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Week in Review: Postpartum Stress, Vitamin D, and ADHD

Posted by Lara Salahi  December 14, 2012 08:28 AM

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A roundup of this week’s pregnancy-related scientific research and news:

  • Babies who had limited exposure to oxygen while in the womb may be more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder later in childhood compared to children with normal oxygen levels, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation looked at electronic health records of nearly 82,000 5-year-old children. Those who had experienced conditions that limited their oxygen in the womb or at birth such as birth asphyxia, preeclampsia, or neonatal respiratory distress syndrome had a 47 percent greater risk of developing ADHD. The finding suggests that these conditions may lead to long-term changes in the structure and function of a child’s brain.
  • A mother’s vitamin D levels during her first and second trimester may determine how large her baby will be, a study published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found. The study measured vitamin D levels of nearly 2200 mothers during their first trimester and found that those who had a vitamin D deficiency were more likely to have a baby that was measured smaller for their gestational age than those with adequate levels of vitamin D. Sunlight exposure is the main source of vitamin D for many women.
  • Having a child might change your perception of what’s stressful, researchers from Indiana University and the University of Zurich found. New mothers may not feel as stressed by threats around them that are unrelated to their newborn compared to childless women, according to their study published Monday in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers looked at brain responses of 29 postpartum women and 30 childless women when they were shown disturbing images unrelated to a baby. Postpartum women showed less response in their amygdala -- the part of the brain that controls emotional response -- than women who did not have children. The postpartum women’s toned down response to certain threats may be the brain’s way of striking a new balance in their life as they cope with the stress of a newborn, the researchers said.
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About the author

Lara Salahi is an award-winning multimedia journalist whose specialty is reporting health and medical stories. She has worked in local, network, and cable television, international print, and documentary film. She More »

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