Midwifery and Childbirth News – Issue 141

Midwifery Today, Issue 141, Spring 2022.
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Preventing Low Birth Weight Babies

A study of 1100 women at high risk for delivering SGA babies at a hospital in Spain had some interesting results. They were divided into three groups: 1. These women got education on the Mediterranean diet, along with free olive oil and walnuts; 2. This group learned about reducing stress through mindfulness; 3. The final group received only routine prenatal care.

Those in the first two groups had significantly fewer babies born under the 10th percentile in weight. The authors noted that most women in the study were white, of normal weight, and of medium to high socioeconomic status, so more studies with other populations would be needed to replicate the results.

  • Bublitz M, MG Tuuli. 2021. “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mediterranean Diet, and Fetal Growth.” JAMA 326(21): 2137–38. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.19923.

Another Source of Stress Affecting Birth

It is well known that more Black babies are born preterm than those of other races. A small research study in Minneapolis, Minnesota—a city that has been in the news for police killings of unarmed Black men—looked at whether the stress of more contacts with police might adversely affect the health of pregnant women and babies, since stress is a known cause of preterm births. They found twice the rate of preterm birth in both Black and white people who lived in neighborhoods with a high number of police contacts. While the rate was also high in white people, the researchers speculated that the fact that more Black people live in such neighborhoods, this constant policing, and therefore higher vigilance, may be a factor in preterm births in general. They also noted that because high levels of structural racism exist in this area, the effect of this factor alone cannot be determined.

  • Hardeman, RR, et al. 2021. “Association of Residence in High–Police Contact Neighborhoods With Preterm Birth Among Black and White Individuals in Minneapolis.”JAMA Netw Open 4(12): e2130290. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.30290.

New Study on Covid in Pregnancy

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is doing a four-year study on the long-term effects of Covid-19 in women and their babies who were infected with the virus during the pregnancy. It is part of an initiative looking at Long Covid in general and why some people do not recover or develop symptoms after they have recovered. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.

Participants for this study will come from a group of patients who had Covid-19 during pregnancy and gave birth at a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Unit Network hospital. The researchers will assess patient symptoms and also evaluate their babies for cardiovascular and neurological symptoms, looking at how many develop Long Covid, whether pregnancy has an effect on severity, and how their conditions compare to those women with Long Covid who were not pregnant.

Baby Teeth Show Evidence of Maternal Stress

If you have followed many of Michel Odent’s writings, you know that what happens to mothers before birth can affect their children. This small study of 70 children looked at baby teeth that had fallen out to see whether the microscopic markers of growing enamel (called neonatal lines) might reflect depression or anxiety experienced by their mothers. The researchers had mothers complete and mail in questionnaires about “stressful life events, psychopathological history, neighborhood disadvantage, and social support” during or shortly after pregnancy. These lines were wider in mothers who reported psychiatric problems such as depression or anxiety. On the other hand, they were narrower in those mothers who had good psychosocial support.

This study needs to be repeated on other populations to determine its relevance because the participants in this small study were white, with higher education and socioeconomic status. The researchers intended to use this as a proxy for predicting children at higher risk of psychosocial problems because of their early exposure to such problems.

  • Mountain, RV, et al. 2021. “Association of Maternal Stress and Social Support During Pregnancy with Growth Marks in Children’s Primary Tooth Enamel.” JAMA Netw Open 4(11): e2129129. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.29129.

Breastfeeding and Covid

A study looked at breast milk samples from 110 women, 66 of whom had confirmed Covid-19. Most were symptomatic; one with a positive test was asyptomatic. Only six of the women required hospitalization, and the severity of their illness and treatment varied. Of the 66 women, only seven breast milk samples were found to contain SARS-CoV-2 RNA, yet there was no clinical infection in any of the breastfed babies of those women. The researchers concluded that the data provided “substantial evidence that breastfeeding from women proven or suspected to have had SARS-CoV-2 infection does not represent a hazard for infants.” In other words, women can continue to provide the best nutrition for their babies, even if they have had the virus.

  • Krogstad, P, et al. 2022. “No infectious SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk from a cohort of 110 lactating women.” Pediatr Res. doi.org/10.1038/s41390-021-01902-y.

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