Sexual pain common after childbirth

Nearly nine in 10 women experience pain the first time they have sexual intercourse after childbirth. What’s more, almost 25 percent still report painful sex 18 months later, Australian researchers reported in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The study also revealed that women who had given birth via cesarean section or vaginally with vacuum extraction were about twice as likely to experience painful intercourse at 18 months postpartum compared to women who had spontaneous vaginal deliveries.

The researchers questioned more than 1,200 first-time mothers from six Australian hospitals. The investigators first contacted the women at an average of 15 weeks of pregnancy and then at 3, 6, 12 and 18 months after they had given birth.

Factors associated with painful sex 18 months after childbirth included pre-pregnancy painful sex, the new mothers’ fatigue levels, depressive symptoms and younger maternal age, according to the study.

“Women tend not to talk about [painful sex] unless directly asked,” study author Stephanie Brown, a principal research fellow at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute said. “Although the media is saturated with images of sexuality, sex remains somewhat of a taboo topic, especially in the context of motherhood. It’s very important for obstetricians to encourage women to talk about sexual difficulties if they are experiencing problems.”

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Pregnant and depressed? Try yoga

Yoga may help ease depression in pregnant women, according to new research published in the March/April issue of the journal Women’s Health Issues.

In the study, 34 pregnant women with depression attended yoga classes for 10 weeks. The women were also encouraged to do yoga at home. The yoga program did not include any type of counseling or other therapy to deal with depression. Only four of the women received outside treatment for depression, the study authors said.

The women’s levels of depression fell during the study, and the more yoga they did, the better their mental health, the researchers reported.

There were also significant changes in the women’s levels of mindfulness, which involves directing attention to the present moment, noticing thoughts, feelings or sensations, and not judging those experiences, the researchers explained.

It’s believed that mindfulness is one way that yoga may help ease depression, said the authors of the study. While the study found an association between practicing yoga and lower levels of depression, it did not establish a cause-and-effect link.

Many pregnant women are reluctant to take antidepressants and some have difficulty taking part in individual psychotherapy, noted Cynthia Battle, an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University and the study’s lead author.

“Prenatal yoga really does appear to be an approach that is feasible to administer, acceptable to women and their health care providers, and potentially helpful to improve mood,” said Battle, who is also a psychologist at Butler Hospital and Women & Infants Hospital, in Providence, R.I. “This is really about trying to develop a wider range of options that suit women who are experiencing these kind of symptoms during pregnancy.”

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Where there’s smoke, there’s … diabetes?

A study of about 1,800 adult women with diabetes has found a strong link between their diabetes and their parents’ smoking during pregnancy. The study was presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting this month.

Smoking by mothers was associated with a stronger risk of diabetes than smoking by fathers, the researchers said. The link between parents’ smoking and higher diabetes risk remained even after the researchers compensated for factors such as race or a woman’s birth weight or current body-mass index.

While the study doesn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between smoking in pregnancy and a daughter’s diabetes, it adds to evidence that prenatal environmental chemical exposures might contribute to adult diabetes, the researchers said.

“From a public health perspective, reduced fetal environmental tobacco smoke exposure appears to be an important modifiable risk factor for diabetes mellitus in offspring,” lead author Michele La Merrill, an assistant professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Davis, said in an Endocrine Society news release.

Further studies are needed to confirm these results, the researchers said. However, they suggest that pregnant smokers quit smoking and avoid smoke exposure to reduce diabetes risk in their adult children.

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Heavy mom could = heavy baby

Sure, it’s normal to gain some weight during pregnancy, but gaining too much or being overweight may put your child at increased risk for obesity, according to a new study published in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition.

The study included 727 mothers. Before pregnancy, 45 percent were overweight or obese, and 64 percent of them gained more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy.

The study found that 22 percent of the children born to these women were obese by age 7. Moreover, on average, 24 percent of their body mass was fat. The researchers determined that children born to mothers who had excessive weight gain during pregnancy were more likely to be obese. In addition, children born to women who were overweight or obese before pregnancy had a 300 percent increased risk of obesity.

The U.S. Institute of Medicine Guidelines recommends that pregnant women within a normal weight range gain a total of 25-35 pounds, with approximately 1 pound a week in the second and third trimesters. Be sure to work with your doctor to keep your weight gain within recommended limits.

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Melasma: the mask of pregnancy

Melasma is a common skin problem that causes brown to gray-brown patches on the face. Women comprise 90% of melasma sufferers, and pregnant women are even more at risk. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), it is so widespread that it has been called “the mask of pregnancy.”

Most people get it on their cheeks, nose, forehead, chin and above their upper lip. It also can appear on other parts of the body that get sun exposure, such as the forearms and neck.

Most at risk are women with darker skin, such as those of Latin/Hispanic, North African, African-American, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent, and those with a family history of melasma.

The sun can bring on melasma, so be sure to wear sunscreen whenever you spend time outdoors. Also wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face even more.

To learn more visit the AAD’s melasma web page.

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Mind your meds while pregnant

Pregnancy and medicines don’t always mix. Some medicines, including over-the-counter or prescription drugs, herbs and supplements, can actually harm your growing baby.

On the other hand, not using needed medicine may be more harmful to you and your baby than using the medicine. For example, many pregnant women take prescription medicines for diabetes, asthma, seizures and heartburn. All decisions about whether or not to take a medicine are based on the risks and benefits. You and your health care provider should make this choice together.

And pregnant women should not take regular multivitamins, because they may have too much or too little of the vitamins you need. The exception, though, is folic acid. Guidelines call for women to take 0.4 milligrams of folic acid every day before they become pregnant through the first part of the pregnancy to help prevent birth defects of the baby’s brain or spine, such as spina bifida.

Always speak with your health care provider before you start or stop any medicine. For a good primer on this topic, visit the CDC’s Medication Use During Pregnancy web page.

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Work affects male fertility

Working in a physically demanding job may undermine a man’s fertility, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and Stanford University. The study is the first to examine the relationships between workplace exertion, health and semen quality as men are trying to conceive. The results were published online in Fertility and Sterility.

The investigators studied 456 men with an average age of 31.8 years. Most were white (77 percent) and college-educated (91 percent); more than half had never fathered a pregnancy. The researchers found that 13 percent of the men who reported heavy work-related activity had lower sperm counts, compared with 6 percent of the men who reported no workplace exertion. In contrast, no other work-related exposure, such as heat, noise or prolonged sitting, appeared to influence semen quality.

“Nearly 15 percent of U.S. couples do not become pregnant in their first year of trying,” said Germaine Buck Louis, Ph.D., the study’s senior author and director of the Division of Intramural Population Health Research at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “Male infertility plays a significant role, and our aim is to explore the influence of environmental factors and health status on semen quality.”

The good news, she said is that this effect, “can potentially be modified by … changing job-related behaviors.”

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Infertility: You are not alone

April is National Infertility Awareness Month, and the week of April 19-25 is National Infertility Awareness Week. This year, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association is urging the infertility community to spread the message “You are not alone.”

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association founded the National Infertility Awareness Week in 1989. Infertility impacts 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age and can be a very isolating disease to face. Just hearing “You are not alone” can help in so many ways.

RESOLVE works with the fertility care professionals, corporate partners, and the media to:

• Ensure that people trying to conceive know the guidelines for seeing a specialist when they are trying to conceive.

• Enhance public understanding that infertility is a disease that needs and deserves attention.

• Educate legislators about the disease of infertility and how it impacts people in their state.

To learn more about National Fertility Awareness Week and how to get involved, visit the RESOLVE web site.

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An IVF ‘baby boom’

More babies in the United States are being conceived by in vitro fertilization, a new report shows. Nearly 2,000 more infants were born with the help of assisted reproductive technology in 2013, compared with 2012, the researchers reported.

Almost 175,000 in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles led to the birth of slightly more than 63,000 babies, compared with just over 165,000 IVF cycles that led to the birth of slightly fewer than 62,000 babies in 2012.

Babies conceived through fertility treatments account for more than 1.5 percent of children born in the United States, according to the report from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.

The society also said more women, regardless of age, chose to have a single embryo transferred. The rise in the number of women making this choice was greatest among women under 35. In that age group, 22.5 percent decided to have a single embryo transferred, compared with almost 15 percent in 2012.

“We are extremely encouraged to see the number of embryos transferred per cycle continue to go down and that more and more patients are choosing single embryo transfer,” said Dr. James Toner, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. “The goal of reducing the incidence of multiple pregnancies is extremely important, and patients can see from the data that fewer embryos transferred do not mean a lower chance of pregnancy.”

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Acupuncture and IVF: a happy marriage

The ancient Eastern practice of acupuncture is no longer a strange concept in Western medicine. But did you know that this healing therapy, with its concepts of “vital energy” and “energetic balance,” has been shown to improve fertility?

It’s true. That’s why RSCNJ offers you the most comprehensive, combined IVF and acupuncture treatment available from our in-house acupuncturist.

Eastern cultures have been using acupuncture for fertility therapy for centuries, and Western science now has shown that it can:

• Improve blood flow to the uterus, which helps the lining grow strong and healthy enough to support an embryo.

• Reduce cramping after IVF retrieval and transfer.

• Reduce the side effects of anesthesia after retrieval.

• Stimulate egg production, for women who can’t, or don’t want to, use fertility medication to help them get pregnant.

• Regulate and stabilize hormone levels.

• Reduce the chance of miscarriage.

• Reduces stress and promotes deep relaxation, which are absolutely critical if you’re trying to get pregnant, especially if you’re undergoing any kind of traditional fertility treatment such as IVF.

When combined with IVF treatments, acupuncture can significantly increase your chance of conception. The most important treatments are immediately following your egg retrieval and transfer appointments. The number of eggs produced at retrieval time can be increased when you have been treated with acupuncture once or twice weekly for at least three weeks prior to your egg retrieval. At RSCNJ, your acupuncturist is always available on site during these processes.

Want to learn more? Just contact us online.

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