Category Archives: Research

Science Daily: Women with intellectual and developmental disabilities have almost double the rate of repeat pregnancy

sd-logoWomen with intellectual and developmental disabilities have nearly double the rate of having another baby within a year of delivering compared to women without such disabilities, according to a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Rapid repeat pregnancy within one year of a previous live birth is associated with smaller babies, preterm birth, neonatal death and other adverse effects. It also indicates a lack of access to reproductive health care, such as pregnancy planning and contraception.

About one in 100 adults have an intellectual or developmental disability, such as autism-spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome and other nonspecific conditions that cause intellectual and developmental limitations.

Researchers analyzed data on 2855 women with intellectual and developmental disabilities compared with 923 367 women without such disabilities who had a live birth between 2002 and 2013. They found that 7.6% of women with these disabilities had another baby within a year, compared to 3.9% of women without these disabilities.

“Women with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more likely than those without such disabilities to be young and disadvantaged in each marker of social, health, and health care disparities. They experience high rates of poverty and chronic physical and mental illness, and have poor access to primary care,” says Hilary Brown, an adjunct scientist at Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and lead author of the study.

Rapid repeat pregnancies in women with intellectual and developmental disabilities ended in induced abortion (49%), live birth (33%) and pregnancy loss (18%) compared with induced abortion (59%), pregnancy loss (22%) and live birth (19%) in women without these disabilities.

“This study shows that current efforts to promote reproductive health might not be reaching women with intellectual and developmental disabilities and that there is a lot more we can do to educate and support these women in relation to pregnancy planning and contraception,” adds Brown.

The study was conducted by researchers from University of Toronto; Women’s College Research Institute; ICES; St. Michael’s Hospital and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Ontario.

It was funded by the Province of Ontario through its research grants program.

Journal Reference:

  1. Hilary K. Brown, Joel G. Ray, Ning Liu, Yona Lunsky, Simone N. Vigod. Rapid repeat pregnancy among women with intellectual and developmental disabilities: a population-based cohort study. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2018; 190 (32): E949 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.170932

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Research: Maternal hair testing to disclose self-misreporting in drinking and smoking behavior during pregnancy



Drinking and smoking behavior were assessed during pregnancy through maternal hair analysis.

Ethyl glucuronide and nicotine were measured in maternal hair as biomarkers.

Gestational drinking was significantly more misreported than tobacco smoking.

Maternal hair analysis revealed an alarming misreported prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy.


This study aimed to objectively verify smoking and drinking behavior during pregnancy and to disclose self-misreporting through maternal hair analysis. A total of 153 women attending a university hospital in Barcelona (Spain) were selected and interviewed after delivery, on their smoking and drinking habits during pregnancy.

A 9-cm hair strand was collected and analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry for the presence of nicotine (NIC) and ethyl glucuronide (EtG) as biomarkers of tobacco andalcohol consumption, respectively. Concentrations of EtG <7 pg/mg hair and ≥30 pg/mg hair in the 0–3-cm hair segment have been used to assess, respectively, total abstinence and chronic excessive consumption in the previous 3 months, with repetitive moderate drinking lying in the interval 7–30 pg EtG per mg hair. Hair NIC less than 1 ng/mg hair indicates non-exposure to tobacco smoke while hair NIC indicates daily active smoking.

In the interview, 28.1% of women declared to have smoked occasionally during gestation, while only 2.6% stated to have consumed alcohol on more than one occasion during pregnancy. Hair testing of smoking biomarkers disclosed that 7.2% of women remained active smokers during the whole pregnancy (hair NIC: 3.21–56.98 ng/mg hair), 16.3% were passive non-smokers or occasional smokers (hair NIC: 1.04–2.99 ng/mg hair), while 76.5% were not exposed to any cigarette smoke (hair NIC < limit of quantification – 0.91 ng/mg hair).

Conversely, alcohol hair biomarkers showed that only 35.3% of women were totally abstinent during gestation (hair EtG: 3.89–6.73 pg/mg hair), while 62.7% drank a non-negligible amount of alcohol during pregnancy (hair EtG: 7.06–26.57 pg/mg hair), and 2% were chronic excessive drinkers (hair EtG: 35.33–47.52 pg/mg hair). Maternal hair analysis has shown to be significantly more sensitive than interviews in revealing an alarming misreported prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy.

These findings stress the need to use objective measures to assess alcohol exposure and to consider the inclusion of targeted actions to reduce alcohol consumption in maternal-child health policies.

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    Environmental toxins are seen as posing risks during pregnancy


    Leading up to and during pregnancy, women are told to avoid alcohol and cigarettes, to make sure they get enough folate and omega-3 fatty acids, and to get adequate sleep and exercise. Most are told little or nothing about reducing their exposure to chemicals despite evidence suggesting that ingredients in plastics, vehicle exhaust and cosmetics additives can have profound impacts on babies’ health.

    In recent years, the field of ­maternal-fetal medicine has started to respond. In 2013, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a committee opinion, reaffirmed this year, “calling for timely action to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents while addressing the consequences of such exposure.” The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics voiced a similar opinion in 2015, and the following year nearly 50 prominent U.S. doctors and scientists created Project TENDR: Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks to call for reducing chemical exposures that can interfere with fetal and children’s brain development.

    Yet, a recent survey suggests that most doctors don’t discuss exposure to pollutants with their pregnant patients.

    “Fetal development is a critical window of human development, and so any toxic exposure during that time, during pregnancy, doesn’t only have a short-term effect at that moment, but really an effect that lasts the entire lifetime,” said Nathaniel DeNicola, who was on the committee that reaffirmed the ACOG opinion.

    In 2011, University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) researcher Tracey Woodruff and colleagues reported finding traces of dozens of harmful chemicals in 99 percent or more of the 268 pregnant women whose urine they analyzed; among them were organochlorine pesticides, perchlorate, phthalates and cancer-causing compounds found in vehicle exhaust and smoke.

    Click here to read full article!

    Lifelong Impacts of Moderate Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Neuroimmune Function


    imageShahani Noor* and imageErin D. Milligan

    Retrieved from

    In utero alcohol exposure is emerging as a major risk factor for lifelong aberrant neuroimmune function. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder encompasses a range of behavioral and physiological sequelae that may occur throughout life and includes cognitive developmental disabilities as well as disease susceptibility related to aberrant immune and neuroimmune actions.

    Emerging data from clinical studies and findings from animal models support that very low to moderate levels of fetal alcohol exposure may reprogram the developing central nervous system leading to altered neuroimmune and neuroglial signaling during adulthood.

    In this review, we will focus on the consequences of low to moderate prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) on neuroimmune interactions during early life and at different stages of adulthood. Data discussed here will include recent studies suggesting that while abnormal immune function is generally minimal under basal conditions, following pathogenic stimuli or trauma, significant alterations in the neuroimmune axis occur.

    Evidence from published reports will be discussed with a focus on observations that PAE may bias later-life peripheral immune responses toward a proinflammatory phenotype. The propensity for proinflammatory responses to challenges in adulthood may ultimately shape neuron–glial-immune processes suspected to underlie various neuropathological outcomes including chronic pain and cognitive impairment.

    Click to read full report

    A Health Blog: It Takes Only One Drink A Day To Increase Breast Cancer Risk

    A comprehensive analysis of 119 studies has found that it takes only 1 glass of wine or any other kind of alcoholic drink a day to increase risk of breast cancer. It was also found that vigorous exercise like fast bicycling or running reduces the risk of pre-menopausal as well as post-menopausal breast cancer. There was also strong evidence confirming a previous finding that post-menopausal breast cancer risk is reduced with moderate exercise.[1]

    Worldwide research on how breast cancer risk is affected by exercise, weight and diet was evaluated, which included data from 12 million women and approximately 260,000 breast cancer cases.

    There was strong evidence found that risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer is increased by 5% and risk of post-menopausal breast cancer is increased by 9% with drinking the equivalent of a beer or a small glass of wine a day.

    The most active vigorously exercising pre-menopausal women had a 17% reduced risk and women who were post-menopausal had a 10% reduced risk of breast cancer in comparison to the least active women. Moderate activity, like gardening and walking, was associated with a 13% reduced risk for the most active women compared to the least active.

    The report also showed:

    • Overweight or obesity increases the most common, post-menopausal type breast cancer risk.
    • A reduced breast cancer risk for mothers who breastfeed.
    • Post-menopausal breast cancer risk increases with greater weight gain.

    There was also some limited evidence for non-starchy vegetables reducing risk for the less common types of estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer. Limited evidence also shows an association with dairy and diets high in calcium as well as carotenoid containing foods and a reduction in risk of some types of breast cancer. Foods such as apricots, carrots, kale and spinach are good sources of carotenoids, a group of phytonutrients with health benefits.

    Although there are risk factors that cannot be controlled such as a family history of breast cancer, being older and early menstrual period, the results of this report confirm that women can modify lifestyle risk factors to reduce breast cancer risk.

    The evidence from this report is clear that limiting alcohol, being physically active, and keeping a healthy weight are all steps women can take for reducing their risk of breast cancer.

    Retrieved from

    Alcohol And Breast Cancer

    Just two alcoholic drinks a month during pregnancy raises a child’s risk of having a low IQ and ADHD, study finds

    180105-women-drinking-wine-ew-630p_f0eb0b17db2bfd7e11391cd02ff5145b.focal-760x380Just two alcoholic drinks a month during pregnancy raises children’s risk of having low IQs and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), new research suggests.

    Youngsters whose mothers drank while expecting score six points lower on IQ tests and are more likely to have poor attention skills than those whose mums went teetotal, a German study found.

    Such children have 193 mutated genes, which are associated with brain cell development, the research adds.

    Previous studies suggest youngsters who were exposed to alcohol in the womb are more likely to suffer from hyperactivity and impulsive actions.

    The NHS and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend pregnant women or those trying to conceive abstain from alcohol.

    The researchers, from the University Hospital Erlangen, analysed 1,100 pregnant women, with health information being collected during their third trimesters.

    The women were told their newborns would be tested for meconium EtG, which is a by-product of alcohol degeneration.

    Around 75 per cent of meconium EtG accumulates in foetus’ guts during the last eight weeks of pregnancy.

    Due to alcohol also being present in products such as mouthwashes, the researchers set a cut off meconium EtG level that has previously reflected two alcoholic drinks a month.

    Between seven and eight years later, 198 of the families agreed to have the same children assessed for their IQs and attention skills.

    Attention was measured by recording how long it took for the children to respond to green traffic lights.

    DNA samples were also taken from mouth cells in the children.

    The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

    This comes after research released in April 2017 suggested more women in the UK drink alcohol while pregnant than the rest of Europe.

    Researchers found that 28.5 per cent of women from the UK drink despite knowing they are expecting.

    This is a sharp contrast to just 4.1 per cent of Norwegian women.

    Pregnant women in the UK are also among the most frequent drinkers, with nearly three per cent admitting to drinking up to two units a week. One unit is the equivalent of a small glass of wine.

    Differences in expectant mother’s drinking habits across Europe are thought to be due to varying exposure to educational campaigns and different attitudes to the habit.

    Retrieved from


    Mixing alcohol and drugs poses bigger unsafe sex risk for women

    weed-and-alcohol-pairing-1105995-TwoByOneBy Lisa Rapaport Retrieved from

    (Reuters Health) – Drinking alcohol and smoking pot at the same time is more likely to increase the odds of unsafe sex for young women than for men, a small U.S. study suggests.

    “This is important because women could be especially vulnerable to the negative consequences of unprotected sex (e.g., unwanted pregnancy, STIs) when under the influence of alcohol and/or marijuana,” said lead study author Jumi Hayaki, a psychology researcher at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

    “Our results seem to indicate that men’s sexual behavior, at least with respect to condomless vaginal sex with an opposite-sex partner, becomes disinhibited at a higher threshold than for women,” Hayaki said by email.

    When women ages 18 to 25 drink and smoke pot on the same day, they’re more than three times more likely to have unprotected sex than on days when they don’t use either substance, the study found.

    Just smoking pot was associated with an 89 percent higher risk of unsafe sex for women, while drinking alone was tied to more than double the risk.

    Men this age didn’t appear much more likely to have unprotected sex when they used either alcohol or marijuana alone.

    When men used both substances on the same day, however, they were 71 percent more likely to have unsafe sex than on days when they didn’t use either one.

    Unprotected sex – intercourse without a condom – has long been linked independently to both drinking and drug use, the study team notes in the American Journal on Addictions. But the current results offer fresh evidence that combining these substances may be riskier for women than for men.

    The researchers examined survey data from 290 young adults on alcohol use, marijuana use and condomless vaginal intercourse with an opposite-sex partner in the past 90 days.

    They recruited participants who had previously used alcohol or marijuana by adverting on Facebook, Craigslist, radio stations, public transportation and in college newspapers. Researchers interviewed participants in person and offered compensation of $40 and free testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

    Adults who joined the study were 21 years old on average, and more than half were enrolled in school.

    Over the previous three months, participants reported using alcohol an average of 24 days and marijuana an average of 41 days. They used both substances together on an average of 13 days.

    During that same period, they had unprotected sex on an average of 20 days.

    Men and women reported similar rates of unprotected sex, but men drank and used marijuana more often alone and in combination.

    One limitation of the study is that researchers lacked data to explain why people drank, smoked pot, or had unprotected sex. Researchers also didn’t know whether people were having unprotected sex in the context of committed relationships or with multiple partners during the three-month study period.

    By focusing only on opposite-sex couples having vaginal intercourse, researchers also didn’t have a complete picture of how all young adults might behave after drinking or smoking pot.

    These young adults may have also come of age during a period of limited sex education in schools, which might have made them more likely to engage in unprotected sex than some older adults, noted Christian Joyal, a psychology researcher at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivieres in Canada who wasn’t involved in the study.

    “When sexual education was mandatory at school, younger educated people were at lower risks for unprotected sex compared with single baby boomers,” Joyal said by email. “Now, the trend might unfortunately be reversed. Today, internet pornography is the main source of information for sexual practices and protected sex is rare in porn.”

    SOURCE: American Journal on Addictions, online June 20, 2018.

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