Study Suggests Long Terms Health of Babies Affected by Covid 19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on many people in a variety of ways, even babies. For babies born during the Covid19  pandemic, a JAMA study suggests, the log-term health problems has the potential to be lifelong.

The first three years of life are crucial for brain development in humans. But it’s not just the health of babies that it affected, but the interactions between babies, parents and other would be caregivers. Babies need to be touched, spoken to, swaddled, smiled at, played with, stimulated and loved. As they respond to those interactions, neural connections are constructed in the brain. Without those interactions, an infant's brain doesn’t develop and grow as it should.

A stressed out or depressed parent or caregiver may find it hard to find the time and energy required to give the child's brain the love, stimulation and attention it needs to develop. There are many studies showing that poverty, maternal depression and other factors can change the development of a child's brain forever.

 

Methodology

As part of an ongoing study of babies and their mothers, researchers from Columbia University studied the development of three groups of 6-month-old infants. Two of the groups were born during the COVID-19 pandemic; the mothers of one group had COVID-19, while the mothers of the other did not. The third group was a historical cohort (a group of babies who were born before the pandemic).

Mothers participating in the study used an Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3) to record their babies’ development and evolution. The researchers noted no difference in the development of the two groups of babies born during the pandemic, suggesting that prenatal exposure to COVID-19 doesn’t affect development, which is good news. But babies born during the pandemic scored lower in gross motor, fine motor, and social-emotional development than the babies born before the pandemic. Examples of developmental tasks for babies in this age group are rolling from back to tummy (gross motor), reaching for or grasping a toy with both hands (fine motor), and acting differently to strangers than to parents or familiar people (social-emotional development).

 

Infant Development during COVID

It’s just one study, and we need to do more research to better understand this, but the findings are not really surprising given what we know about infant development. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of stress — emotional, financial, and otherwise — for so many families. It has also markedly affected the number and kind of interactions we have with other people. Babies are on average interacting with fewer people (and seeing fewer faces because of masking) than they did before the pandemic.

Even though we need to do more research, this study should serve as a warning for us as a society. The children of this pandemic will carry scars forever if we don’t intervene now. We’ve already seen the emotional and educational effects on children, and we need to be aware of the developmental effects on babies too. The stakes are too high to ignore the research.

 

What Can be Done?

We need to find ways to financially and emotionally support families with young children. We need to be diligent, energetic and creative, and work every angle available. And even if our government can't help out enough and play a role, our communities and individuals must take up the slack.

And parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers need to know about this research — and ask for help. It’s understandable and natural for parents to think that babies are too small and unaware to be affected by the pandemic. But they are affected, in ways that could be long-lasting. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to help yourself, your family, and your baby’s future.

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10 Signs You May Be Pregnant

You’ve been trying to conceive and now your period is late, so it’s possible you could be pregnant, right? But even before a home test can detect your condition, your body may be sending out a few hints that you’re a new mom-to-be. If you pay close attention, you’ll pick up on a few of these early signs of pregnancy.

Tender breasts. Breast soreness is a very common early pregnancy clue. Hormones help to increase your blood volume, leaving you with heavier-than-usual breasts.

Nausea. Morning sickness usually starts in the first month and can last through the third or fourth month. And this queasy feeling doesn’t always, or only, occur when you first wake up; a few new moms-to-be feel green morning, noon, and night.

Constipation and bloating. Feeling a little bloated and uncomfortable is normal. The digestive track tends to slow down during pregnancy, leaving you a little, well, backed up.

Moodiness. One minute you’re laughing, and the next, you’re in tears, thanks to your changing hormones. A few new moms-to-be may even feel depressed or anxious, too.

Cravings or food aversions. Some women can’t stop eating peaches, while others find that the sight of chicken turns their stomach into knots. If you fall into either camp, it could be an early pregnancy clue.

Fatigue. It’s hard work growing a new baby! Increasing hormones are contributing to that sluggish feeling. Take heart: Most women get a surge of energy in their second trimester.

Backaches. Hormones released during pregnancy allow pelvic ligaments to soften in preparation for the birth. This change may affect the usual positioning of your spine and cause some pain. You’ll likely be dealing with back strain quite a bit as your belly swells. If your back is giving you grief, try a heating pad set at the lowest temperature, or a warm water bottle, or a cold compress for relief.

Heightened sense of smell. An extra-sensitive nose is another early pregnancy sign, so don’t be surprised if you can smell the dirty dishes in the sink from the other side of the room.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and your period isn’t on time, head to the drugstore for a home pregnancy kit to confirm your suspicion, or have your doctor give you a pregnancy test. You may find out that you’ll soon be welcoming a new baby!

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A Guide to Your Pregnant Body

When you’re having a baby, your body will go through a multitude of changes. Some you’ll expect (the weight gain, for example) while others might come as a surprise (hello, hemorrhoids!). Here’s the rundown on the trimester-by-trimester changes most expectant moms experience. Keep in mind that while these symptoms are perfectly normal, if any cause you severe discomfort or stop you from going about your daily routines, talk to your doctor.

In Your First Trimester
 
In the initial trimester, your body isn’t quite used to the idea of being pregnant yet, and your increasing hormone levels are wreaking some havoc. Here’s what to expect:

  • Your breasts will most likely become swollen, and your nipples may start to stick out.

  • Morning sickness can cause some soon-to-be new moms to have upset stomachs or to throw up.

  • An increase in hormone levels can bring on acne (talk to your doctor before using any acne medication).

  • Mood swings may occur (again, blame the hormones!). Don’t be surprised if one second you’re laughing with friends and the next you’re sobbing.

  • It’s likely you’ll experience constipation or difficulty with bowel movements.

  • You may need to urinate more frequently.

In Your Second Trimester
By now your body has probably settled into a more steady pregnancy routine. Here’s what expectant moms should be on the lookout for during this time.

  • General body aches in the back, groin, or thighs may start to kick in.

  • Your skin may start to change, including a darkening around your nipples and the appearance of stretch marks, especially on your stomach, breasts, thighs, and buttocks.

  • Your ankles, fingers, and face may start to swell.

  • Other normal symptoms are itching of the abdomen, palms, and feet as well swelling of your ankles, fingers, and face. However, if any of these symptoms are accompanied with nausea, a loss of appetite, vomiting, or extreme fatigue, contact your doctor immediately, as it could be a sign of something more serious.

In Your Third Trimester
Good news: You’re almost at the finish line! Here are a few additional symptoms expectant moms may notice in those final weeks:

  • Shortness of breath, heartburn, and swelling may occur, as well as the development of hemorrhoids.

  • Your breasts may become very tender, and may begin to leak colostrum, a watery pre-milk your body produces as it gets ready to provide nourishment for your new baby.

  • Your new baby will probably “drop” during these weeks, moving lower in your abdomen to prepare for birth.

While some of the symptoms are annoying and even worrisome, keep in mind that most disappear within a few months of giving birth. And by that time, you’ll be so in love with your new baby, you won't even notice a little acne!

A Guide to Childbirth Classes

If you're an expectant mom, you'll find that childbirth classes can be an integral part of preparing for the big day, and are well worth the time and effort. Though different classes vary in their focus, most will include helping you figure out what your birth plan will be on the big day, and what you can (and should) expect from the experience. You'll probably want to sign up for a class in the sixth or seventh month of your pregnancy (or anytime before you go into labor). The earlier you sign up for a class, the more flexibility you’ll have in choosing the best days and time for your schedule. (Another option is to take an online class -- that way you'll have even greater flexibility.)

So what exactly happens in these classes? Read on so you know what to expect.

Get the info. One of the most important parts of childbirth class is learning about the labor process and how to determine if you’re going into labor. Especially for first-time moms, preparing for a new baby can be scary, and childbirth classes are a great forum to ask any and all questions you might have about the process, as well as to address any concerns.

Figure out your birth plan. Deciding on the type of labor you’d like to experience while giving birth to your new baby is a very personal decision. During the childbirth class, you can ask your labor coach questions to help determine what labor method will be best for you.

Check out the facility and meet the staff. If your class is held in a hospital or birth center, you'll probably get the chance to tour the facilities, as well as to meet some of the staff on duty. You’ll be able to ask any questions you have about the hospital’s policies and resources, including whether additional classes are offered for expectant moms, and that staff will be available to help you with breastfeeding and bathing your new baby after birth.

Learn about breathing methods. Proper breathing technique can help make your delivery easier. Childbirth classes will teach you the practice, and prep both you and your partner on how to breathe effectively through your labor.

At the end of the day, childbirth classes will provide you with pregnancy tips and labor information  that will help you feel more confident as you’re preparing for your baby. And they’ll provide you with an opportunity to meet and chat with other soon-to-be new moms -- and that’s always priceless.

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An Expectant Mom’s Guide to Contractions

Many first-time expectant moms are understandably nervous about the labor and delivery process. A smart way to alleviate any anxiety associated with the birth of your new baby is to learn as much as possible about what to expect, including the difference between true labor signs and false alarms. Pocket this advice and you’ll be ready to take on your labor with confidence.

Beware of false alarms. Many soon-to-be new moms experience false labor pains known as Braxton Hicks contractions.  If you're not sure whether these might be real labor pains, remember that false contractions are irregular in their timing. And if changing your activity or position makes the pain go away, it's probably false labor. On the other hand, true labor contractions take place at regular intervals and occur more frequently as time goes on. They’ll last anywhere from 30 seconds in the beginning to 90 seconds as labor progresses, and walking or any increased activity may cause the contractions to intensify.

Look for other signs. While labor pains are usually a sign that you’re nearing your delivery time, there are other indications that labor is not far away. For starters, the new baby may have dropped, also known as lightening. This simply means your little one has settled into your pelvis. In some instances, a woman's water may break before labor begins, which occurs either as a sudden gush of fluid or a steady trickle. This is the amniotic sac, which is a fluid-filled membrane that protects the baby in the uterus. Once this occurs, there is an increased risk for infection, so if labor has not already started, you may need to be induced.   

Call the doctor You'll want to call your health care provider (and prepare to head to the hospital) if your contractions are growing stronger and occurring at shorter intervals. The same is true if your water has broken. Likewise, severe vaginal bleeding or cramping, as well as pain in your belly, back, or pelvis, are reasons for an expectant mom to call for emergency assistance.

When it comes to childbirth, the more prepared you are, the better, so memorize the signs of labor -- especially if this is your first delivery. Simply understanding the changes that take place in your body when the time finally arrives helps to put you at ease and prepare you for the birth of your new baby.