Zika Virus Affecting 234 Women Nationwide, No Treatment Available

7469978464_6ebe7c0c7c_bThe Zika virus has continued to spread, and the World Health Organization has recommended that women and couples living in Zika-infected areas should refrain from becoming pregnant in order to limit the risk of giving birth to children with a congenital brain disorder –known as microcephaly, provoked by the virus.

Recently, the WHO indicated that the Zika virus will affect millions of reproductive-aged people in 46 nations where the virus has spread. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked that pregnant women and those trying to conceive not travel to Zika-plagued areas –although such requests frequently ignore certain realities. Approximately 25 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population will likely be infected by Zika virus by the year’s end. With that said, scientists have not expected that outbreak will spread to the continental United States.

Zika virus is commonly spread by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus. This can be transmitted by having sex with another person, and mothers can infect infants, who face high rates of microcephaly, which is a disorder characterized by unusually small heads and severe brain damage. Avoiding pregnancy is nearly impossible for certain women living in Zika-infected areas.

In Caribbean and Latin American countries, 58 percent of pregnancies are unattended. These countries also have some of the most restrictive and harshest reproductive health laws. Contraception is far too pricey in these areas, likewise, clinics are too far and many young people avoid contraception because of stigma regarding promiscuity, which all increases the likelihood of childbirth. Additionally, abortion is restricted and banned in many areas. What must also be considered are the number of young women raped each year in Latin America, an estimated 1.6 million.

Unintentionally, women will become present, so it’s up to the government to educate the public and make essential resources available whenever necessary, making it easier for women to avoid pregnancies. According to the New York Times, the Zika virus has not only spread from Brazil into the Carribean, but women and unborn children in the U.S. also face a threat. There are three essential tests used to detect the virus. If a woman tests positive for Zika, there’s no treatment, but doctors will be able to perform several ultrasounds to detect issues in fetal development.

According to the New York Times, there are now 234 pregnant women in the continental U.S. carry the Zika virus. Beyond that, the problem facing health providers is the fact that many who require testing, large numbers of women, many uninsured or low-income immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin America, are not being screened or tested sufficiently.

Beyond that, data isn’t kept on many women who’ve traveled to Zika areas. Conversely, women from higher-income neighborhoods are far more likely to be tested. Risks are mounting as the summer draws nearer and mosquitos carry the virus to Florida and other states along the Gulf of Mexico, where there will most likely be cases of transmission. All reported cases of the virus in the U.S. have been contracted elsewhere –including the three babies born in the U.S. with the disease, and the recent loss of three babies that occurred due to the virus.

The CDC will publish weekly updates, offering pregnancy outcome data:  www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/pregnancy-outcomes.html.

Contraception, Reproductive Health Are Economic Issues

Opened_Oral_Birth_ControlFor parents within the United States, particularly women, reproductive health is an economic issue. Both mothers and fathers are quick to describe parenthood as a life-changing feat, an adventure, or the most fulfilling commitment you’ll ever have, but they rarely readily address the countless expenses attached to parenthood.

From birth until adulthood, children can cost parents approximately $245,340 (or $304,480, adjusted for projected inflation) for middle-income, husband-wife families, according to the latest annual “Cost of Raising A Child” report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Expensive, particularly during the time of economic instability, children can add to financial struggle. That’s in addition to the emotional investment that’s tied to the decision to start a family and put parenthood planning into action. The ability to decide and plan for a family drives major economic conversations, which is why the decision of politicians and policymakers pointedly affects women, impacting personal freedom and contraception access, which is directly tied to economic security.

Economic security is fundamental for survival, whether one is choosing to have a family or not, particularly for contraception-users who are sexually active and of childbearing age. Nonetheless, state legislation sometimes misses the importance of access to reproductive care, including birth control and abortion. Of course, this shrugs off the fact that health care and birth control is very important to many American women, who want control over their reproductive health.

American women have face challenges in this regard, dealing with restricted access to healthcare, the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and stripping public funded health programs –which is an affront to the basic economic realities. Approximately 70 percent of voters recognize that true economic security lies with access to affordable reproductive healthcare, as well as equal pay, paid time off to care for families, and affordable childcare.

Across political parties and races, constituents feelings about abortion care, but there’s a recognizable understanding that the ability to plan is piped directly to Millennial’s core economic values and the needs of multicultural communities. Also, approximately 76 percent of all voters believe that access is necessary for basic economic survival. Likely because there’s an involved connection, linking reproductive care and major economic discussion.

Beyond conversations around reproduction health care, women are breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and HIV tests, and reduction in funding for women’s reproductive care hit multicultural communities hardest. Reproduction care is more than a woman’s issue and social issues, it’s a freedom issue, a family issue, a values issue, and an economic issue.

Evolution of Wearable Technology: Women Can Track Fertility Levels, Stop Menstrual Cramps

Apple_Watch-Beyond pedometers, fitness and health trackers are doing a great job of helping to improve the lives of women and men.

Wearable technology has achieved something incredible,  incorporating advanced electronic technologies with clothing. In some cases, this is called “tech togs,” while other refer to it as “fashion electronics.” No matter what you called it, it’s been recognized that wearable technology is being used to boost the health of women.

Women face specific health issues, which stand apart from health issues faced solely by men. More and more, businesses are looking to meet the unique needs of women, developing and perfecting wearable technology that intends to keep them healthy. These technologies aren’t restricted to tracking running and walking, smart fitness clothing and wearable technology to track fertility levels and other things that a technician would be required for.

Livia

Livia, for instance, is a gadget that promises to stop menstrual cramps, which is debilitating for some women. Drug-based pain relief can be temporarily sufficient, but doesn’t help quite as much as it should and could become expensive. Livia targets ‘the pain gates’ and attempts to close them. This is done by stimulating the nerves involved, and blocking pain signals being sent to the brain. The compact device can fit comfortably on a waistband while two electrodes are applied to the abdomen to put an end to the pain. The USB-chargeable device has no side-effects, and can last about 15 hours.

Elvie and OhMiBod’s Lovelife krush

Whether you’re attempting to recover from childbirth or improve your bladder and bowel control, pelvic floor exercises are likely quite beneficial to you. Elvie, which is a tampon-like device provides pelvic floor workouts in five-minute increments. In conjunction with a cell phone, users can control program and strength rating before they complete kegel exercises. The device is able to meet the needs of different body types and ‘skill levels.’ As kegel muscles strengthen, the device adapts and become gradually more difficult in order to encourage and track progress. OhMiBod’s Lovelife krush is a similar device, but it has a slight twist. It’s part pelvic floor exercise gadget and part sexual health device. It has built-in sensors, a supplementary app that tracks daily activity, and it has special vibration patterns for sexual intimacy.

The Looncup

The Looncup is a wearable sensor for your period, tracking menstruation volume levels and color variations. The device analyzes the health of a woman’s period, it checks for discrepancies and determines if a visit to the doctor is warranted. This device is made from hypoallergenic silicone, and has a battery life of about six months, and it’s relatively inexpensive compared to other conventional options.

iTBra and OMbra

The iTBra is a smart bra that detects the early signs of breast cancer. The bra can detect if there have been any sudden changes in a woman’s circadian temperature, unveiling abnormal developments within the breast cells. Examinations take anywhere between two and 24 hours, and the results are sent to the wearer’s smartphone or personal computer for future consultation. The detection rate for the iTBra is higher than for mammograms. Also, OMbra is a smart bra, which adapts to body and workout, absorbing pressure and reducing stress on one’s back and shoulders. Feedback is shared on heart rate, cadence, impact, and breathing rate. It perfectly captures how much you push yourself when working out.

The Pilldrill

The Pilldrill is an updated take on the pillbox. As opposed to just housing your pills, this pillbox delivers timely visual and audio alerts for each dose. A user only needs to scan the pill container, and the Pilldrill tracks tablets. The box works in conjunction with a number of other apps, such as Mood Cube, which tracks adverse side effects when switching birth control methods.

The digital resources available to women can truly change their lives and improve their personal health.

Study: Mashed Potatoes, Potato Chips Contribute to a Higher Risk of Gestational Diabetes Among Pregnant Women

Fingerling_Potatoes,_Pike_Place_Market

Enjoying a potato-rich diet, involving the consumption of potatoes and potato by-products (ex. scallop potatoes, au gratin potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato chips, tater tots, hash browns and french fries), could be bad for you if you’re pregnant, according to new research published by The National Institutes of Health. The report asserts that potato-rich diets contribute to a higher risk of gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes generally develops during the 24th week of pregnancy, and it’s associated with high blood sugar and high glycemic index food. The British Medical Journal published the study, and it concluded that consuming potatoes more than five times a week increased the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes by 50 percent. The 10-year study examined the health records of 15,632 women between 1991 and 2001. The researchers proceeded to track and evaluate the subject’s consumption of potatoes and other foods, checking in every four years. They tracked incidences of diabetes, verified by medical records and reported by patients. That lengthy study yielded interesting results.

The research authors found that pre-pregnancy consumption of potatoes fundamentally contributes to the increased risk of gestational diabetes, regardless of adjustments to other major risk factors (weight, age, and diet). When following up, it was discovered that 854 women developed pregnancy diabetes. Women who consumed two to four 3.5-ounce servings of potatoes per week were 27 percent more likely to develop pregnancy diabetes, and those who ate five servings of starchy vegetables each week were 50 percent more likely to face a greater risk of developing the condition.

Women who eat fewer potatoes, and consume legumes, whole grains, and other vegetables instead, are 12 percent less likely to develop gestational diabetes.  The study was the first to examine the impact of potatoes on pregnancy.

It’s important to recognize that correlation doesn’t not necessarily equal causation.  Eating potatoes in moderation is fine, but what’s most important is maintaining a balanced diet. It’s the absolute best way to have a happy and healthy pregnancy.

5 Ways to Prepare for your Due Date

dr. lori gore-greenImpending parenthood is often a time fraught with a unique blend of excitement, anxiety and a whole host of other emotions. And while many claim that no one is ever fully prepared for parenthood, there are some concrete steps that expectant mothers and their partners can take in the days leading up to delivery. Below are some of the easiest ways to relieve stress related to the delivery process, simply through preparation.

Make a Go Bag

While this may seem fairly obvious, make a point to pack a bag that includes comfortable clothes that are easy to get into (think zip up hoodies, yoga pants, a warm shawl or fleece that you can wrap yourself in) without much movement or effort. I wouldn’t suggest bringing much in the way of jewelry or makeup. Instead pack simple, fragrance free products. The most important thing to include in your to go bag are any medications that you are currently taking or may need to take. Also, don’t forget to include your folder of important documents (outlined below) and extra pairs of underwear . 

Contingency plans

Whether you are having an induced labor or going the natural route, it’s important to have a plan in place for getting to the hospital, but it’s equally important to have a backup plan, and to have a plan for your other responsibilities. If you have another child or other children, make sure that they also have a go bag so that they can stay with a trusted babysitter or relative while you are in labor and recovering. Discuss the time frame for your expected delivery and make sure that this works with the guardian for your child. Create a document with all relevant information for your child, and for you. Do this well in advance so that you don’t have to worry about it when you are focusing on the delivery, and make a point to email a copy and give this guardian a printed copy. 

Automate Bill Pay

A month or two before your expected delivery date, make a point to automate or take care of any bills coming up in the next few months. While automated bill pay is a convenience that you may already take advantage of, if you haven’t started, now is a great time to try it. This way, you won’t have to worry about bills getting paid on time while your focus is elsewhere. You can always change this option once you are home, but the more things that you can automate while you are focusing on this birth, the better. Also, consider sharing your bill pay or “errand” calendar with your partner or a trusted confidante if you don’t have time to finish these tasks prior to delivery.

Important Documents

While this may seem like the last thing on your mind as you approach your labor day, this is something that will reduce paper-work related-stress, and will serve you well even after the birth of your child. Early on, I recommend that you create a folder that includes copies of all important documents including a copy of your government-issued ID, a copy of your Health Insurance Card(s), a sheet that lists all of your current doctors and medications that you are taking – as well as any allergies. Additionally print out a sheet that includes your emergency contacts and their information. Also keep an updated copy of your will and any pertinent instructions regarding end of life care. Keep this information in a folder in your go bag, and leave a copy at home or in your safety deposit box and/or with your partner or family member(s). Make sure your partner or hospital companion keeps an eye on this folder once you arrive. While this may seem like a somewhat somber set of documents to procure in the midst of your pregnancy, it is all a part of being responsible for both your health and the health of your child. Talk to your doctor and ask if there is any other information that would be relevant to have on hand, or if there is any way to share this information beforehand (to cut back on the number of items you bring with you).

Be Kind to Your Body

Although this means different things to different people, there are certain things that you should do for yourself throughout your pregnancy. Finding ways to exercise regularly (from yoga, to walking to more aerobic workouts, always make sure you consult with your doctor and listen to your body). Make a point to meditate. Drink lots of water and eat healthy whole foods. Visit your doctor regularly, and never be afraid to ask any questions. And most importantly, find ways to de-stress your daily life.

There are a number of other ways that you can prepare for your child’s arrival. Preparing your home before you go to the hospital or birthing center is also a huge component of preparing for the birth. For more information on how to prepare, do your research and talk to your doctor.

The Power of Reading to Your Little One

Reading, Dr. Lori Gore-GreenIt’s no real surprise that reading to your child is important. From soothing your baby with the comforting sound of your voice, to encouraging your toddler’s comprehension of vocabulary, reading is critical to your child’s development. A recent study revealed one more reason that it’s important for parents to read to their children.

According to Jessica L. Montag, Michael N. Jones and Linda B. Smith of the Department of Psychological and brain Sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington, the text found in children’s books contains a greater diversity of both words and linguistic contexts than what they would be exposed to outside of these books. Montag and her team examined 100 children’s picture books and compared that to child-directed conversations of comparable length. The findings of this study supports the theory that the text in children’s picture books are an important point of reference for vocabulary for young children. The study and findings also support the importance of reading to children as the critical link for children to receive these benefits.

During a recent interview, Montag confided that, “The guiding question for this work was, ‘What might the text of the books be providing that everyday speech is not for these children.’”

 

And the answer was overwhelming. The text in the most popular and highly recommended picture books contained about seventy percent more unique words as compared to those used in speech. The team selected their sample texts based on rankings from Amazon book lists, reading lists from teachers and librarians, as well as statistics pulled from the public library. While it’s important to remember that this number is not infallible – owing to the somewhat limited sample size. Perhaps if the book list and subject sample size were expanded the percentage would drop slightly. However, even if that percentage dropped, the point remains the same. A child’s linguistic skills have the potential to greatly improve when a picture book is read to him or her.

 

Montag believes that “…the real benefit of books is that they introduce new topics and new words that are generally outside the scope of a child’s day-to-day life.” She goes on to say that, “…books allow you to talk about more different things in more different contexts…It’s a lot of really fun play, with stories and with language.” This is in sharp contrast to the traditionally simple sentences that people often use when talking to children.

 

Whether it’s the vocabulary, use of complex sentences or diversity of linguistic contexts, the message is clear… Read to your children!

 

The Benefits of Nursing

mother and babyIn recent years, nursing – particularly at work or in public, has become a hot topic both in offices around the country and in the media. However, what is often lost in the discussion are the facts that reveal the benefits of feeding infants breast milk as opposed to formula. While formula is the ideal substitute if the mother is physically unable to provide breast milk for the child, if breast milk is an option, the National Institute of Health (among other government organizations) has proposed a set of guidelines that encourage this.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should be fed breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life. This means that during those first months, your infant is consuming nothing else other than breast milk, unless your doctor advises otherwise.

After these first six months, the AAP suggests that mothers continue breastfeeding their child while slowly introducing solids into the child’s diet.

Once the child reaches the one year mark, the mother can continue preparing breast milk if these is mutually desired by both mother and infant.

The World Health Organization similarly recommends that mothers provide their newborns exclusively with breast milk for the first six months of life then slowly introduce complementary solid foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or more.

The World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics and doctors agree on the importance of breastfeeding your children for those first six months of life. However, after the first year, there remains discussion over when exactly is the appropriate cutoff time.

But what is it, exactly that makes breast milk so important?

In terms of the health of the  baby, the cells, antibodies and hormones from the mother contained in her breast milk protect the child from a number of illnesses. Additional research suggests that babies who are fed breast milk have a lower likelihood of: lower respiratory infections, ear infections, asthma, childhood leukemia, diarrhea and vomiting, SIDS, necrotizing enterocolitis, childhood obesity, eczema, and more.

In addition to these health benefits of the child, breastfeeding provides a form of emotional bonding for the mother and her child, as well as health benefits for the mother. Studies show that breastfeeding can have both short and long-term health benefits for the mother. Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of some types of breast cancers and ovarian cancer. Estrogen levels are lower during lactation, and it is believed that this less estrogen available to stimulate the lining of the uterus and (possibly breast tissue), the smaller the risk of these tissues becoming cancerous. Breastfeeding also leads to a lower risk type 2 diabetes for mothers. Another health benefit includes reducing the likelihood of developing osteoporosis later in life. Additionally, breastfeeding contributes to post-partum weight loss.

Although not every woman is physically able to breastfeed her child, it’s important to keep in mind the benefits of this practice for those women that are capable of this.

To learn more about women’s health visit my twitter page.

Are Screens Hurting Your Baby?

dr lori gore green dentonIt’s undeniable that emerging technologies are changing virtually all facets of how we live. And childrearing is certainly included in theses sweeping changes. Parents are currently faced with a myriad of options when it comes to arming themselves with as much information about their children through using various tech gadgets to aid them in tending to their children. (See my earlier article on micro tech here). Overwhelmingly these advancements in changing technologies are solving all sorts of problems and opening up opportunities and possibilities across many fields that were unimaginable just one or two decades ago. However, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the many ways in which certain uses of technologies effect children. For example, what does screen time do to our babies?

With the introduction of so many screened devices into our adult lives in such a relatively short amount of time, there haven’t been any significant longitudinal studies to better understand the effects of screen time on the development of children. In addition to being unaware of what the long-term effects may or may not be for babies, we also don’t know what factors might mitigate potential negative side effects.

As with all kinds of thorough research, time is a factor, and unfortunately these screened devices have not been widely available for very long. However, there are certain things that are known currently through research from the past, that can be extended to this arena when thinking about best practices and safety guidelines as they pertain to parenting and childrearing.

Screens are problematic in childhood development-especially for babies and toddlers when they displace interactions with people. In the first year of life, some of the most important interactions are those of the “serve and return” variety. Essentially a baby makes a noise, a parent responds in kind back, and it goes from there. Here a baby is learning the concept of a conversation, imitating sounds and observing that different facial expressions signify different things. This process can be extended to a number of other scenarios, and the practice requires repetition.

Although certain apps are interactive and educational, the American Academy of Pediatrics still suggests that children under the age of 2 not be exposed to screen-devices as the effects are not yet known.

While an interactive app may ultimately be more significant as a positive step in the development of a child than a distracted parent, we just do not have enough information to fully assess the effects of these devices. What we do know, is that the more meaningful and attentive interactions that a baby shares with other people, the better.

 

Micro Technology : The Wireless Baby

dr lori gore greenAs new technologies continue to flood the market at an increasingly rapid rate, consumers are faced with the chance to make decisions about what devices they want to include in their homes and those that they can skip. But what does this mean when it comes to technology for your baby?

I wrote earlier on the studies performed on advanced monitoring technology like those found in bluetooth onesies and sleep apnea monitors. These high tech devices monitor a child’s breathing habits, vitals and more. However, in most professional opinions, these devices do not guarantee the prevention of SIDS or necessarily contribute in any significant way to the overall well-being of the infant. These devices cannot replace the attention of a parent to a child. And a parent should not rely on these sorts of technologies as any sort of substitution for actively attending to their child. Instead, these devices should be considered aids in the rewarding and exhausting job of being a parent. While I do not condone the effectiveness or safety of the products listed below, it is interesting to see what kinds of wearable devices and advanced monitoring systems are currently available to assist in the process of child rearing.

Connected Wearables

Dr. Lori Gore - GreenMimo is the most well-known brand to incorporate wearable technologies into infant care. The mimo kimono houses the “turtle”, this is a bluetooth device encased in a plastic turtle covering. This device collects information regarding your baby’s breathing, body position, activity while sleeping as well as monitors the infant’s skin temperature. This information is sent to the “lily pad” which streams data and live audio to the cloud. This information then streams your information to your connected device. This intensive monitoring of vital signs allows you to gain insight into how your child is sleeping.

 

Dr. Lori Gore GreenThe Owlet is another wearable device that provides constant monitoring of a small child. This device is enclosed in the owlet smart sock, and monitors the heart rate and oxygen levels of the infant. Unlike the Mimo kimono, the owlet alerts you only if your baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels are outside the norm. Alerts are sent to both your base station and your phone. The device utilizes hospital grade technology of pulse oximetry while monitoring a child. Again, this is not meant to replace the careful attention of a parent, but instead to aid in the monitoring process.

dr lori gore greenIn the same vein as both owlet and mimo is MonBaby. This is an award-winning baby monitor that snaps onto any article of a child’s clothing. MonBaby monitors breathing movements, body position (on the back or on the stomach), fall detection, proximity removal, but you get to choose which alerts you will receive.

 

Video Monitors

Dr. Lori Gore-GreenWhile baby monitors are nothing new, the form that they have taken as of late is much more advanced than the sound monitors of old that were essentially 1 way walkie talkies. Companies from Sony to Samsung to Motorola are getting in on the chance to provide top-notch monitoring for parents of infants. One of the most advanced connected products in the way of video monitoring devices is the Drop Cam. This system includes a camera to be placed in the infant’s room. The picture quality of the lens is unbeatable, and the wide angle lens surveys a larger area of the room than most baby video monitoring systems. The cloud connected camera then alerts you to noises and movements via an app on your phone, freeing you up from traditional video monitors.

 

In this world of ever changing technologies, it’s worthwhile to at least be aware of your tech choices as a parent, whether you choose to incorporate them into your child’s life or not. It’s also important to remember that nothing replaces a parent’s undivided attention and that these new technologies intended to assist the job of the parent… not replace it. Whether you are considering a new wearable, an advanced video monitor, or a self-warming bottle, remember that none of these can or should replace your attention.

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