women

Up to 10 percent of moms to be are deeply afraid of childbirth, a common reason for scheduling an elective Cesarean section. But with group therapy, say Finnish researchers, frightened women can conquer their anxieties and have satisfying spontaneous vaginal deliveries.

The scientists followed women in their first pregnancies who had severe fear of giving birth and wanted C-sections. Nearly half were assigned to receive six two-hour group-therapy sessions designed to ease their fears. The psychologist-led sessions included visualizing a calm, peaceful birth. At study's end, 88 percent of therapy participants managed to have vaginal delivery compared with only 77 percent of those who weren't in a group. More than a third of those in the therapy group reported a positive birth experience compared with only 23 percent of the others.

Up to 10 percent of moms-to-be are deeply afraid of childbirth, a common reason for scheduling an elective Cesarean section

"If there is severe fear of childbirth, women are usually very anxious, may have nightmares, often request a C-section and cannot prepare themselves for a normal delivery," says study author Hanna Rouhe, M.D., a clinical researcher at the Helsinki University Centralo Hospital. By joining a group, she explains, "women can handle their difficult feelings in safe surroundings and get help. They also can feel that they are ot alone with this problem."

Mother tongue

A baby may begin to learn mom's language while still in the womb, according to a study of newborns whose mothers spoke English or Swedish. The babies, who ranged in age from 7 hours to 3 days, were more attentive to foreign vowel sounds than they were to vowel sounds from their mothers' language, possibly because they were working harder to process unfamiliar sounds, explains study author Christine Moon, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Seattle's Pacific Lutheran University. Hearing develops early in the third trimester, so newborns have 10 weeks to accustom themselves to mom's language.

A baby may begin to learn mom's language while still in the womb, according to a study of newborns whose mothers spoke English or Swedish

Cigarettes alter mom's milk

Smoking while pregnant and nursing may limit the immunity your breast milk provides to your baby. Researchers collected milk from 52 women, including the colostrum-or "first milk"- and milk they produced about three weeks after the baby's birth. Compared to that produced by nonsmoking moms, smokers' colostrum and "mature" milk had lower levels of components believed to stimulate infants' immune systems.

Reason-free C-sections

Delivering by Cesarean section without a medical need for the surgery has a significant downside. A Swedish study of moms who elected to have C-sections found they suffered more bleeding complications than those who had emergency C-sections. They also had more complications with breastfeeding, and their newborns had a higher incidence of respiratory distress.

Billions of health care dollars that could be saved by private business and government if the U.S. C-section rate were reduced by more than half

Hand Ache

Carpal tunnel syndrome, a compression of the medial nerve in the wrist, is frequent in pregnancy; symptoms include pain, numbness and tingling in the hand. Probably caused by fluid retention, it's found in up to 62 percent of moms-to-be but you may not know you have it! Of those who test positive for nerve compression, 42 percent report no symptoms. If you're hurting, wrist splints can help, and most sufferers improve after delivery.

Tired of pregnancy? Sex won't help

Sex in your ninth month may be a nice distraction, but it won't hurry labor, say researchers in Malaysia who admit being "a little disappointed" to discover the tactic won't work. They studied 1,200 women in late pregnancy, asking half to have sex frequently as a means of safely triggering labor. The others were only told that sex during pregnancy is safe. While the first group had more sex in the weeks before delivery, women in both groups delivered, on average, at the same time: 39 weeks gestation.

Sex in your ninth month may be a nice distraction, but it won't hurry labor, say researchers in Malaysia who admit being "a little disappointed" to discover the tactic won't work

Breastfeeding bonus

Children who were breastfed, even if only partially or briefly, scored higher on cognitive tests than children who weren't, according to a French study of l- and 3-year-olds. Toddlers who'd nursed for any length of time scored higher on language and motor skills tests; those who were breastfed exclusively and longer were better at problem solving.

Coffee update

Refilling that coffee mug too often makes pregnancy last a bit longer, while consuming too much caffeine from any source, including tea, chocolate or sodas, could make baby's birth weight a bit lower. According to a Norwegian study, consuming 100 milligrams more caffeine than the daily 300-milligram limit recommended by experts is associated with up-to-an-ounce lower birth weight and about five extra hours of pregnancy. If all the caffeine came from coffee, pregnancy averaged about eight hours longer, a significant difference. Two cups of medium-strength Java contain about 300 milligrams.

Vitamin D mystery

Pre-pregnancy weight may help determine baby's bone health. Researchers measured moms' vitamin D levels several weeks before their due dates and, after delivery, tested the babies' cord blood. The women, whose BMIs ranged from normal to obese, all had similar blood levels of the vitamin. But the babies whose mothers were

Researchers measured moms' vitamin D levels several weeks before their due dates and, after delivery, tested the babies' cord blood

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