If you’re like most expecting mothers, you want to know the newest pregnancy info to improve your baby’s health.
So you don’t need to comb through dozens of medical research papers, we’re doing it for you.
In this post, we’re sharing 10 new interesting studies about pregnancy.
#1 Choosing the Sex of Your Baby May Be a Thing in the Future
The talk about having children could also include another decision factor in the future: Choosing your baby’s gender.
An August 2019 study conducted by Hiroshima University in Japan showed that a reversible treatment could separate X-bearing sperm from Y-bearing sperm. Of course, sperm that have Y chromosomes make boy babies and X chromosomes make girls.
Separating these two allows the odds to be significantly changed from the 50/50 likelihood of either sex. Although the study was performed in mice, researchers say the technique can likely be used on other mammals as well. For example, it’s been successful in pigs and cows. How it may work in human reproduction is speculative and, as you may imagine, carries ethical issues. There’s other procedures that can separate the sperm; however, they’re more expensive with higher risks.
#2 Caffeine May Damage Your Baby’s Liver
We’ve written before about how you should limit your caffeine intake to 2 cups a day because it’s not conclusive how it could affect a fetus. However, a July 2019 study provided more evidence for cutting down.
When given caffeine, pregnant rats had babies with lower birth weights, altered growth, higher levels of a stress hormone and problems with liver development. Researchers say that even though the findings need to be confirmed in people, it shows that caffeine isn’t good for babies.
2 to 3 cups may change stress and growth hormone levels, leading to problems in development and an increased risk of liver disease as an adult.
“I would recommend that women avoid caffeine during pregnancy,” says Dr. Yinxian Wen, study co-author.
#3 Recurrent Miscarriages? New Tests Could Reveal Chromosomal Abnormalities
If you’ve had a miscarriage, you probably know how devastating it can be. On top of the grief, it’s frustrating because often the doctor can’t tell you what caused it. In many cases when a problem can’t be diagnosed, you may be told it’s likely a chromosomal abnormality. Currently, routine analysis can detect these problems in 1 and 50 couples. However, a new October 2019 study found a new test can increase those odds to 1 in 9.
The new technique uses low-pass genome sequencing (GS) to look for abnormalities. This revealed additional issues in more couples than the traditional test. Knowing this, couples can have personalized treatment. For example, pre-implantation testing (PGT) can help people with genetic abnormalities get pregnant through in vitro fertilization.
With that being said, it’s still unclear which couples who’ve miscarried would benefit the most from testing.
#4 Prenatal Air Pollution May Affect Infant Heart Rate
Live in a polluted city, inhaling smog day in and day out? Studies now show it could be harmful to your baby after birth. Researchers studied 237 mothers and babies who lived in Boston while comparing it to satellite data and air pollution monitors. (Note: pollution levels were similar to those across the U.S.)
To figure out if it had an effect, they studied the babies’ heart rates and respiration at 6 months. They found that the worse the air pollution during pregnancy, the worse the heart rate variability. Heart rate variability refers to how your heart responds to stressful events. Having a healthy variability is important for cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive and mental health.
“Specifically, these findings support individual-level and policy-level action to reduce exposure to particulate air pollution exposure during pregnancy,” says Dr. Whitney Cowell, the study’s author.
#5 Young Mothers More Likely to Have Kids with ADHD
An Australian October 2019 study found that being a young new mom is a risk factor for their baby developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is characterized by problems with focusing, self-control and hyperactive behavior. This makes it difficult for people to concentrate and control their emotions.
Researchers used the data from over 220,000 women to study the connection. They found that the genetic risk of ADHD was significantly associated with having a mother younger than 20.
While this may seem like a negative to young moms, researchers see the finding as an opportunity to better educate families. For example, doctors can let young mothers know about the increased risk and what traits to look out for. Also, diagnosing the disorder early and getting treatment makes successful outcomes more likely.
#6 Severe Infections During Pregnancy Increase Risk of Psychiatric Disorders
Previous research has shown that having a serious infection during pregnancy may increase your baby’s risk of developing a mental health disorder, such as schizophrenia or autism spectrum disorders. Now, researchers have pinpointed why that could be the case.
They found that infections in mother rats can cause impairment in stem, precursor and neuronal cells. In simple terms, it affects brain development, leading to cognitive impairment. Interestingly, they also learned that what stage the infection happens during pregnancy determines what effect it will have on the fetus.
#7 Stress During Pregnancy May Increase Risk of Preterm Birth and Determine Sex
Several studies have shown that a stressed-out mother can have negative effects on babies in the womb and even growing up. A 2019 study helps clarify these effects. They found that moms experiencing physical and psychological stress are less likely to have a boy. To put this in perspective, for every 100 female births, there’s about 105 male births. However, moms who were physically stressed had a male-to-female ratio of 4:9. Those who were mentally stressed had a ratio of 2:3. Researchers say this is because males are more vulnerable to stress effects, possibly leading to miscarriage before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.
They also found that physically stressed mothers with higher blood pressure were more likely to have premature babies. In addition, comparing moms who were physically stressed out to those who were mentally stressed, the latter group had more birth complications.
Since stressing about not being stressed isn’t likely to help, what’s the solution? Researchers learned that what differentiated between stressed and non-stressed mothers was the amount of social support they received from friends and family. So, don’t be afraid to reach out or make new, healthy connections during this time! Read Social Support During Pregnancy: Why It’s Critical & 10 Ways To Get It.
#8 Obese Mothers May Speed Up Aging in Children
You likely already know the effects obesity has on your own health, but what about your fetus? An October 2019 study showed that the effects are passed on, speeding up aging for metabolic issues. Researchers studied rats of obese mothers from birth to adult life. They found that they had more body fat and showed early signs of diabetes.
Fortunately, there’s a bright side: when the rat children exercised, it improved many of the adverse outcomes.
#9 Even a Glass or Two Can Have Effects
Everyone knows that drinking during pregnancy is a big no-no, but what about just one glass of wine on your birthday or a simple holiday cocktail? If you thought it wouldn’t affect your fetus, new research will make you rethink. An October 2019 study researched the effects of “special occasion drinking” on pregnant rats. This would be the equivalent of one or two drinks two times during pregnancy.
Although the mothers’ blood alcohol concentration (BAC) only reached 0.05%, male babies showed signs of becoming diabetic around six months. This was determined by higher-than-normal insulin levels. However, female rat babies didn’t show the same effect. Researchers theorize this is because estrogen (higher in females) protects against insulin resistance.
So what’s the big takeaway here?
“Even a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful, so if you’re planning on getting pregnant don’t drink. Families, partners and friends should support a woman’s choice not to drink alcohol during pregnancy,” says Lisa Akison, an author of the study.
#10 Fathers-to-Be May Avoid Alcohol 6 Months Before Conception
Keeping on the alcohol theme, it’s not just bad for a mother during pregnancy, it’s also not the best idea for a father to drink before conception. In an October 2019 research paper, authors found that men who drank three months before pregnancy had babies with a 44% increased risk of congenital heart disease. This was compared to a 16% increased risk when women drank. Binge drinking (defined as 5 or more drinks at a time), was associated with a 52% increased chance of birth defects.
These findings prompted researchers to conclude that men should not drink alcohol for at least 6 months before conception. However, researchers say the findings are not without limitation. For example, the type of alcohol drank wasn’t recorded and researchers can’t determine that paternal drinking is worse than maternal drinking.
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