September 2013

BPA (Bisphenol A) and Healthy Babies

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a current topic of environmental and health concern. BPA is a chemical used to improve the durability of materials without adding weight. It directly affects consumers as it is found in polycarbonate plastics, resins lining food cans and water bottles, dental composites, and on thermal paper receipts (frequently used in point-of-sale machines). The health concern with BPA is that it is a xenoestrogen and therefore acts as a hormone in our bodies and disrupts hormonal function including the hormone-sensitive developing brain. Studies with mice have shown that the mother’s exposure to BPA during pregnancy causes critical changes in brain development, and a recent study published in a publication of Pediatrics suggested that human brains were similarly affected. The study followed women from the second trimester of pregnancy, measuring blood and urine BPA levels during the pregnancy. The children were followed and assessed from infancy onward until the age of eight or nine. Behavioural issues like difficulty sitting still, needing to be redirected frequently, and talking about being sad or depressed were associated with higher urinary BPA concentrations in the mothers during pregnancy. Interestingly, it was only the behavioural and emotional regulation of girls that seemed to be affected. Minimizing exposure to BPA and other xenoestrogens is important at all times, but increased awareness is necessary during pregnancy. Options for avoiding BPA include: Use canned foods from BPA-free cans (e.g. Eden Organic, Vital Choice, Eco Fish, Wild Planet, Native Forest) Use stainless steel or glass water bottles Avoid storing your receipts with money (receipts with BPA can transfer the resin to your cash, resulting in excess skin contact with BPA) Ask your dentist about the ingredients used in dental materials (consider a biological dentist); (Dental work is not recommended during pregnancy) Support liver detoxification of hormones using supplements like Calcium-d-Glucarate and Indole- 3-Carbinol and consuming plenty of kale, dandelion greens, watercress, and steamed broccoli Consume ground flaxseed daily (ground flaxseed acts as a hormone-sponge, holding onto xenoestrogens in the intestine, ensuring excretion by the bowels) An understanding of BPA sources as well as making small lifestyle changes during pregnancy will help to support the development of a healthy and happy baby. - by Dr. Schmidt-White

Acupuncture for headaches during pregnancy

It is fairly common during pregnancy to experience headaches. This is true regardless of whether or not you were prone to headaches before you fell pregnant. Your hormone levels are flooding, your blood flow is being shunted from its regular course to the developing contents of your uterus, and your overall blood volume is increasing. This can produce a significant change in the circulation of the fluids and the energies of your body. And as the TCM saying goes, “Where there is pain; there is no circulation. Where there is circulation, there is no pain”. A recent study published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine examined whether acupuncture could safely help pregnant women who were suffering from tension headaches. They divided 43 women who were being conventionally treated with lifestyle modifications and stretching into 2 different groups. One group received the routine care only, and the other group received routine care plus acupuncture treatments. The researchers assessed the severity and disability caused by each woman’s pain (including its affects on mood, sleep, and work) using a Numerical Rating Scale (NRS). The researchers measured the differences in scores between each woman’s first visit and her last interview after 8 weeks of treatment. They then compared the scores of the 2 treatment groups. The women who received acupuncture demonstrated statistically significant improvements in their pain. They also reported using less medication and had a greater improvement in mood and sleep when compared to the control group. And importantly, there were no reports of any important adverse effects related to either the acupuncture treatment or to the outcome of the pregnancy. This prospective, randomized, controlled study suggests that acupuncture safely alleviates tension-type headaches during pregnancy. So, if resting and a cold compress aren’t helping to ease your pain, there is another option available which can reduce or eliminate your need for pain killers (which are best avoided if possible during pregnancy). I have worked with many women who have indeed found benefit by incorporating acupuncture into their pre-natal care plan. By: Dr. Erin Flynn

Length of Human Pregnancies Can Vary Naturally by as Much as Five Weeks

Aug. 6, 2013 — The length of a human pregnancy can vary naturally by as much as five weeks, according to research published online August 7 in the journal Human Reproduction. Normally, women are given a date for the likely delivery of their baby that is calculated as 280 days after the onset of their last menstrual period. Yet only four percent of women deliver at 280 days and only 70% deliver within 10 days of their estimated due date, even when the date is calculated with the help of ultrasound. Now, for the first time, researchers in the USA have been able to pinpoint the precise point at which a woman ovulates and a fertilised embryo implants in the womb during a naturally conceived pregnancy, and follow the pregnancy through to delivery. Using this information, they have been able to calculate the length of 125 pregnancies. "We found that the average time from ovulation to birth was 268 days -- 38 weeks and two days," said Dr Anne Marie Jukic, a postdoctoral fellow in the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (Durham, USA), part of the National Institutes for Health. "However, even after we had excluded six pre-term births, we found that the length of the pregnancies varied by as much as 37 days. "We were a bit surprised by this finding. We know that length of gestation varies among women, but some part of that variation has always been attributed to errors in the assignment of gestational age. Our measure of length of gestation does not include these sources of error, and yet there is still five weeks of variability. It's fascinating." The possibility that the length of pregnancies can vary naturally has been little researched, as it is impossible to tell the difference between errors in calculations and natural variability without being able to measure correctly the gestational age of a developing fetus. Previous studies conducted as long ago as the 1970s and 1980s had used the slight rise in a woman's body temperature at waking as a way of detecting when ovulation occurred. This is an inexact measurement and cannot be used to detect when the embryo actually implants in the womb. In the current study, the researchers took information from daily urine samples collected by women taking part in an earlier study, the North Carolina Early Pregnancy Study, which took place between 1982-1985 and followed 130 singleton pregnancies from unassisted conception through to birth. The women had discontinued contraception in order to become pregnant; they were healthy, with no known fertility problems and they were also less likely to smoke or be obese. The women completed daily diaries and collected daily first-morning urine samples for six months or until the end of the eighth week if they became pregnant. The urine samples were analysed for three hormones connected with the onset of pregnancy: hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), estrone-3-glucoronide and pregnanediol-3-glucoronide. The day of ovulation was identified by the drop in the ratio between the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Embryo implantation was identified as the first day of a sustained rise in levels of hCG. "Since the embryo secretes hCG, and mothers generally have little to no hCG in their urine when they are not pregnant, we used the earliest increase in hCG to indicate implantation," explained Dr Jukic. In 2010, the researchers contacted the women for the current study to obtain information about their labour and whether induction or Caesarean section had been required. Full information was available on 125 pregnancies after excluding those that had been affected by exposure to diethylstilbestrol -- an endocrine disrupter that is known to shorten pregnancies. In addition to the variation in the length of gestation, the study found that embryos that took longer to implant, also took longer from implantation to delivery, and that pregnancies that showed a late progesterone rise were significantly shorter by an average of 12 days than pregnancies with an early rise. Dr Jukic said: "I am intrigued by the observation that events that occur very early in pregnancy, weeks before a woman even knows she is pregnant, are related to the timing of birth, which occurs months later. I think this suggests that events in early pregnancy may provide a novel pathway for investigating birth outcomes." Other factors that appeared to influence pregnancy duration included: older women delivered later on average, with each year of age adding roughly one day to their pregnancy; women who had themselves been heavier at birth had longer gestations, with each 100g in the mother's own birthweight corresponding roughly to a one-day longer pregnancy; and if a woman had longer pregnancies previously or subsequently to the pregnancy being investigated in the study, then the study pregnancy was likely to be longer, with a one-week increase in the average length corresponding to about a 2.5-day longer pregnancy in the study. "This last finding suggests that individual women tend to be consistent about when they deliver," said Dr Jukic. In their paper, the authors conclude: "The length of human gestation varies considerably among healthy pregnancies, even when ovulation is accurately measured. This variability is greater than suggested by the clinical assignment of a single 'due date'. The duration of previous pregnancies may provide a useful measure of a woman's 'natural' length of pregnancy and may help in predicting an individual woman's due date. We also found that events in the first two weeks after conception were strongly predictive of the total length of pregnancy, suggesting that the trajectory for the timing of delivery may be set in early pregnancy." They warn that it is too early to make clinical recommendations based on their study and that further research needs to be carried out. Dr Jukic concluded: "I think the best that can be said is that natural variability may be greater than we have previously thought, and if that is true, clinicians may want to keep that in mind when trying to decide whether to intervene on a pregnancy." By: Dr. Spence Pentland

Massage for Common Pregnancy Aches & Pains

Feeling stressed and nervous is not unusual in pregnancy but some experts say prolonged severe stress can cause complications. Self Care is an important aspect for a mother-to-be to keep in her daily practice as her life is about to change. Make time to rest, try deep breathing and utilize massage during pregnancy for relief of many common aches & pain. Here is just a just a few examples of what we see on the massage table seeking mechanical relief: Lower back and Hip ache Upper back and neck ache Pain under the ribs Pubic pain Pain in the Groin Numbness and Tingling in the hands Reoccurring night cramps in the legs Learn to love your special moments of peace and relaxation as you receive treatment. Visiting your massage therapist regularly, every 2-4 weeks to manage these pain and stress can make a difference in your connection to your overall well-being. Benefit from lower blood pressure and a calm heart rate, providing relaxation to your mind and body and improving the blood flow to the baby. Frequency of treatment will depend on your degree of pain and your personal commitment to building healthy self care habits. A plan can be discussed with your therapist today. So, why not start a good habit early. Talk to us today about your goals for relief. >> Click here to read the bio of Natalie Woodhouse, registered massage therapist