Are MRIs safe during first trimester?

Yes, they are, according to a new study out of Canada.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 1.4 million births in the Canadian province of Ontario between 2003 and 2015, to compare women who had first-trimester magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, with those who did not. Their children were followed up to age 4. They found that having an MRI in the first trimester did not increase the risk of stillbirth, birth defects or death soon after birth, and it did not increase the risk of vision loss, hearing loss or cancer in the first four years of life.

An MRI is a noninvasive test that doctors use to diagnose and treat medical conditions, according to the Radiological Society of North America. It is believed to be safe for the fetus in the second or third trimesters of pregnancy, but there has been a lack of information about its safety during the first trimester, when the fetus forms its major organs and body structures.

This study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, supplies some new information. “Having an MRI at the earliest stages of pregnancy does not seem to alter the development of the fetus,” study author Dr. Joel Ray, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said in a hospital news release.

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Flu shots help you—and your newborn

Flu shot time is here, but that doesn’t include newborns and infants younger than six months of age, for whom flu shots are not approved. But moms-to-be can still help their newborns avoid the flu, because a flu shot during pregnancy protects newborns against the flu, especially for the first two months after birth, a new study finds.

Previous studies have shown that flu vaccination during pregnancy helps protect newborns. This study shows the length of protection is likely limited to the first eight weeks of life. Researchers assessed more than 1,000 infants born to women given a flu shot during pregnancy. They found the vaccine’s effectiveness was highest (85.6 percent) during the first eight weeks after birth. Effectiveness ranged from about 25 percent to 30 percent at ages 8 to 16 weeks, and 16 to 24 weeks.

The findings, which were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, are important because infants have high rates of flu, which puts them at risk for hospitalization and death, the study. Talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot this fall.

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Two new books discuss assisted reproduction

In case you missed it, the New York Times Book Review recently reviewed two new books that discuss infertility and assisted reproduction. “Avalanche: A Love Story,” by Julia Leigh, and “The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine and Motherhood,” by Belle Boggs.

You can read the review here. After you do, let us know your thoughts. Will you read these books? Have you read them already? What review would you give?

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Padma Lakshmi talks about her struggle with endometriosis

Padma Lakshmi, an author, actress, model, and Emmy-nominated host and executive producer of the hit TV show Top Chef, endured a 23-year struggle to find relief from endometriosis. From her teen years into adulthood, she suffered with severe monthly cramping, shooting pains, and numbness without knowing why. In her mid-30s, she was finally diagnosed with endometriosis.

She recently revealed to NIH MedlinePlus magazine how the experience shaped her advocacy efforts for those with the condition. The magazine also includes articles describing endometriosis, a personal story of successful treatment and what the NIH is doing to research the disease and find treatments.

We think you will find all of them interesting and helpful. Let us know what you think.

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Antibacterial soap? You can skip it, FDA says

As cold and flu season approaches, we all need to be aware of the germs that cause these infections—and how to prevent spreading them. For years, companies have been marketing antibacterial soaps as a way to reduce your risk of getting an infection. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that there’s no data demonstrating that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water.

That’s why the FDA is issuing a final rule under which OTC consumer antiseptic wash products (including liquid, foam, gel hand soaps, bar soaps, and body washes) containing the majority of the antibacterial active ingredients—including triclosan and triclocarban—will no longer be able to be marketed.

You can read the FDA Consumer Update to learn more.

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Best way to quit smoking

A new study has confirmed that using nicotine patches or the drug Zyban (bupropion) helps pregnant women quit smoking before and after they give birth.

“In public health terms, these results are significant because one in five pregnant women smokes,” said study author Anick Berard, a professor with the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Montreal. “We already know that smoking during pregnancy increases the chances of miscarriage as well as low birth weight, premature birth and birth defects—events that are linked to health problems in children.”

However, the study authors added that pregnant women or those looking to become pregnant should check with their doctor before taking any medication.

The new study results will give pregnant women evidence-based options to quit smoking, Berard said. They’ll “also give data to health care professionals for them to prescribe the right treatment while evaluating the risks and benefits associated with each pharmacological method,” she said.

The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, looked at nearly 1,300 pregnant women in Quebec. It found that 80 percent of pregnant women who used nicotine patches or Zyban were able to stop smoking. Even after they discontinued using the products, 68 percent of those who used nicotine patches and 60 percent of those who used Zyban did not start smoking again during or after pregnancy.

The findings also suggest that use of nicotine patches lowers the risk of premature birth and low birth weight, the researchers said.

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Diet during pregnancy linked to ADHD

Researchers have found that an unhealthy diet during pregnancy could influence a child’s risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A new study suggests that a high-fat, high-sugar diet can affect the function of a gene called IGF2 that helps steer fetal development of brain regions previously linked to ADHD.

“These results suggest that promoting a healthy prenatal diet may ultimately lower ADHD symptoms and conduct problems in children,” said senior researcher Edward Barker, director of the developmental psychopathology lab at King’s College London.

However, Barker said the study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, only shows an association, rather than a direct cause-and-effect. “We do not suggest that a mother’s diet will cause ADHD or conduct problems,” he said. “There are many causes of ADHD and conduct problems, and usually many small influences are at work together, diet being one of them.”

Many studies have shown that a healthy diet during pregnancy is important for proper fetal development. Such a diet should include lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, and protein from animals and plants.

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Soy may help women with PCOS

September is PCOS Awareness Month, and here’s something new to be aware of. According to a study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, consuming soy may help improve metabolic and cardiovascular health in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome.

PCOS is the leading cause of female infertility issues and increases a woman’s risk of serious health conditions such as insulin resistance, which elevates the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. PCOS is also associated with metabolic syndrome that contributes to both diabetes and heart disease.

The study examined how a diet containing soy isoflavones could help women with PCOS. Soy isoflavones are naturally occurring, plant-based estrogens found in the soybean plant. They are often found in foods such as soymilk, as well as supplements. Participants were divided into two groups taking either 50 milligrams of soy isoflavones or placebo every day for 12 weeks. The amount of soy is equivalent to the amount in 500 milliliters of soymilk.

Compared with the placebo group, the soy isoflavone group had significantly decreased circulating levels of insulin and other biological markers associated with insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes. Supplementation with soy isoflavones also resulted in significant reductions in testosterone, harmful cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides than those who received the placebo.

Talk to your doctor before making any significant changes in your diet.

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A little exercise can bring a lot of benefits

Obese pregnant women can reduce their risk of gestational diabetes and lower their blood pressure by exercising as little as three times a week, a new study finds.

For the study, published in PLOS Medicine, 91 pregnant women were randomly placed into one of two groups. One group exercised three times a week under supervision, by walking at a moderate rate on a treadmill for 35 minutes and taking part in strength training for 25 minutes. The other group was given standard prenatal care.

Two women in the exercise group developed gestational diabetes, compared with nine women in the standard care group, the findings showed. In addition, the women who exercised had lower blood pressure levels shortly before giving birth.

Obese women face higher risks of complications, and are more likely to undergo cesarean section delivery and give birth to large babies, the researchers said, adding that the findings showed that “even a little training during pregnancy can be beneficial.”

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Help raise awareness during PCOS Awareness Month

The month of September has been designated PCOS Awareness Month, and this year, the PCOS Awareness Association is planning many activities aimed at raising worldwide, public awareness of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

The PCOS Awareness Association is a non-profit organization that was founded by a woman who was diagnosed with PCOS herself. PCOSAA helps women to understand what PCOS is, provides resources regarding it and creates public awareness about it. Awareness will help women understand that symptoms like irregular periods and pelvic pain are not something to be ignored and should be checked by a doctor.

You can learn more about PCOS at our website. And click here to find out how you can participate in PCOSAA events and activities.

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