Another Reason to Sniff a Newborn
There is nothing like the intoxicating smell of a new baby. The scent of a fresh newborn triggers dopamine pathways in the mother’s brain associated with reward responses. It also aids in a mother’s ability to identify her baby and facilitates milk letdown. In a small, but multi-method study, researchers found that the scent molecules of newborns blocked aggression in men, but triggered aggression in women. Could new baby smell be what turns mothers into Mama Bears and fathers into Teddy Bears?
- Mishor, Eva, et al. 2021. “Sniffing the human body volatile hexadecanal blocks aggression in men but triggers aggression in women.” Science Advances 7(47): eabg1530. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abg1530.
FDA Approves First Oral Treatment for Postpartum Depression
New mothers are often overwhelmed, undersupported, and sleep deprived. For some, it goes beyond “baby blues” to become a serious mental health issue that can pose a danger to both mom and baby. Until now, treatment for postpartum depression (PPD) consisted of psychotherapy, SSRIs, or IV medication, if patients sought treatment at all. The FDA has approved a new oral medication, Zurzuvae, particularly targeted at alleviating the symptoms of PPD. Two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter studies of the drug showed significant relief of depressive symptoms compared to the placebo group.
- US Food and Drug Administration. 2023. www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-oral-treatment-postpartum-depression.
Addressing Obstetrical Violence
For many women, a trip to the OB for routine care or birthing within the health care system can be a traumatizing experience. Obstetrical violence can be subtle and implied or violent and overt. It can range from ignoring a patient’s wishes to actual physical injury. In all cases, though, it violates autonomy and human dignity and can cause lasting birth trauma. Obstetrical violence has become normalized and systemic and is pervasive in maternal health care around the world. Exposing and correcting this behavior by medical professionals and making women aware of their rights as patients is a first step toward making the health care system a safe place. In a study published in Nursing for Women’s Health, the authors propose tasking perinatal nurses, who are on the front lines, with recognizing and addressing obstetrical violence in the hospital setting. Another, by Edward and Kibanda, declares obstetrical violence a public health concern and lays out ways to mitigate it. And, on August 22, 2023, the CDC published a report finding that 20% of women surveyed experienced mistreatment within the maternal health care system. This survey further demonstrates the disparity of care received based on race and financial status. Clearly, this is an issue that needs to be addressed and remedied.
- Runyon, MC,et al.. 2023. “Exposing the Role of Labor and Delivery Nurses as Active Bystanders in Preventing or Perpetuating Obstetric Violence,” Nursing for Women’s Health, ISSN 1751-4851. doi.org/10.1016/j.nwh.2023.05.002.
- Edward, MM, and Z Kibanda, Z. 2023. “Obstetric violence: A public health concern.” Health Science Reports 6(1): e1026. doi.org/10.1002/hsr2.1026.
- “One in 5 Women Reported Mistreatment While Receiving Maternity Care.” 2023. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2023/s0822-vs-maternity-mistreatment.html.
PAHO: Bridging the Cultural Gap Between Traditional Midwives and Western Medicine
Traditional midwifery knowledge has informed generations of healers but there has been a distinct separation between Western health care and traditional methods and remedies. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has provided a model for integrating ancestral knowledge and Western medicine with the goal of improving maternal and baby health care and fostering respectful treatment of women and girls.
- Pan American Health Organization, 2023. Traditional Midwives: Saving Lives by Combining the Knowledge of Ancestral and Western Medicines. https://www.paho.org/en/stories/traditional-midwives-saving-lives-combining-knowledge-ancestral-and-western-medicines
Newborn Cells Programmed for Skin Colonization
The Common Fund’s Human Microbiome Project, published in 2017, revealed the invisible world of bacteria that live on and in the human body and play an important role in maintaining good health. This is especially true of a newborn’s first colonization at birth. Scientists have recently discovered that, at birth, certain immune cells are programmed to migrate to the skin to protect babies from harmful bacteria and establish a healthy microbiome.
- Wang, WB, et al. 2023. “Developmentally programmed early-age skin localization of iNKT cells supports local tissue development and homeostasis.” Nat Immunol 24: 225–38. doi.org/10.1038/s41590-022-01399-5,