Need more sleep? Here’s help for pregnant women

New parents know that sleep is hard to come by in the first weeks with a newborn. But pregnant women also suffer lack of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that hormonal changes, heartburn, having to use the bathroom more frequently or worries about giving birth all contribute to insomnia during pregnancy. The NSF offers these tips to help you get your ZZZZs.

1. In the third trimester, sleep on your left side to allow for the best blood flow to the fetus and to your uterus and kidneys. Avoid lying flat on your back for a long period of time

2. Drink lots of fluids during the day, but cut down before bedtime.

3. To prevent heartburn, do not eat large amounts of spicy, acidic (such as tomato products), or fried foods. If heartburn is a problem, sleep with your head elevated on pillows.

4. Exercise regularly to help you stay healthy, improve your circulation, and reduce leg cramps.

5. Try frequent bland snacks (like crackers) throughout the day to help avoid nausea by keeping your stomach full.

6. Special “pregnancy” pillows and mattresses may help you sleep better. Or use regular pillows to support your body.

7. Try napping. An NSF poll found that 51% of pregnant or recently pregnant women reported at least one weekday nap; 60% reported at least one weekend nap.

8. Learn to relax. Relaxation and breathing techniques can help now, and when contractions begin. A warm bath or shower before bed can be helpful.

9. Talk to your doctor if you develop medical problems and/or insomnia persists.

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Podcast: Reproductive surgery in the era of assisted reproductive technology

According to the National Institutes of Health, a shift has occurred away from surgery as a primary treatment of infertility to surgery playing a crucial part in enhancing in-vitro fertilization outcome and for fertility preservation.

Dr. William Ziegler, a specialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and the Medical Director of the Reproductive Science Center of New Jersey, talks about the role of reproductive surgery in the era of assisted reproductive technology in our latest podcast. Listen to it here.

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Study: Men have limited awareness of their infertility

The first large-scale study of its kind has revealed that men generally lack knowledge about the risk factors contributing to male infertility. Canadian researchers found that men could only identify about 50% of the potential risks and medical conditions that are detrimental to their sperm count and, thus, their prospects to father children.

While risk factors such as cancer, smoking and steroid use were more commonly known, other modifiable risks like obesity, frequent bicycling and frequent use of a laptop on your lap were not on their radar.

This study, published in Human Reproduction, found that this general lack of knowledge was true for men across all age groups, education and income levels.

“Men aren’t as inclined to ask questions about their health, so it stands to reason that they would be less well-informed about their fertility,” explains Dr. Phyllis Zelkowitz, the Director of Research in the Department of Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University. Nonetheless, about a third of the men surveyed expressed concerns about their fertility, and almost 60% wanted to learn more about this issue.

The researchers hope to stimulate a dialogue about male fertility and inspire health educators and health care practitioners to provide universal public education to promote reproductive health among men from a young age so that they can take the necessary steps to protect their fertility.

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New podcast discusses ectopic pregnancy

A common cause of female infertility is a blockage of the fallopian tubes, which can prevent sperm from meeting and fertilizing an egg. Blocked fallopian tubes can also cause ectopic pregnancy, in which a fertilized egg is unable to move to the uterus for implantation and starts to grow within the tiny fallopian tube, ovary or abdominal cavity.

There are several possible causes of fallopian blockage. Fortunately, there are also several treatment options. In our new podcast, Dr. Alan Martinez explains ectopic pregnancy and the steps necessary to help insure future pregnancies. Click here to listen. 

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FDA warns against anesthesia for pregnant women, young children

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning that repeated or lengthy use of general anesthetic and sedation drugs during surgeries or procedures in children younger than 3 years or in pregnant women during their third trimester may affect the development of children’s brains.

The FDA says that recent human studies suggest that a single, relatively short exposure to general anesthetic and sedation drugs in infants or toddlers is unlikely to have negative effects on behavior or learning. However, further research is needed to fully characterize how early life anesthetic exposure affects children’s brain development.

Parents and caregivers should discuss with their child’s health care professional the potential adverse effects of anesthesia on brain development, as well as the appropriate timing of procedures that can be delayed without jeopardizing their child’s health, the FDA says. Pregnant women should have similar conversations with their health care professionals. Also talk with them about any questions or concerns.

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Pregnancy changes women’s brains to respond to their babies

A new study being called the first of its kind has discovered that the architecture of women’s brains changes dramatically during their first pregnancies. These changes, which last for at least two years, involve shrinking of gray matter in certain areas that may make their brains more efficient in responding to their infant’s needs or to sense threatening people.

The changes correlated with standard tests of a mother’s attachment to her infant—and they occurred whether a woman conceived naturally or using in vitro fertilization.

Researchers in Spain used MRI scanning to examine the brains of 25 women who had never had children, along with 19 new fathers and 20 women without children who did not become pregnant during the study. The findings showed grey matter loss in the mothers, but not in the other groups, in areas of the brain involved in social functioning, like reading the desires and intentions of others from their faces and actions. And the mothers’ scores on a standard measurement of a mother’s attachment to her infant could be predicted by the changes in their gray matter volume.

The research was published in Nature Neuroscience.

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Breast feed or bottle feed? Choice can leave women feeling guilty

According to new research, the slogan “breast is best” in regards to feeding newborn babies may cause mothers who formula-feed their infants to feel guilty about it and a need to defend their actions.

The researchers surveyed 890 mothers of infants up to the age of 26 weeks, all of whom formula-feeding their infants at the time of study. Two in three reported feeling guilty, 68 percent felt stigmatized, and 76 percent felt they had to defend their choice of feeding method.

The highest levels of guilt were felt by mothers who planned to exclusively breast-feed and those who initiated breast-feeding but stopped.

In a second study, the researchers recruited 845 mothers of infants aged up to 26 weeks who were either exclusively breast-feeding or combination feeding with part breast milk, part formula. In this group, 15 percent reported feeling guilty, 38 percent reported feeling stigmatized, and 55 percent felt the need to defend their feeding choice. Both studies were published in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breast-fed for the first 6 months of life. After that, breast-feeding should continue while slowly introducing solid foods. Studies show that breastfeeding can lower the baby’s risk of allergies, obesity and SIDS, and the mothers risk of type 2 diabetes and certain types of breast and ovarian cancer.

However, not all women are successful. “The ‘breast is best’ message has, in many cases, done more harm than good and we need to be very careful of the use of words in future breastfeeding promotion campaigns, said Victoria Fallon, Institute of Psychology, University of Liverpool England, a coauthor of the studies. “It is crucial that future recommendations recognize the challenges that exclusive breast-feeding to 6 months brings and provide a more balanced and realistic target for mothers.”

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Happy New Year!

We’d like to wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year.

May all your fertility dreams come true in 2017.

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New Year’s Eve, pregnancy and alcohol: Myth vs. fact

One glass of wine is not enough for the developing baby to even be exposed to the alcohol.

My friends or family members drank a bit and their kids are fine.

There is no evidence of any effects from just one drink.

A little bit of wine helps to reduce stress and can be healthy while pregnant.

On a holiday or special occasion, it’s perfectly fine to at least have a few celebratory sips.

You’ve likely heard all these “facts,” and more, about drinking alcohol while pregnant. But are they really facts? With New Year’s Eve approaching, and alcohol plentiful, any woman who is now pregnant or trying to become pregnant should find out. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome sets the record straight on its web site.

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