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Pregnancy: Developments in Antibiotics and Nursing

February 20, 2016
Plain English Version

PregnantThe more we know about pregnancy, the harder it is to know what to do. Two studies add to the discussion.

The first study said women should clearly avoid taking antibiotics in the second and/or third trimesters. It looked at antibiotic use by pregnant women. It took account of all their differences in age, health, income, etc.

When antibiotics were taken in late pregnancies, there was an 84 percent increase in the chance of the child being obese by the age of seven. Children born by cesarean section had a 46 percent chance of being obese by age seven.

The study is not calling for a change in practice. There are many good reasons for taking antibiotics. However, doctors should be aware of the findings of the study if other studies confirm them.

Another study looked at breast-feeding. It is well known that mother’s milk provides nutrients like calcium and protein. It contains microbes that help in digestion. The milk also prevents some diseases.

Mother’s milk contains a hormone called cortisol.

Researchers say cortisol helps prepare babies for dealing with stress. Too much cortisol may be a problem. All mothers do not have the same level of cortisol in their milk. The babies of mothers with high levels of cortisol gain weight faster and they are more nervous and less confident.

The scientists studied cortisol in monkeys. Monkey mothers with larger broods to nurse will have less cortisol to give each baby. This is a signal to baby monkeys to make the best use of the energy they have.

What about humans? One study showed that babies who drank high cortisol milk were more fearful and harder to soothe. Scientists are not sure why.

Learning more about mother’s milk may lead to changes in formula. The role of cortisol may be important.

Sources: The New York Times November 21, 2014 & November 6, 2014

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