Pregnancy

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Call the Midwife: A Home Birth Story

The author's wife, Pippa, and their daughter, Caitlin, who was born at home, in 1982. (Courtesy: Nick Allen)

The author’s wife, Pippa, and their daughter, Caitlin, who was born at home, in 1982. (Courtesy: Nick Allen)

By Stephen Talbot

My wife, Pippa, gave birth like a giraffe, standing up.

I was astonished. This wasn’t quite the nativity scene I’d imagined. Then again, I should not have been too shocked. Pippa grew up in South Africa, she’s very keen on giraffes, and she likes doing things unconventionally.

I should also mention that this was happening at home, in our bedroom, in the middle of the night, and that no one else was around. Except for our two-year-old son asleep in another room.

Not to worry. Women have been giving birth in their homes, in their own fashion, for centuries, right? Well, actually, not so much these days, at least not in this country. A mere 1.36 percent of births in the United States in 2012 took place outside a hospital. Continue reading

Amnio Alternative: Blood Test Gives Women New Option for Prenatal Screening

Ultrasound is often used for prenatal screening. It's just one of several prenatal screenings available to pregnant women. (Getty Images)

Ultrasound is often used for prenatal screening. It’s just one of several prenatal screenings available to pregnant women. (Getty Images)

By Nell Greenfield-Boyce, NPR

When Amy Seitz got pregnant with her second child last year, she knew that being 35 years old meant there was an increased chance of chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome. She wanted to be screened, and she knew just what kind of screening she wanted — a test that’s so new, some women and doctors don’t quite realize what they’ve signed up for.

This kind of test , called cell free fetal DNA testing, uses a simple blood sample from an expectant mother to analyze bits of fetal DNA that have leaked into her bloodstream. It’s only been on the market since October 2011 and is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration — the FDA does not regulate this type of genetic testing service. Several companies now offer the test, including Sequenom and Illumina. Insurance coverage varies, and doctors often only offer this testing to women at higher risk because of things like advanced maternal age.

“I think that I initially heard about it through family and friends,” says Seitz. “They had had the option of it given to them by their doctors.” Continue reading

Study: Transgender Men Who Become Pregnant Face Social Challenges

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Robin Marantz Henig, NPR

“Pregnancy and childbirth were very male experiences for me,” said a 29-year-old respondent in a study reported Friday in Obstetrics and Gynecology. “When I birthed my children, I was born into fatherhood.”

If this statement at first seems perplexing, it’s less so when you realize the person talking is a transgender man – someone who has transitioned from a female identity to a male or masculine identity.

He is one of 41 participants in a study of how it feels to be male and pregnant, a study the authors think may be the first of its kind.

Pregnancy as a transgender man is unlike any other kind. No one expects a man to be pregnant, and the study participants said they were often greeted with double-takes, suspicion and even hostility from strangers and health care providers. “Child Protective Services was alerted to the fact that a ‘tranny’ had a baby,” one participant reported. Continue reading

Surprising Advantage for Older Moms: More Likely to Live Longer

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

As a woman who had not just her last child, but also her first child after age 33, I enthusiastically clicked on the NPR story in my Facebook feed this morning.

NPR reports that older moms — women who had their last child after age 33 — have twice the odds of “exceptional longevity” as women who had their last child before age 29. This “exceptional longevity” is defined as living to age 95. The research is according to a study published this week in the journal Menopause.

I got over the fact that “older moms” are women who had their last child after 33, which seems kind of young to me.

NPR explains why there may be a connection between bearing children later and longevity: Continue reading

Low-Income Latinas Turn to Group Visits for Prenatal Care

Araceli eats fruit during a break following an exercise on healthy eating during a Centering Pregnancy group in San Francisco. (Deborah Svoboda/The World)

During a Centering Pregnancy group prenatal appointment in San Francisco, Araceli (left) eats fruit following an exercise on healthy eating. (Deborah Svoboda/The World)

Once a month, Irma Vásquez goes for prenatal check-ups at a clinic in San Francisco’s Mission District. But her appointment looks nothing like a doctor’s appointment. Instead of getting one-on-one care, she meets with 12 other Latina immigrants for a group visit.

Studies show group prenatal care leads to better birth outcomes.
The women meet at a community clinic and first take their own blood pressure, weigh themselves, and write down the results. Then they take turns seeing a midwife in a makeshift exam area in the corner of the room. The midwife checks each baby’s heart rate and talks privately with each woman.

Afterward they all sit in a circle and talk — in Spanish — about everything from eating healthy to dealing with domestic problems at home. Finally, there’s group meditation. Vásquez says this is her favorite part.

“It clears your mind of all the things that are going on around you, going on outside,” she says in Spanish. “It makes you more relaxed.” Continue reading

‘Baby Panic’? Women Over 35 May Be Quite Fertile After All

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

I walked into the newsroom today startled to see the TV screen tuned to ABC’s Good Morning America streaming (or screaming?) “Baby Panic: How long can you wait to have a baby?” across the bottom of the screen.

I wondered why this discussion was suddenly news again.

I hate the “baby panic” story. I got pregnant easily for the first time at 39. Right on my block, I can quickly count a number of women who also had their first child after 35. Many of us also had children in our 40s. Most of us did this without fertility treatments. I always thought baby panic was a way to get women to “lean out” of their careers.

So it was with some trepidation that I discovered The Atlantic article that appears to be driving this new media frenzy. But this article is different. It debunks the conventional wisdom about women over 35 facing a steep and rapid decline in fertility.

In her piece, Jean Twenge weaves in her personal story: divorced at 30, longing for children, worrying she’d never have them.

Then she dives into the data. For example, where does the statistic showing that one-third of women 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying come from? Continue reading

Unnecessary Early Deliveries Plummet in Multi-State Study, Includes California

American children are less likely to live to age 5 than children in other high-income countries. (Photo: Comstock)

The rate of early elective deliveries dropped from about 28 percent to under 5 percent. (Photo: Comstock)

Hospitals in California were part of a multi-state approach designed to dramatically reduce early elective deliveries of babies. The result? In one calendar year, early deliveries — those without a medical cause for doing so — dropped from about 28 percent to just under 5 percent.

“What everyone is amazed about is we did it in a year,” said Leslie Kowalewski with the California chapter of the March of Dimes, which helped hospitals in setting up the new protocol for the study.

The findings from the study were published this week in Obstetrics and Gynecology. For more than 30 years, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended that women and their doctors wait until at least 39 weeks of gestation to deliver a baby. Delivering earlier is associated with health complications for the babies, including breathing and developmental problems.

Slippery Slope With Early Deliveries

But a “slippery slope” had developed around early elective deliveries, says Dr. Elliott Main, a high-risk obstetrician and director of obstetrics quality at Sutter Health. “Your due date was 40 weeks, and then we thought 39 was just as good. Then it became 38 and a half, then 38, and that’s the slippery slope.” Continue reading

Akin’s Rape Remarks Refuted by Science, Supported in Anti-Abortion Circles

Rep. Todd Akin in television interview Sunday, made remarks about rape and pregnancy.

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now about Representative Todd Akin’s statements about rape. (If not, you can watch here.)

In less than 30 seconds of a television interview, he articulated two viewpoints that have riled just about everyone — including many members of his own party.

First, he suggested that rape can be either legitimate or illegitimate. Second, he said that if a woman is a victim of the former, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” and she will not get pregnant.

Today, in a new ad, Representative Akin is asking forgiveness, saying he used the wrong words in the wrong way.

While I had thought this was one guy with a crazy idea, the New York Times reports today that the idea rape cannot end in pregnancy has circulated in anti-abortion circles for more than 25 years. Continue reading