Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Antibiotics during pregnancy:

March 25, 2010

3.23.10 – Taking antibiotics during pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects, according to a study by the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

About 30 percent of women take at least one antibiotic between three months before conception and the date of delivery, despite that many of the drugs have not been extensively tested for their safety on developing infants.

18,000 women participated in study that showed that the antibiotics most strongly linked with birth defect risk were the nitrofurantoin and sulfonamide ( “sulfa”) families, including the brand-name drugs Bactrim, Furadantin, Macrobid, Macrodantin and Septra.

Children were born with fatal skull and brain malformation, respiratory problems such as blocked nasal passages (choanal atresia) and abnormal diaphragm openings (diaphragmatic hernia); heart defects such as an abnormally narrow (coarctated) aorta or underdeveloped left side of the heart (hypoplastic left heart syndrome); and shortened or missing limb bones (transverse limb deficiency), cleft lip or palate, congenital heart defects, eye defects and being born missing one or both eyes (anophthalmia).

A Chocolatty Valentines for Mom.

February 13, 2010

Valentines Day conjures up images of chocolate. But please don’t feel “guilty” about indulging. Chocolate is good for you. It is also good for mom and baby during pregnancy. Science has shown that babies that com from moms who ate chocolate while pregnant came out “happier” than other babies – and so were their moms.I am sure you’ve heard of it’s nutrients: anti-oxidants, polyphenols, & flavinoids, but chocolate also contains Tryptophane (helps you sleep – what mom doesn’t need that), and various vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Together they block oxidative stress and improve your cardiovascular circulatory system including your placenta, where a Yale U study found chocolate to ward off Preeclampsia by 40% if consumed 5 days a week. Chocolate is of course known as a “feel good” food where it helps stabilize hormones and lessen depression and ward off fatigue. It’s moms perfect snack. However, moderation is important:  1/2 – 1 1/2 oz is plenty. It is caloric, does contain some sugar and caffeine….And DARK chocolate is the way to go. All of the above benefits will disappear with milk chocolate as the milk prevents absorption of all these nutrients. Milk chocolate also has much more sugar and therefor  calories…..
For additional info please see a wonderful article by Lisa Gache from Beverly
Hills Manners on how to eat chocolate….I never met a chocolate i didn’t like…

Have A Sincerely Chocolatty Valentine’s Day

Birgitta Lauren

Folate vs. Folic Acid: Benefits and risks.

January 5, 2010

Appropriately, the first week and month of the New Year begins with Folic Acid and birth defect awareness. Folic Acid being the most famous anti-birth defect vitamin in the B family.  However, there is confusion and misunderstanding about this vitamin, its benefits and risks.

This awareness week should be renamed FOLATE WEEK.

Folic Acid is a synthetically made vitamin. Folate, or B9, is the natural form of this B vitamin. It is found in green leafy vegetables, whole grains like brewer’s yeast, legumes like lentils and liver. Unfortunately, most people are still lacking in this B vitamin and many are not aware of how important Folate supplementation is in birth defect prevention.                                                                                               Issues that may arise in a child, from a Folate deficient mother are neural tube birth defects (spina bifida and anencephaly),  mentally retarded children, cleft palate, brain damage, preeclampsia, premature birth, after birth hemorrhaging, anemia in both mom and child, breathing issues, learning or developmental disabilities, premature delivery, and less likely to survive than those born closer to 40 weeks’ gestation.                                                                                                                                                .                                                                                                                                             Spina bifida birth-defects occur within the first 22 to 28 days of pregnancy, when many mothers-to-be may not be aware they are even pregnant. Since half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and half of all unplanned pregnancies occur to women using birth control, it’s important to recommend Folic Acid supplements to ALL women of childbearing age. Studies show that Folic Acid supplements can also help reduce the chance of a premature birth by 70%.

Folic Acid food fortification has reduced birth-defects (spina bifida and anencephaly) by approximately 30%. There has however, been shown this fortification of processed grain foods in 1998 in the Canada and the US, with the synthetic Folic Acid is now causing problems.  An increase in breast and prostate cancer risk by 20-30%, as well as asthma and respiratory tract infections in children by 25%. This has caused Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Italy and the Netherland to rethink plans of fortifications.

Unlike the more easily absorbed natural Folate, Folic Acid is not bioactive as it is proclaimed to be, and must be converted by the intestines and liver before it can be used for critical Folate dependent actions. Many people (< 25%) do not have the ability to convert Folic Acid. These people are particularly vulnerable to Folate deficiency, which is linked to an increased risk of birth defects and cancer. Un-metabolized Folic Acid may store in tissues and possibly increase genetic mutations. Insufficient Folate may lead to blood vessel damage,  abnormal blood clotting, oxidize LDL cholesterol, promote inflammation adversely affecting cardiovascular, neurological, skeletal, endocrine, and digestive health.

Food fortification of processed foods with a single or few synthetic nutrients after they have milled out all of its natural nutrients is problematic. Supplementing with a single nutrient is like trying to bake a cake with just flour….it doesn’t work. Nutrition is like a cake recipe, all nutrients (about 31 including omega fatty acids), work together, and if all nutrients are not present we will not get the same cake or in pregnancy, the healthiest possible baby. An imbalance may cause toxic levels of some nutrients and deficiencies of others. Synthetically produced supplements just do not work the same way as those nutrients found naturally in food.

It would be ideal if all women would eat natural whole grain foods (no need for fortification), fresh vegetables and beans, which have not had their natural Folate and other nutrients milled out of them, as well as take their prenatal supplements.

However, many pregnant women neglect taking vitamins, especially those in low social status, and eat processed foods, never quite achieving full nutrition.

Unfortunately most prenatal supplements contain Folic Acid rather than Folate, as it is much cheaper and neither do they contain the full range of all nutrients.

The general population would also benefit tremendously by avoiding Folic Acid fortified processed foods such as white bread, cookies etc.., that are otherwise nutrient void (useless foodstuff, in my not so humble opinion).  I would venture to bet, that if all men and women consumed sufficient natural Folate and all other nutrients, by eating healthier foods, without synthetic Folic Acid, that these birth defects could be 80-90% prevented. In addition, our overall cancer and heart disease rate would severely decline.

Birgitta Lauren

What is driving the surge in US premature births? $$ ?

November 11, 2009

This week the CDC published yet again a scathing report card for moms and their yet again higher premature delivery rate, the reason for the US infant mortality rate being worse than most developed countries both in Europe and Asia. 21 countries rate better than the US.

Premature delivery is blamed on deficient prenatal care, obesity, smoking, early C-section, induced labor and fertility treatments. Even though that’s not the whole story, and all of these are preventable, at least to a degree. Moms low on the socioeconomic scale does not get enough prenatal care.  This could be minimized if health insurance coverage for maternity care was more affordable.

Obesity: absolutely preventable if women exercised more and ate healthier foods. Obesity also starts in the womb for the child if mom eats too much or too little while pregnant.

Smoking; definitely preventable! No woman in this day and age should be smoking. No man should be smoking near a pregnant woman.

Early C-sections for any other reason than medical necessity should be banned.  Induced labor: for any reason other than medical necessity should be banned.

Fertility treatments are a necessity for many women and makes focusing on maternal health so much more important, especially if mom is carrying multiple babies. It is not necessarily the fertility treatments that cause premature birth; it is the lack of good health habits in the mother. However, no woman should be allowed to carry more than three, as the health problems created for the babies are too great. Moms are having a tough enough time carrying one healthy baby, 4 or more is impossible. Our number one priority must be that of the health of the babies.

However, even “high risk” moms can have full term pregnancies if proper care is taken to exercise and eat right. In 17 years, I’ve seen many “high risk” moms deliver full term; twins, placenta previa, incompetent cervix, diabetes, hypertension, sever obesity, etc….with proper exercise and nutrition. Of course, there are instances that cannot be helped, nor foreseen, but most premature births can be prevented and pregnancies prolonged. Every extra day and week is a good thing.

With the preemie rate now at almost 13% and rising, we need to focus on the “Lifestyle Factors” of women to prevent premature babies. A healthy vaginal full term delivery cost about $1,500, a C-section can cost $5,000-15,000. The first year of a healthy child costs about $5,000, and the first year of a preemie can cost up to $1.5 million. Not counting food, clothing, diapers etc…

In the last week, several articles were published on how micronutrients reduce prematurity and infant mortality (micronutrient: all individual vitamins and minerals, macronutrient: carbs, protein and fats) , omega fatty acid fish oils are needed for a healthy baby, Vitamin C, D and B vitamins are needed while pregnant, moms veggie rich diet helps baby prevent diabetes, prenatal exercise prevents premature delivery, and even the American Psychological Association came out with “A little know epidemic”: Stress may account for many preterm births.

Stress can be a big problem in pregnancy and can be minimized with exercise, meditation and proper eating and sunning habits. Exercise, meditation, B vitamins, vitamin D (sunshine) and Omega fish oils all improve stress and possible depression levels.  Both stress and nutrient deficiencies are major causes of preeclampsia and prematurity, and must be addressed. Moms must exercise, eat better and take good complete, prenatal supplements. Unfortunately most women take prescription vitamins that only contain half of the needed nutrients and in synthetic form rather than natural forms as the synthetic versions are less expensive.  Many moms are unduly scared of fish and therefore deficient in omega fatty acids needed for a healthy baby. Vegan sources of DHA are not as good for baby’s development as fish sources that also contain the important EPA’s.

Processed foods, fried foods, artificial sweeteners, sugar and white carbohydrate foods, rob women and their babies of vital nutrition and harm metabolically, increasing the likely hood of gestational diabetes and hypertension. Personally I would ban all things sugar, fried and cola sodas as they are pure poison for pregnant moms and their growing babies.

Other issues that can be detrimental to the health of a growing baby are environmental toxins, but even with those, getting enough B vitamins like Folate and B6, and Selenium can counteract harmful effects of unfortunate exposure of the chemicals BPA from plastics and/or mercury.  Other consumed toxins can be medications. Such as commonly prescribed anti-nausea drugs, that has a side effect that prohibits absorption of Folate….the most important nutrient during pregnancy.

Even hygiene and especially dental hygiene can have tremendous effect on the health of a pregnancy. Gum disease has been shown to cause premature delivery.

With all this information at our disposal why is the preemie rate increasing in the US? Why is the US number 22 on the infant mortality rate list of developed countries with more than double the mortality rate than most European countries? Why are moms not taking better care of themselves in the US?

Last week, a premature infant summit was held in Los Angeles by MedImmune for doctors, NICU nurses, charity organizations, government entities and other health care professionals in the maternity field. My first concern was that it was FREE. From Valet parking, to breakfast, snacks, lunch and presentation… all my past conferences needed payment….Listening to presentation after presentation of statistic after statistic on our detrimental prematurity rate and talk of the need for more money to care for these infants without a single hint to the prevention of this problem, I not only got suspicious, I got angry. What was the point of wasting a whole day with all this we already knew…?  Without a solution…. Could all these people that care for preemies deliberately wanting to keep the preemie rate up to stay in business?

A professor of a very well regarded CA University raised his hand and voice for the need of prevention and helping moms to be healthier during pregnancy.  He was ignored, subject changed…. I raised my hand and voice for more effort on prevention and was met with the same treatment.  During the breaks between sessions, several other likeminded health professionals met with me with the same concerns.   Halfway through, I had enough, left and decided to check out MedImmune. It was not an organization, but a drug company that makes drugs for preemie babies…..with no vested interest in reducing the preemie rate.   This drug apparently reduces RSV, a respiratory virus that may happen to preemies. Preemies may need this drug, but I’d prefer if there were less preemies…. The drug’s side effects are: respiratory infections, ear infections, fever, sinus problems, abnormal heart rhythms, anaphylaxis, bruising, skin reactions etc…. or generally compromise the immune system of these children, leaving them vulnerable to flu’s and cancer later. But wait…the same company also makes flu vaccine and cancer drugs…..

With all this talk about the need for lower cost health care, our babies need to be born healthier, to reduce health cost of the future. This starts in utero.  Create healthier children and all of our costs will go down.

With drug companies spending 45% of their budget on advertizing and the above type of “meetings”, (never did I think I would end up in one), drug prices could be almost halved if drug promotions were banned. Don’t let drug companies fool you with their R&D expense. Apparently they only spend 14% of their budget on R&D, as 90% of all drug research is done by medical schools, private research and the government that the drug companies then buys and sells…

Women, moms, whether pregnant or contemplating pregnancy, for a healthier baby your lifestyle is of utmost importance. Everything you do or don’t do, will affect the health of your baby. For fertility and a full term pregnancy and the healthiest baby; exercise, eat healthy, take your  vitamins, avoid all chemicals and toxins possible, drink lots of water, get plenty of rest and sleep. Don’t worry, be happy!

Yours in health, Birgitta Lauren

Resources: American Psychological Association; ;; Health Day News; Nutra Ingredients Europe;  The Truth about the drug companies.  By Marcia Angell.

Hom MOMS can Mold the Health of their Babies.

May 8, 2009

Epigenetic scientists have discovered that moms while pregnant can with their diets and lifestyle mold the health of their babies. The FASEB Journal published a study proving that we are what our mothers ate, or didn’t eat while pregnant. Genes can be modified by the environment (mom’s lifestyle). Rat fetuses receiving poor nutrition grew to be smaller and at higher risk for diabetes, growth retardation, cardiovascular disease, obesity and neuro-developmental delays etc…. These maternal – fetal health findings are seen to influence many health care issues through several generations. So what mom does will affect not just her immediate offspring but also future generation’s genetic make-up and therefore tendencies for various health problems. Reiterating what I have been preaching for 18 years, editor -in-chief of The FASEB Journal, Gerald Weissman, MD. , says: “The jury’s in and, yes, expectant moms really are eating for two. This study shows not only that we need to address problems such as preeclampsia during pregnancy, but also that prenatal care is far more important than anyone could have imagined a decade ago.” Good or bad genes can be turned on or off depending on mom’s lifestyle. Most health related genes are not set in stone, they can be altered and once a baby is born, they can be further modified in good or bad ways depending on the child’s lifestyle.
In a related study, from University College Dublin and the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, high GI or high sugar food consumption, like white bread and chocolate in late pregnancy increases obesity risks in children. The study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology mentions that though much of the work against childhood obesity have been focused on the food eaten by children, we need to also focus on the diet and exercise habits of the mothers themselves.

So moms, the healthier you eat and exercise before and during pregnancy and nursing will shape the future health of your baby and grand children. “What happens in the womb doesn’t stay in womb.” Make it a happy, healthy place for your child to grow, by eating only healthy natural foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean meats, poultry and especially fish, drink lots of water, avoid all things fried, processed and white (boxed and canned foods, soda, white bread, pasta, rice and sugar), take a great prenatal supplement and exercise 3-5 days a week. By getting every crucial nutrient, you can even avert possible toxic effects of carcinogens, BPA and Mercury. Various B vitamins and Selenium are good at this. Continuing this and nursing, once your healthy baby is born, you will be role model for your child that will continue eating well and exercise as our habits and tastes are formed when so very young.      By Birgitta Lauren mom and baby 08


Qi Fu, Xing Yu, Christopher W. Callaway, Robert H. Lane, and Robert A. McKnight. Epigenetics: intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) modifies the histone code along the rat hepatic IGF-1 gene. FASEB J. doi:10.1096/fj.08-124768

BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology
Published online ahead of print, Early View, doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2009.02149.x
“Transient high glycaemic intake in the last trimester of pregnancy increases offspring birthweight and postnatal growth rate in sheep: a randomised control trial”
Authors: N.A. Smith, F.M. McAuliffe, K. Quinn, P. Lonergan, A.C.O. Evans

Food Chemistry
Volume 116, Issue 1, Pages 34-39
“Inhibition of acrylamide formation by vitamins in model reactions and fried potato strips”
Authors: X. Zeng, K.-W. Cheng, Y. Jiang, Z.-X. Lin, J.-J. Shi, S.-Y. Ou, F. Chen, M. Wang


April 21, 2009

The beginning of year 2009 through March, the National Nutrition Month, leading up to the American Diabetes Alert Day of March 24 saw many studies came out in favor of the “Happy Vitamin” D. Researchers from Bristol University, UK, found that moms who get more sunshine and vitamin D during pregnancy have taller children with stronger and thicker bones than those moms who get less. The study followed moms that delivered either late summer or early spring. Babies born in late summer were slightly taller with thicker bones. Scientist Jon Tobias thinks that anything that affects early bone development is significant in regards to preventing osteoporosis later. Vitamin D3 is produced in the body upon sun exposure and aids in the absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus that all aid in tissue and bone maintenance and metabolic actions.

In the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers from the University of Manchester report: – “Our study found that vitamin D is positively related to muscle power, force, velocity and jump height in adolescent girls.” supporting the above findings on the bone and muscle strengthening benefits of vitamin D.

Calcium and vitamin D have also been shown to improve insulin levels and to protect against diabetes. In the Journal of Nutrition1, Tianying Wu, Walter C. Willet, and Edward Giovannucci from the Harvard School of Public Health wrote: -” The results suggest that calcium intake and systematic vitamin D status, after adjustment for intake of dairy products, is associated with decreased insulin secretion.” Data from the Nurses’ Health Study was used showing the benefits from increased calcium and vitamin D intake. However no benefit was found when considering dairy intake. This was in contrast to earlier studies. Diabetes is growing rapidly; 19 million Europeans and 20 million Americans suffer from diabetes.

With diabetes also being connected to a high incidence of perinatal and postpartum depression in especially low — income mothers, nutritional efforts have to be addressed especially in regards to vitamin D and calcium. Omega fatty acids also play an important role in diabetes and depression. Postpartum depression has been shown to affect babies negatively and should be prevented.

Diabetes is in addition associated with obesity and a new study by the Medical College of Georgia’s Yanbin Dong and Inger Stallman-Jorgensen, presented at the American Heart Association’s Joint 49th Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention and Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism, is showing that higher intakes of vitamin D again is linked with less overall body fat and especially lower abdominal fat in kids. African – American girls had the lowest Vitamin D levels and are at increased risk of osteoporosis and obesity. Vitamin D comes in 2 forms: D3 which is produced from sun exposure and the most bioactive and D2 found in foods like liver, fatty fish and fortified milk. Stallman-Jorgensen said: -“As humans, our largest source of vitamin D should be the sun. But we don’t spend enough time outdoors to get enough sun exposure and when we do, we’re often covered up and wearing sunscreen.”

Vitamin D is also according to Dr. Christine Olson, professor of nutrition at Cornell University in NY, linked to a mother’s weight gain during pregnancy and is therefore associated with increased likelihood of childhood obesity and diabetes too, if mom gains too much. (More than 25-35 lbs.) Experts are warning that preventing obesity starts before conception with mom’s weight. The trend toward bigger babies is of concern to experts. Today babies are born 59% more likely to be overweight than 20 years ago. Even the child’s father’s weight can predict an overweight baby. ACOG has more on this.

Oxford-based researchers, in collaboration with researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada also found that Supplements of vitamin D and sunshine at ‘critical time periods’ may be key to reducing the risk of multiple sclerosis3.

With these studies adding to a growing body of science linking vitamin D-deficiency to osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, several common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases, the FDA has just allowed for vitamin D fortification of soy-based foods (Food Additives Rule 21 CFR part 172). However, your best source is still the sun so, with spring here and summer around the corner, Vitamin D will be plentiful. To safely get sufficient vitamin D Caucasians should get 10-15 minutes of daily unprotected sunshine (no sun screen). Dark skinned people need up to 45 minutes of daily sunshine to produce enough vitamin D due to the higher melanin content in their skin. The sun does dry our skin so it is always prude to protect your face from the sun while any other body part soaks up the sun.
-Birgitta Lauren

pS. i also just found some science on vitamin D deficiencies linked to autism – more on that later..

1 Journal of Nutrition 2009, Volume 139, Pages 547-554, doi:10.3945/jn.108.089920 “Plasma C-Peptide Is Inversely Associated with Calcium Intake in Women and with Plasma 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D in Men” – Authors: T. Wu, W.C. Willett, E. Giovannucci

2 JAMA 2009;301(8):842-847

3 PLoS Genetics 5(2): e1000369. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000369 “Expression of the multiple sclerosis-associated MHC class II allele HLA-DRB1*1501 is regulated by Vitamin D”, Authors: S.V. Ramagopalan, N.J. Maugeri, L. Handunnetthi, Lincoln MR, Orton S-M, et al.