Health roundup A new study may make a common part of delivery—pushing during contractions—as obsolete as the phrase, "Boil some water, rip up some blankets."The study, from the University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center, found that women who were coached to push during contractions, reduced labor by an average of only 13 minutes. After three months, women from the study were examined and some of those who had pushed were found to have diminished bladder capacity and needed a smaller amount of fluid in their bladder to cause them to feel the need to use the bathroom. While these side effects may only be temporary, further research is needed, according to Dr. Steven Bloom, lead author of the study. Bloom points out there is no medical origin to having women push during contractions, which is referred to as coaching in this study. But it doesn’t mean that women in labor still don’t need help. "There is a role for a loving supporting attendant," Bloom says, who could do things such as rub the mother’s back or hold her hand rather than encouraging her to push through contractions. Dr. Maura Quinlan, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Chicago Hospitals says this study will offer women more options during delivery. "What this shows is there’s no one right way," she says. She already advises mothers to trust their instinct during labor, even if it is their first birth. "Their body knows the right way to deliver." Phasing out the debate The Mercury Free Vaccine Act goes into effect phasing mercury out of all vaccines administered in the state of Illinois. Known as thimerosal in vaccines, mercury is used as a preservative. There is an adamant group of parents who believe the thimerosal in vaccines is the cause of their children’s autism. Yet, the connection is controversial in the medical community. Dr. Eddie Pont, president-elect of the Illinois chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says flat-out there is no link between thimerosal and autism."[The] Illinois [American Academy of Pediatrics] does not believe the Mercury Free Vaccine Act will have any effect on children’s health," Pont wrote in an e-mail in response to Chicago Parent’s questions. He also notes that the majority of pediatric vaccines are already mercury-free. Telling preemies apart An old joke goes that all babies look like Winston Churchill. And while that may not be true, a new study finds that premature babies do look alike, which is more than just a punchline, it’s a potential problem. Premature babies who are in intensive care, are prone to being misidentified and at risk for receiving the wrong treatments, according to a study in the January issue of Pediatrics. Dr. James Gray, lead author of the study done at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says there are a number of reasons why premature babies are so easily confused. Premature babies are similar in appearance and can be difficult to distinguish between just by sight. Labeled wrist bands commonly used to identify hospital patients don’t always work either. "The smallest babies we take care of have fragile skin," Gray says. "Some can’t wear wrist bands." As a result of the study, other options are being explored to identify premature babies, according to Gray and he recommends parents keep their newborn safe by ensuring that all the correct information is on their baby’s crib or bassinet, Gray says. Labels in English please If a product contains milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat or soybeans, then you should be able to read it on the label. The Food and Drug Administration is requiring all manufacturers to clearly state in English on labels if a product contains any level of these eight ingredients, considered the most common food allergens. Prior, some manufacturers obfiscated the ingredient by using an obscure or scientific name to identify it. Denise Bunning of Lake Forest, co-founder of MOCHA, Mothers of Children Having Allergies, a support group for parents of children with food allergies, says making labels easier to read doesn’t just help people in her group. "It’s helping by educating not only food allergic families but the lay public." Parents whose children don’t have allergies will have an easier time picking safe foods for classroom snacks or other occasions says Bunning. Her group, which has several chapters in the Chicago-area, is a resource for families and allows them to trade information such as recipes or allergy safe restaurants. For more information, visit www.mochallergies.org.
Graham Johnston is the managing intern at Chicago Parent and a senior at the University of Missouri-Columbia.