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Pandemic Silver Lining: Drop in Infections That Cause Birth Defects

The number of babies born with a virus that commonly causes birth defects may have dropped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research suggests.

That was true in Minnesota, the first state to start screening all newborns for congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV).

In the five years leading up to the pandemic, about 1 in every 200 babies was born with CMV. That dropped to 1 in...

Pregnant Women Face Exposures to Dangerous Chemicals Daily

Pregnant women are exposed to toxic chemicals in dishware, hair coloring, plastics and pesticides that can heighten their risk of cancer and harm child development, a new study warns.

  • By Steven Reinberg HealthDay Reporter
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  • August 30, 2022
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  • No Sign That COVID Vaccine in Pregnancy Raises Birth Defect Risk

    Public health experts have been telling pregnant women that it is safe -- and recommended -- to get a COVID-19 shot because they are at higher risk for poor outcomes and death from the virus.

    New research now answers a key question about the vaccine's impact on their babies.

    The vaccine is not associated with birth defects detectable on an ultrasound, the Northwestern University stu...

    Rise in Birth Defects for Babies Whose Fathers Took Common Diabetes Drug

    Babies born to fathers who were taking the common diabetes drug metformin may have a slightly increased risk of certain birth defects, a large new study suggests.

    Among over 1 million babies born in Denmark, just over 3% had a birth defect of some kind. But that rate was roughly 5% among babies whose fathers ...

    Heart Defects Could Raise Odds for Severe COVID-19

    People who were born with a heart defect have a nearly doubled risk for severe COVID-19 illness or death and need to get vaccinated, wear masks and take other steps to protect themselves, researchers report.

    Those patients at the highest risk for severe COVID-19 were 50 and older, men, and those with other health conditions such as heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, Down syndrome, dia...

    Smoking Around Time of Conception May Harm Embryo

    Smoking in the weeks before and after conception has a potentially unhealthy effect on an embryo, Dutch research shows.

    "Smoking not only impacts an embryo's growth during pregnancy and birth weight, but also embryo development right from the very early stages of pregnancy," said...

    A Healthy Mouth Could Be a Lifesaver for Kids With Heart Conditions

    Kids with heart conditions are more likely than their peers to have frequent cavities, toothaches or bleeding gums, a new U.S. government study finds.

    Researchers found that of U.S. children and teenagers with heart conditions, 10% had only "poor" to "fair" dental health, as rated by their parents. That was twice the figure of kids without heart problems.

    It's a concern in part, the...

    Fertility Treatments Don't Raise Odds for Smaller, Preemie Babies

    Babies conceived through infertility treatment are more likely to be born early and small.

    But there are reasons other than medically assisted reproduction to explain this difference, a

  • Cara Murez
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  • January 12, 2022
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  • Family Factors Affect Child's Odds for Cleft Palate

    Economic status appears linked to increased risk of being born with a cleft palate or lip, new research suggests, building on past evidence that it can also result in delayed care and poorer outcomes.

    Cleft palate and cleft lip are the terms that describe openings or split...

    Severe Illness in a Child Takes Big Toll on Parents, Siblings: Study

    When a child has severe health problems, the suffering often extends to the entire family, new research finds.

    Using data from a single health insurance provider, the study authors assessed nearly 7,000 children with life-threatening conditions and their families, and compared them to a control group of more than 18,600 children without a life-threatening condition and their families.

    ...

    Gene Therapy May Reverse Hurler Syndrome, a Rare and Severe Illness in Kids

    Gene therapy might soon offer a new option for children with a rare genetic disorder that damages tissues throughout the body, researchers are reporting.

    In a study of eight children with the condition, called Hurler syndrome, researchers found that the gene therapy was safe over two years. It also showed potential for beating the current standard treatment, stem cell transplantation.

    ...

    Pregnancy, Delivery Safe for Women Born With Heart Defects

    Women who were born with heart defects may get some reassurance from a new study that finds they face no heightened risk to health during a pregnancy and delivery.

    According to the researchers, doctors may often advise these women against getting pregnant due to the potential risks for them and their babies, but until now those risks have been unclear.

    "The most important finding fr...

    Why Are More U.S. Babies Being Born With Syphilis?

    The number of U.S. infants born with syphilis is climbing at an alarming pace, reaching a high not seen since the 1990s, according to new government figures.

    Newborn syphilis, a potentially fatal condition, was at one time nearly eliminated in the United States. But the disease has seen a resurgence in recent years -- and 2020 was no exception, say researchers with the U.S. Centers for Di...

    Diabetes in Pregnancy Tied to Eye Issues in Kids

    Children whose mothers had diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk for severe forms of common eye problems such as far- and near-sightedness and astigmatism, a long-term study suggests.

    Collectively, they're known as refractive errors, conditions in which the eye is unable to properly focus images on the retina.

    "As many [refractive errors] in young children are treatable, e...

    Premature Delivery Raises Odds for Cerebral Palsy

    Extremely premature babies have a much higher risk of cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions than full-term infants, a large Israeli study affirms.

    Cerebral palsy -- the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and coordination -- is the most common cause of severe childhood physical disability and motor impairment. It can also affect sensation, perception, t...

    Vaping During Pregnancy Could Raise Odds for 'Preemie' Babies

    Women who use electronic cigarettes during pregnancy may be at heightened risk of having an underweight or preterm baby, a new study suggests.

    The study of more than 79,000 U.S. mothers found that when women regularly used e-cigarettes late in pregnancy, their babies' risk of low birth weight rose.

    Of women who "vaped" but did not smoke standard cigarettes, just under 11% had an und...

    Alcohol Still a Threat in Too Many American Pregnancies: Study

    More than half of American babies are exposed to at least some alcohol before they are born -- and for 8 out of 10, it happens before their mothers even realize they're pregnant, according to a Yale University study.

    Because alcohol consumption may harm the developing fetus, researchers said their findings underscore the need to promote abstinence in women who are pregnant or trying to be...

    Gene Therapy Uses HIV to Rescue Kids Born Without Immune System

    Cora Oakley is a rough-and-tumble 4-year-old who loves gymnastics and outdoor activities, particularly if it involves bouncing on a trampoline.

    It's hard to tell from looking at her that she was born without an immune system. Kids with this condition can acquire dangerous, life-threatening infections from day-to-day activities as simple as going to school or playing with friends.

    "I...

    Could Your Child Have a Heart Defect? Know the Warning Signs

    Heart defects are often - but not always - detected at birth, so it's important to pay attention when a child gets dizzy, passes out or says her heart is "beeping."

    These and other warning signs, such as an apparent change in fitness, shouldn't be overlooked, an expert says.

    Evaluating a child who has these symptoms is important to ensure nothing is missed that could become li...

    No Genetic Damage to Kids of Those Exposed to Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster: Study

    There's no evidence of genetic damage in the children of parents who were exposed to radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Ukraine, researchers say.

    Several previous studies have examined the risks across generations of radiation exposure from events such as this, but have yielded inconclusive results.

    In this study, the investigators analyzed the genomes...

    Lab-Made Heart Valves Can Grow Along With Youngest Heart Patients

    Lab-created heart valves that grow with the recipient could spare kids born with heart defects from the repeated valve-replacement surgeries they now endure.

    University of Minnesota researchers found that lab-created valves implanted in young lambs for a year were capable of growing within the recipient.

    "This is a huge step forward in pediatric heart research," said senior research...

    Scientists Create First Lab Model of Human 'Pre-Embryo' for Research Purposes

    Research into miscarriages, infertility and birth defects is now primed to undergo revolutionary advances, thanks to the creation in the lab of an early stage of human embryos by two separate international teams of scientists.

    Both teams were able to use human cells to create artificial blastocysts, an early stage of conception that occurs a few days after egg fertilization but prior...

    Drivers May Be Inhaling Dangerous Carcinogens Inside Their Cars

    Worried about what damage the polluted air outside might pose to your health during your work commute? New research suggests you might want to worry more about the chemicals you are exposed to inside your car.

    Benzene and formaldehyde are used in automobile manufacturing, and both are known to cause cancer at or above certain levels of exposure. Benzene also poses a risk of repro...

    Prescription Opioids, Antibiotics in Pregnancy Won't Raise Birth Defect Risk: Studies

    Taking prescription opioid painkillers or a common class of antibiotics during pregnancy doesn't increase the risk of major birth defects, according to two new studies.

    Both are often prescribed to pregnant women. Some studies have linked them with certain birth defects, but findings have been inconsistent.

    These new studies -- published Feb. 10 in the BMJ -- sought to clar...

    Fetal Surgery Is Changing Lives for Kids With Spina Bifida

    Spina bifida is a diagnosis no parents-to-be want to hear as they await their child's birth, and the idea of performing surgery on a baby while it is still in the womb can be terrifying. But new research shows that performing the delicate procedure before the baby is born, and not after, is worth it.

    The findings showed that children with myelomeningocele (the most severe form of spina bi...

    Kids With Congenital Heart Disease Face Higher Odds of Mental Health Issues

    Kids born with heart defects may be more likely to develop anxiety, depression and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), regardless of the severity of their heart condition.

    Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the United States, affecting about 40,000 babies a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The defects...

    Gene Therapy Shows No Long-Term Harm in Animals: Study

    Results from a long-term study of a gene therapy technique to prevent inherited mitochondrial disease show promise, researchers say.

    Studies of the technique at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland show no adverse health effects in rhesus macaque monkeys and their offspring. The researchers said the technique could break the cycle of disease passed from mother to baby through mu...

    Many Breast Cancer Survivors Have Healthy Babies: Study

    When a young woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, many questions go through her mind.

    What treatments does she need? Will she survive? And will she still be able to have a baby?

    In a review of recent research, an international team of investigators say the answer to that critical third question is yes. Though breast cancer survivors are less likely to become pregnant than the ave...

    Birth Defects Tied to Rise in Lifelong Cancer Risk

    Major birth defects are associated with an increased, lifelong risk of cancer, researchers say.

    It has been known that people with major birth defects have a greater risk of developing cancer as children and teens, but it wasn't clear whether the risk extends into adulthood.

    To find out, Norwegian researchers compared more than 62,000 people in Scandinavia, aged 46 and younger, who ...

    COVID in Pregnancy Won't Affect Obstetric Outcomes: Study

    Pregnant women with COVID-19 have little risk of developing severe symptoms, as do their newborns, a new study finds.

    In fact, 95% of these women have good outcomes, and just 3% of their babies test positive for COVID-19, researchers say.

    "For 5% of COVID-19-positive pregnant women, however -- those who get very sick -- the risks to both mother and baby are significant," said study ...

    Heart Defects Don't Increase Risk of Severe COVID-19

    In what will come as reassuring news to those who were born with a heart defect, new research finds these people aren't at increased risk for moderate or severe COVID-19.

    The study included more than 7,000 adults and children who were born with a heart defect (congenital heart disease) and followed by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, in Ne...

    Zika Epidemic Was More Widespread Than Thought: Study

    The Zika epidemic, which began as a mosquito-borne viral infection and led to severe birth defects, affected far more people than previously thought, new research shows.

    For the study, researchers analyzed data from 15 countries and territories in South America, Central America and the Caribbean with a combined population of 507 million, and concluded that they had over 132 million Zi...

    Genetics Might Explain Some Cases of Cerebral Palsy

    Genetic problems cause about 14% of cerebral palsy cases, and many of the implicated genes control the wiring of brain circuits during early fetal development, new research shows.

    The largest genetic study of cerebral palsy supports previous findings and provides "the strongest evidence to date that a significant portion of cerebral palsy cases can be linked to rare genetic mutati...

    Common Heart Defect Limits Exercise Ability: Study

    People born with a hole in their heart may lose 20% or more of their exercise capacity as they age, even if the defect is repaired.

    A ventricular septal defect is a hole in the wall separating the heart's pumping chambers. It can be surgically closed or left alone. People born with this defect have poorer exercise ability than healthy people.

    A new study suggests that ...

    Narcolepsy Drug Doesn't Raise Odds for Birth Defects: Study

    The narcolepsy medicine modafinil doesn't appear to increase the risk of birth defects, according to a new study that contradicts earlier research.

    "This study is based on twice as many pregnancies as earlier studies, and we find no increase in the risk of malformation in infants exposed to modafinil during pregnancy," lead author Carolyn Cesta, of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, ...

    Study Zeroes in on How Zika Virus Is Passed From Mom to Fetus

    New insight into how pregnant women can pass the Zika virus to their fetus could point to ways to prevent it, researchers say.

    Babies infected with Zika in the womb can have abnormally small heads (microcephaly) and other birth defects.

    In this study, researchers examined placenta samples collected from pregnant women during the peak of Brazil's 2015 to 2016 Zika outbreak. S...

    Lupus Drug Prevents Low Heartbeat in High-Risk Newborns: Study

    A drug used to treat lupus and malaria -- hydroxychloroquine -- reduced by half the risk of a potentially fatal heart condition in newborns who were at high risk for it.

    The condition -- known as congenital heart block (CHB) -- results in a dangerously low heart rate.

    "Our study shows hydroxychloroquine as the first, safe, and highly effective drug for preventing pregnant wom...

    Artificial Heart Valve Would Grow With Kids, Cutting Need for Repeat Surgeries

    An expandable artificial heart valve could save children with congenital heart disease from repeated open heart surgeries as they grow up, researchers report.

    Current artificial heart valves are fixed in size, meaning children need to get larger ones as they grow. Children who receive their first artificial valve before age 2 will require up to five open-heart operations before they ...

    AHA News: Baby Born With 'One-of-a-Kind' Heart Receives Transplant

    When a test showed a dangerous drop in the heart rate of Courtney Agnoli's unborn daughter, the doctor who urgently admitted her to the hospital said, "You aren't leaving here without a baby."

    Doctors had already identified two critical congenital heart defects that would require surgery shortly after birth. The girl, named Tessa, was delivered by cesarean section and immediately tak...

    AHA News: For Kids With Heart Defects, the Hospital Near Mom May Matter

    Heart problems are often associated with older people. But every year about 1 in 110 children in the United States are born with congenital heart disease, which include a variety of defects ranging from holes in the heart to malformed or missing valves and chambers.

    These defects can increase the risk for irregular heartbeats, heart infections and heart failure. In some cases, surger...

    How Mom-to-Be's Worry Over Birth Defects Can Harm Baby

    Hearing that your unborn baby has congenital heart disease can be traumatic, but now new research suggests that if you experience stress, anxiety or depression afterward it could affect your baby's brain development.

    Congenital heart disease (structural problems with the heart) is the one of the most common birth defects.

    "We were alarmed by the high percentage of pregnant w...

    AHA News: Baby Survived 27 Minutes Without a Heartbeat

    Britt Spivey knew something was wrong when his pregnant wife showed up at his work following what was supposed to be a routine doctor visit. Autumn started to cry and told him their unborn child had a heart defect. They needed to go to Texas Children's Hospital in nearby Houston.

    There, a more detailed scan showed the gravity of the situation.

    Normally, a heart has two col...

    Zika Damage Showing Up in Babies Deemed 'Normal' at Birth

    Some infants who appear healthy at birth after being exposed to the Zika virus in the womb develop neurological problems during their first year of life, a new study finds.

    The study included pregnant women in Colombia who were exposed to Zika and had fetal MRIs and ultrasounds as their pregnancies progressed.

    Of the 82 babies delivered by the women, 77 were born with no sig...

    Uncontrolled Asthma a Danger to Pregnant Women, Babies

    Poorly controlled asthma during pregnancy puts mothers and their babies at increased risk for serious complications, a new study finds.

    Researchers analyzed more than 100,000 pregnancies in more than 58,000 women with asthma in Canada.

    Compared to those whose asthma was well-controlled, women who had severe asthma symptoms during pregnancy were 17% more likely to have hi...

    Moms' Weight-Loss Surgery Tied to Lower Risk of Birth Defects

    Weight-loss surgery before pregnancy may lower obese women's odds of having a baby with major birth defects, new research suggests.

    For the study, the researchers examined data on more than 33,000 births in Sweden between 2007 and 2014.

    Of these, nearly 3,000 children were born to mothers who had a type of weight-loss surgery called gastric bypass before getting pregnant. T...

    Trying to Conceive? Both Dad and Mom Should Give Up Drinking in Months Before

    Women have long been told to cut out drinking if they are pregnant or think they might become pregnant.

    But a new study suggests that men hoping to become fathers should also stay away from alcohol for at least six months before trying to conceive.

    If would-be moms and dads drink in the three months before pregnancy, and if mom drinks during the first trimester, they run the...

    Toes Become Fingers in the Brains of 'Foot Painters'

    If you use your feet like hands from birth, the brain will create a different "map" of the toes that's more like the one it has for the fingers, new research reveals.

    That's the case with Tom Yendell and Peter Longstaff, two foot artists in the United Kingdom who were born with no hands and paint with their feet.

    Researchers compared functional MRI images of their brains to...

    Older Parents May Have Better Behaved Kids

    Many people wait until they're older to have children, and that decision can raise the risk of problems like infertility and genetic abnormalities. But new research suggests there may be at least one benefit to having children later in life.

    The study found that kids with at least one older parent were less likely to be defiant rule-breakers or physically aggressive.

    "Older...

    Some Women Still Getting Pregnant While on Acne Drug Tied to Birth Defects

    Hundreds of pregnancies still occur every year among U.S. women taking an acne medication that carries a high risk of birth defects, a new study finds.

    "While the number of pregnancies among patients taking isotretinoin is low, even 200 pregnancies is too high," said corresponding author Dr. Arash Mostaghimi. He is director of dermatology inpatient service and co-director of the Compl...

    Zika's Damage Continues in Children Infected Before Birth

    New research shows that neurological damage for babies who were exposed to the Zika virus while in the womb continues to unfold years after birth.

    Developmental problems were found in one-third of the 216 children studied, some of whom were 3 years old. The problems affected language, thinking and motor skills development. Some also had eye and hearing issues.

    Surprisingly,...