Breastfeeding ‘cuts depression risk’, according to study

Breastfeeding can halve the risk of post-natal depression, according to a large study of 14,000 new mothers. However, there is a large increase in the risk of depression in women planning to breastfeed who are then unable to do so.

Breastfeeding can halve the risk of post-natal depression, according to a large study of 14,000 new mothers.

The study, published in the journal Maternal and Child Health, called for more support for women unable to breastfeed. A parenting charity said mental health was a “huge issue” for many mothers. The health benefits of breastfeeding to the baby are clear-cut and the World Health Organization recommends feeding a child nothing but breast milk for the first six months.

However, researchers at the University of Cambridge said the impact on the mother was not as clearly understood.

‘Highest risk’
One in 10 women will develop depression after the birth of their child. The researchers analysed data from 13,998 births in the south-west of England. It showed that, out of women who were planning to breastfeed, there was a 50% reduction in the risk of post-natal depression if they started breastfeeding.

But the risk of depression more than doubled among women who wanted to, but were not able to, breastfeed. Dr Maria Iacovou, one of the researchers, told the BBC: “Breastfeeding does appear to have a protective effect, but there’s the other side of the coin as well.

“Those who wanted to and didn’t end up breastfeeding had the highest risk of all the groups.” The benefit increased for each week of breastfeeding up to one month.

However, any longer term impact on post-natal depression could not be determined due to the small number of women in the study who were still breast feeding several months after the birth.

Action needed
Dr Iacovou said the health profession needed to pay attention. She added: “It is right to tell mothers it’s right to breastfeed, there’s so many benefits, but the thing we need to rethink is giving more support to those who did want to breastfeed and to recognise those who are unable to, are at substantially elevated risk and to make sure health visitors keep an eye on these women.”

Possible explanations for the beneficial effect include the release of feel-good hormones when milk is produced.Dr Iacovou added that social or psychological factors such as feelings of “failing as a mother” were also contributing.

She says the improving the health of the mother will also help the baby.

Rosemary Dodds, a senior policy adviser at parenting charity NCT, said: “Mothers often experience pressures after the birth such as pain, shortage of sleep and anxiety.

“Breastfeeding can help to relax mothers and reduce stress, so it might play a part in preventing mental health issues developing. “We welcome further research into this subject as perinatal mental health is a huge issue for many mothers. At least one in ten suffer with postnatal depression.”

Source: bbc news


Electronic media associated with poorer well-being in children

The use of electronic media, such as watching television, using computers and playing electronic games, was associated with poorer well-being in children. Researchers noted that using electronic media can be a sedentary behavior and sedentary behavior is associated with adverse health outcomes, and may be detrimental at a very young age.

The authors of the new study used data from the European Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-Induced Health Effects in Children and Infants (IDEFICS) study to examine the association of using electronic media between ages 2 and 6 years and the well-being of children two years later. Questionnaires were used to measure six indicators of well-being, including emotional and peer problems, self-esteem, emotional well-being, family functioning and social networks.

Among 3,604 children, electronic media use appeared to be associated with poorer well-being. Watching television appeared to be associated with poorer outcomes more than playing electronic games or using computers. The risk of emotional problems and poorer family functioning increased with each additional hour of watching TV or electronic game and computer use.

“Higher levels of early childhood electronic media use are associated with children being at risk for poorer outcomes with some indicators of well-being. … Further research is required to identify potential mechanisms of this association,” the authors have concluded.

Second Study Examines Monitoring of TV, Video Games With BMI
A second study published in JAMA indicates that more maternal monitoring of the time children spend watching TV or playing video games appears to be associated with lower body mass index (BMI).

Children’s media consumption (time spent in front of TVs and computers) is associated with childhood obesity, as many studies have found. However, parental influences, such as media monitoring, have not been effectively studied.

In this study, the authors examined the potential association of parental monitoring of their children’s exposure to media and general activities with the children’s BMI in an analysis that included 112 mothers, 103 fathers and their 213 children at age 5, 7 and/or 9 years.

The results showed that less monitoring by mothers of the time their children spent watching TV or playing video games appears to be associated with higher BMI for children at age 7 and increasing deviance from child BMI norms between the ages of 5 to 9 years. The finding was not evident for paternal monitoring.

“Low maternal media monitoring does not seem to reflect more general parent disengagement or lack of awareness regarding children’s behaviors and whereabouts. The association between lower maternal media monitoring and higher child BMI was primarily explained by a tendency for these children to spend more hours per week watching television and playing video games. This supports the validity of our interpretation that child media time has direct effects on BMI, is under substantial control by parents, and therefore is a prime target for family intervention,” the authors noted.

Source: Science daily

Doctors Use 3-D Printing To Help A Baby Breathe

Ever since the day Garrett Peterson was born, his parents have had to watch him suddenly just stop breathing.

“He could go from being totally fine to turning blue sometimes — not even kidding — in 30 seconds,” says Garrett’s mother, Natalie Peterson, 25, of Layton, Utah. “It was so fast. It was really scary.”

Garrett was born with a defective windpipe. His condition, known as tracheomalacia, left his trachea so weak the littlest thing makes it collapse, cutting off his ability to breathe.

“When he got upset, or even sometimes just with a diaper change, he would turn completely blue,” his mother says, “and that was terrifying.”So the Petersons contacted Dr. Glenn Green at the University of Michigan, who specializes in conditions like Garrett’s. He teamed up with Scott Hollister, a biomedical engineer who runs the university’s 3-D Printing Lab, to create a remarkable solution to Garrett’s problem — a device that will hold open Garrett’s windpipe until it’s strong enough to work on its own.

Instead of shooting ink onto a flat page to print words or pictures, 3-D printers use other material, such as plastic or metal, to create three-dimensional objects. “You build up layers until you have the complete 3-D structure,” Hollister says.

3-D printers have been used to build jewelry, art and even guns. But Hollister is using the technology to create medical devices. He uses a 3-D printer that melts particles of plastic dust with a laser. He has already built a jawbone for a patient in Italy and has helped another baby with a condition similar to Garrett’s. But Garrett is a lot of sicker and his condition is a lot more complicated.

“It’s just been issue after issue with breathing, and just trying to keep him breathing at all,” Jake Peterson, Garrett’s dad, says.

At 16 months old, Garrett had never been able to leave the hospital. Every time he stopped breathing, it was a mad rush to save him. And the doctors weren’t sure how much longer they could keep him alive.

“In some sense we were thrown directly into the fire,” Hollister says. “We characterized it as sort of a Hail Mary pass.” So they rushed Garrett from Salt Lake City to Ann Arbor on Jan. 18 and got to work.

First they took a CT scan of Garrett’s windpipe so they could make a 3-D replica of it. Next they used the 3-D printer to design and build a “splint.” It’s a small, white flexible tube tailored to fit around the weakest parts of Garrett’s windpipe.

“It’s like a protective shell that goes on the outside of the windpipe and it allows the windpipe to be tacked to the inside of that shell to open it up directly,” Green says.

But the device has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. So Green and Hollister had to convince the agency to give them an emergency waiver to try it. And they were running out of time. “His condition was critical. It was urgent and things needed to be done quickly. It was highly questionable whether he would survive and how long he would survive,” Green says.

Garrett’s parents knew they were taking a leap of faith. But they felt like they had to try. “We were just so excited for that glimmer of hope that this could be what would help Garrett get home,” Jake Peterson says.

Hollister and Green got the FDA’s approval and scheduled the surgery for Jan. 31. As soon as the surgeon, Dr. Richard Ohye, opened up Garrett’s chest, he and Green could see that Garrett’s windpipe had collapsed. One of his lungs was completely white.

“The only time I’d seen a white lung was in somebody that had died,” Green says. They quickly got to work, gingerly placing the first of two splints on one side of Garrett’s windpipe. It fit perfectly. So they got started on a second splint, which fit perfectly, too.

After more than eight hours, both splints were securely in place. Then came the most important moment: What would happen when they let air flow through Garrett’s windpipe into his lungs?

This time, Garrett’s windpipe stayed open, and his white lung turned pink. “That was just amazing to me,” Green says. “Here something that we’d worked on, that had been constructed just a week ago to match this defect. It had worked just the way we had hoped. I said, ‘This is going to change this boy’s life and his family’s life forever.’ ”

Garrett is 18 months old now and is still in the hospital, but in the weeks since the surgery, he has gotten stronger and stronger and needs less help breathing. His parents are ecstatic.

“He has been doing so good. He’s been smiling, and it’s crazy to be able to see him get really upset and not change colors,” Natalie Peterson says. “He’s being more interactive and more alert and reaching more for his toys. He’s just starting to be more like a normal child,” Jake Peterson adds. Garrett’s splint is designed to expand as he grows and eventually dissolve in his body as his own windpipe gets strong enough to work normally.

Green wants to save more babies this way, but it’s expensive to transport these extremely sick children across country. It has also been hard to convince insurance companies to pay for the trip.

“It is one of the most frustrating things that I’ve been through, knowing that there’s something that we have that can help and looking at all the roadblocks that are in place,” Green says. So he’s hoping to launch a formal study, which may enable him to try more splints to save more babies.

Green says this is the most exciting thing he has seen since medical school. “We’re talking about taking something like dust and converting it into body parts,” he says. “And we’re able to do things that were never possible before.” They’ve already started using 3-D printing to build more body parts, including ears and noses, by combining the plastic structure with human cells. Other scientists have gone even further, using 3-D printing to make blood vessels, skin and even primitive organs out of cells.

Source: npr

Gene Study Offers Clues to Why Autism Strikes More Males

why girls are less likely than boys to have an autism spectrum disorder.

It turns out that girls tend not to develop autism when only mild genetic abnormalities exist, the researchers said. But when they are diagnosed with the disorder, they are more likely to have more extreme genetic mutations than boys who show the same symptoms.

“Girls tolerate neurodevelopmental mutations more than boys do. This is really what the study shows,” said study author Sebastien Jacquemont, an assistant professor of genetic medicine at the University Hospital of Lausanne, in Switzerland.

“To push a girl over the threshold for autism or any of these neurodevelopmental disorders, it takes more of these mutations,” Jacquemont added. “It’s about resilience to genetic insult.”

The dilemma is that the researchers don’t really know why this is so. “It’s more of an observation at a molecular level,” Jacquemont noted.

In the study, the Swiss researchers collaborated with scientists from the University of Washington School of Medicine to analyze about 16,000 DNA samples and sequencing data sets from people with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders.

The investigators also analyzed genetic data from almost 800 families affected by autism for the study, which was released online Feb. 27 in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

The researchers analyzed copy-number variants (CNVs), which are individual variations in the number of copies of a particular gene. They also looked at single-nucleotide variants (SNVs), which are DNA sequence variations affecting a single nucleotide. Nucleotides are the basic building blocks of DNA.

The study found that females diagnosed with any neurodevelopmental disorder, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and intellectual disability, had more harmful CNVs than males who were diagnosed with the same disorder. Females with autism also had more harmful SNVs than males with the condition.

“There’s a well-known disparity when it comes to developmental disorders between boys and girls, and it’s been puzzling,” Jacquemont said. “And there have been quite a bit of papers trying to investigate this bias that we’ve seen in the clinic.”

The study authors pointed out that autism affects four boys for every one girl. The ratio increases to seven-to-one when looking at high-functioning autism cases.

It’s an interesting study, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.

“It’s not an easy study to read, but certainly the take-away suggests it tries to lend further support to the assumption that the ratio of males to females [who have autism] is affected by genetic vulnerabilities — that it has a genetic underpinning,” Adesman said.

What do the findings mean for parents and patients?

Adesman said there are no immediate benefits, but the knowledge can help direct future research.

“This isn’t going to lead to a breakthrough in treatment, but from a clinical standpoint it may help researchers and academics understand why it is that developmental disorders seem to be more common in boys than girls,” he noted.

The new research also reinforces that genetic differences — or vulnerabilities — aren’t limited to sex chromosomes, Adesman added.

“The presumption has been, ‘Well gee, boys have a Y chromosome and girls don’t, so are there problems with the Y chromosome that explain it?'” Adesman noted.

“The bottom line is that there are a lot of different genetic abnormalities and atypicalities that result in developmental disorders in children and adults,” Adesman explained. “Women seem to be a little more resilient in terms of being able to have minor abnormalities without having a developmental problem.”

Source: health

Childhood amnesia occurs at the age of seven

Psychologists have suggested that age seven is when these earliest memories tend to fade into oblivion, a phenomenon known as “childhood amnesia.”

The research involved interviewing children about past events in their lives, starting at age three. Different subsets of the group of children were then tested for recall of these events at ages five, six, seven, eight and nine.

Emory psychologist Patricia Bauer, who led the study, said that their study is the first empirical demonstration of the onset of childhood amnesia.

She said that they actually recorded the memories of children, and then they followed them into the future to track when they forgot these memories.

The experiment began by recording 83 children at the age of three, while their mothers or fathers asked them about six events that the children had experienced in recent months, such as a trip to the zoo or a birthday party.

After recording these base memories, the researchers followed up with the children years later, asking them to recall the events that they recounted at age three. The study subjects were divided into five different groups, and each group of children returned only once to participate in the experiment, from the ages of five to nine.

While the children between the ages of five and seven could recall 63 to 72 percent of the events, the children who were eight and nine years old remembered only about 35 percent of the events.

The study has been published in the journal Memory.

Source: ANI news

Secondhand Smoke Will Cause Your Child To Go Back To The Hospital


Hospital statistics suggest that children exposed to secondhand smoke are significantly more likely to be readmitted within a year of being admitted for asthma, providing additional evidence that more efforts to limit exposure stand to alleviate a significant burden on public health.

Dr. Robert Kahn, a director at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and senior author of the new study, said in a press release that the alarming figures also illuminate a cost-effective way for pediatricians to fine-tune interventions and customize treatment for respiratory problems like asthma. By measuring levels of cotinine, the main breakdown product of nicotine, care providers will be able to spot a significant health factor in patients who may otherwise not report it.

“The ability to measure serum and salivary cotinine levels presents the possibility of an objective measure that can be obtained when a child is seen in the emergency department or in the hospital and may be used to predict future hospitalizations,” he explained. “Such a measure for exposure to tobacco smoke could be used to target specific interventions at caregivers of those children before discharge from the hospital. Several interventions, including parental counseling and contact with the primary care physician, could be adopted in clinical practice.”

Saliva Samples Don’t Lie
The study, which is published in the journal Pediatrics, is part of the Greater Cincinnati Asthma Risks Study — an exhaustive effort to map the causes of hospital readmission for pediatric asthma, particularly in minority and low-income children. Kahn and colleagues studied emergency room admission rates for children between ages 1 and 16 from August 2010 to October 2011. Readmission was defined as a return to the hospital with similar symptoms within a year of the first visit.

When the team compared readmission rates to the parent or caregiver’s own report of his or her tobacco use, there was no significant correlation between being exposed to secondhand smoke and returning to the hospital. However, when they analyzed cotinine content in saliva and blood samples, they found that children exposed to secondhand smoke were actually twice as likely to return. The findings thus show that this kind of tobacco exposure is indeed an important factor of pediatric asthma readmission. They also show that many parents and caregivers lie about their smoking habits, which is, arguably, an even larger concern.

Source: Medical daily

Breast-feeding longer than six months tied to better cognitive development

Breast-feeding’s benefits have been backed by yet another study, the latest finding kids who were breast-fed for more than six months scored the highest on cognitive, language and motor development tests as toddler.

Earlier research tied breast-feeding to better thinking and memory skills. But how it’s related to language skills and movement and coordination had been less clear.

The new study, out of Greece, doesn’t prove breast-feeding is responsible for better development, but it shows a strong association, researchers said.

Most evidence “pretty clearly shows there are significant medical benefits of breast-feeding,” Dr. Dimitri Christakis, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, told Reuters Health in an email.

“I think that the evidence is now of sufficient quality that we can close the book on these benefits and focus instead on how do we succeed in promoting breast-feeding because all of the studies, including this one, that have looked at it have found a linear relationship, which is to say that the benefits accrue with each additional month that a child is breast-fed,” added Christakis, who was not involved in the study.

In the U.S., about 77 percent of new moms breast-feed their babies, according to an August study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Almost half follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of breast-feeding exclusively for first six months of a newborn’s life. Moms are also recommended to provide supplemental breast milk until a child is aged 1 year old or older.

The World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding even longer with complementary foods through age 2 and beyond.

But a March 2013 study found 40 percent of parents introduce solid foods too soon, before a baby turns 4 months old.

Given these rates, health officials often urge longer breast-feeding because it may protect against gastrointestinal tract infections, diabetes, respiratory infections, asthma and obesity, although one recent study did not find protections against childhood obesity. Moms have also been found to be less likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer if they breast-fed.

For the new study, Dr. Leda Chatzi from the University of Crete and her colleagues used data from a long-term study of 540 mothers and their kids.

When the babies were nine months old, researchers asked moms when they started breast-feeding and how long they breast-fed. They updated the information when the children were 18 months old. Psychologists also tested children’s cognitive abilities, language skills and motor development at 18 months.

About 89 percent of the babies were ever breast-fed. Of those, 13 percent were breast-fed for less than one month, 52 percent for between one and six months, and 35 percent for longer than six months.

Children who were breast-fed for any amount of time scored higher on the cognitive, receptive communication and fine motor portions of the test than children who weren’t breast-fed.

Scores on the cognitive, receptive and expressive communication and fine motor sections were highest among children who were breast-fed for more than six months, the researchers reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

For instance, on cognitive assessments with a normal score of 100, toddlers who were never breast-fed scored about a 97, on average. Kids who were breast-fed for more than six months scored a 104.

Chatzi and her colleagues expected to see more breast-feeding than they did.

“We were surprised by the fact that breast-feeding levels in Greece remain low, even though there is an ongoing effort by the Greek State to promote breast-feeding practices,” Chatzi told Reuters Health in an email.

“One of the reasons we see such a big drop off in the United States and elsewhere around four months is because women return to work,” Christakis said.

“The real challenge we have is with sustaining breast-feeding,” he said. “I believe very strongly that we need a public health approach to doing so because these are public health issues – improving child cognition and improving in this case as they showed a child’s physical development, benefits society as a whole and society has to support women achieving that goal.”

“We need to have baby-friendly work places that help women continue to either breast-feed or pump when they return to work,” Christakis said. “There’s that African proverb, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,'” he said. “It takes a village to breast-feed a child as well, and all sectors have to contribute.”

Source: Reuters

Children’s cardiovascular fitness declining worldwide

Many kids don’t run as far or fast as their parents did, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2013.

The decline in running fitness may indicate worse health in adulthood, the researchers said.

“If a young person is generally unfit now, then they are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease later in life,” said Grant Tomkinson, Ph.D., lead author of the study and senior lecturer in the University of South Australia’s School of Health Sciences.

“Young people can be fit in different ways. They can be strong like a weightlifter, or flexible like a gymnast, or skillful like a tennis player. But not all of these types of fitness relate well to health. The most important type of fitness for good health is cardiovascular fitness, which is the ability to exercise vigorously for a long time, like running multiple laps around an oval track.”

Researchers analyzed 50 studies on running fitness between 1964 and 2010 that involved more than 25 million kids, ages 9 to 17, in 28 countries. They gauged cardiovascular endurance by how far kids could run in a set time or how long it took to run a set distance. Tests typically lasted five to 15 minutes or covered a half-mile to two miles.

Cardiovascular endurance declined significantly within the 46 years, the researchers found. Average changes were similar between boys and girls, younger and older kids, and across different regions, although they varied country to country.

The study is the first to show that kids’ cardiovascular fitness has declined around the globe since about 1975:

In the United States, kids’ cardiovascular endurance fell an average 6 percent per decade between 1970 and 2000.

Across nations, endurance has declined consistently by about 5 percent every decade.

Kids today are roughly 15 percent less fit from a cardiovascular standpoint than their parents were as youngsters.

In a mile run, kids today are about a minute and a half slower than their peers 30 years ago.

Declines in cardiovascular endurance performance are probably caused by social, behavioral, physical, psychosocial and physiological factors, Tomkinson said.

Country-by-country fitness findings are mirrored in measurements of overweight/obesity and body fat, suggesting one factor may cause the other. “In fact, about 30 percent to 60 percent of the declines in endurance running performance can be explained by increases in fat mass,” Tomkinson said.

Kids should engage in at least 60 minutes of daily activities that use the body’s big muscles, such as running, swimming or cycling, he said.

“We need to help to inspire children and youth to develop fitness habits that will keep them healthy now and into the future,” Tomkinson said. “They need to choose a range of physical activities they like or think they might like to try, and they need to get moving.”

Source: American Heart Association