 10.6% for amphetamines and 6.5% for cocaine. Data was collected from 2006 to 2010 in an urban teaching hospital with 5000 births per year. About 10%  of these tested positive for marijuana use. 

PositiveTip: Encourage pregnant mothers to avoid marijuana and other illegal drug use for the good of their unborn infant--and themselves.

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Any Alcohol Exposure Places Baby At Risk

Fetal alcohol syndrome disorders may affect up to 5% of U.S. children.

A recent clinical report in Pediatrics says, "There is no known absolutely safe quantity, frequency, type, or timing of alcohol consumption during pregnancy," Growing evidence indicates that alcohol-related birth defects and developmental disabilities are completely preventable. It is also likely there are effects from prenatal alcohol exposure that are more subtle than current methods can detect.

PositiveTip: There is no safe level of alcohol use prior to or during pregnancy!

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Second Hand Smoke and Pregnancy

Even if you never smoke, second hand smoke increases risks of miscarriage or stillbirth.

New research looking at 81,000 women confirms the risks of second hand smoke for pregnant women. The study's large size and comprehensive approach helped demonstrate that non-smoking women with the highest level of second hand smoke exposure (10+ years in childhood or 20+ years in adulthood) were at a risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or tubal ectopic pregnancy that approached those who were smokers.

PositiveTip: For the health of yourself and your baby limit your exposure to second hand smoke.

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Passive Smoking Matters to Mothers

Exposure to secondhand smoke significantly increases pregnancy risks.

Women exposed to second hand tobacco smoke are at significantly increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy--almost as much as if they were active smokers. This data comes from the very large Women's Health Initiative. The added risk ranged from 17% to 61% and was highest with the largest exposures in childhood, adult life, or at work.

PositiveTip: Avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible!

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To Eat or Not to Eat?

Offspring of mothers who ate nuts during pregnancy had fewer nut allergies.

Pregnant mothers who consumed peanuts, peanut butter, and tree nuts gave birth to children who had fewer allergies. Offspring of mothers who ate 5 or more servings of nuts per month experienced 66% fewer nut allergies versus those whose mothers ate nuts less than once per month. It appears that early allergen exposure increases tolerance and lowers risk of childhood food allergy.

PositiveTip: Mothers-to-be should feel free to consume nuts.

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Is It Really Safe for Mothers to Drink?

Danish study suggests that small amounts of alcohol might be safe, then cautions otherwise.

A series of articles by Danish researchers found that when 1600 children at age 5 were tested for intelligence, attention, and executive function, there were no significant differences between children whose mothers had ingested small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy and those who had not. However, the authors still recommended that women should not drink alcohol during pregnancy, as no safe level has been established.

PositiveTip: Pregnant or planning to be? Stay away from all alcoholic drinks.