Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

In the News: Mobile phone link to hyperactivity

Monday, June 1st, 2009

The dangers to an unborn child are even greater if a pregnant women is stressed, possibly by financial and/or relationship problems, and regularly uses the mobile phone. Another recent study from the University of California, Los Angeles – the first of its kind, covering more than 13,000 women – has shown that using handsets, even as little as two or three times a day, is enough to raise the risk of having children with hyperactivity and emotional problems. Letting children use mobiles before the age of seven also puts them at risk, researchers warn. The study was published in the medical journal Epidemiology last year.

Researchers found that women who used phones when pregnant were 54 per cent more likely to report behavioural problems in their children, including hyperactivity and emotional difficulties. Problems were even greater in children whose mothers had used mobiles when they were pregnant and then were allowed to use phones before the age of seven. In fact, they were 80 per cent more likely to have behavioural problems than youngsters who had not been exposed to mobile phone use at all.


The risks increased with the amount of phone use and potential radiation, suggesting a clear link between mobile phone exposure and behavioural problems; although the researchers warned that there were other possible explanations for behavioural problems that need to be taken into account, such as poor diet and maternal neglect.

Miscarriage: Reducing the risk

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Suffering a miscarriage is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a woman, and to her partner. Many women conceive easily and are not emotionally or physically prepared for the shock of losing a baby. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, usually before the twelfth week of pregnancy, and it can happen without a woman even realising she is pregnant. Sometimes there is a medical reason for a miscarriage, but other women miscarry but have completely normal test results.


Some established reasons include health conditions affecting the mother, such as hormonal, immune system or blood clotting problems and anatomical abnormalities of the womb. In most cases these can be treated, resulting in a successful pregnancy. Abnormal or poor quality sperm is another reason – underlining the importance of your partner being as fit and healthy as possible when you try for a baby.


Lifestyle factors 

There are a number of diet and lifestyle changes that you and your partner can make that will reduce your risk of a miscarriage. Let’s take a look at the major risk factors that research has clearly identified.


The latest research has established that diet and lifestyle factors play an important part in preventing or increasing the risk of miscarriage. For example, a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has suggested that drinking just two cups of coffee a day while pregnant can double the risk of miscarriage. Large scale studies like this suggest a link between coffee drinking and miscarriage, so that is why I typically advise patients attending my clinics to avoid caffeine.


The latest government recommendations also suggest avoiding alcohol while trying to conceive and during pregnancy. In my opinion, alcohol is a complete ‘no no’ when it comes to fertility and miscarriage for both men and women; not only because it can cause deficiencies in vital nutrients for fertility, such as zinc and folic acid, but also because it acts as a toxin to your partner’s sperm, to your egg and to your baby should you get pregnant.


Smoking is also a risk factor – there is an undoubted and proven increased risk of miscarriage if you smoke. It is estimated that smoking is responsible for up to 5,000 miscarriages a year. Even smoking just one cigarette a day reduces the chances of becoming pregnant and increases the likelihood of miscarriage. Passive smoking is also toxic. Research shows that it can increase the risk of miscarriage.


If your partner smokes this can have a direct impact on his sperm in terms of both quality and quantity and some experts believe that chemicals in smoke can damage the DNA in sperm, further increasing the risk of miscarriage.


Certain nutritional deficiencies, for example folic acid, iron, zinc and calcium, can significantly increase your risk of miscarriage – so it is essential to eat well and take a good fertility vitamin and mineral supplement (I use Fertility Plus for Women and Fertility Plus for Men supplements in the clinic – see the Resources Page). A diet rich in fresh whole foods, whole grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes with sufficient amounts of oily fish, nuts and seeds is especially valuable when you are trying to get and stay pregnant. You should avoid nutrient poor processed foods that are high in added sugar or artificial sweeteners, saturated and trans fats, additives and preservatives.


All women of childbearing age should take a daily dose of 400 mcg folic acid in case they fall pregnant, but if you are taking a good fertility supplement this amount of folic acid will already be included. The UK is more deficient in this nutrient than any other European country and good levels of folic acid in early pregnancy can help prevent miscarriage. Research by the Miscarriage Association has also found that two thirds of women who took prenatal supplements reduced their risk of miscarriage by 50 per cent.


What about age? 

When it comes to the risk of miscarriage age is a well-established factor. Women over 40 are five times more likely to miscarry than those aged 25 to 29. But putting into place good lifestyle, dietary and supplement changes can make a difference to the quality of your eggs, no matter what age you are. (For more information on this, see my book ‘Getting Pregnant Faster’.) However, research from the Columbia University School of Public Health in New York has found that the fertility of men also declines with age. The risk of miscarriage was three times greater when the man was aged over 35 than if he were younger than 25. It’s obvious why a woman’s ability to have a healthy pregnancy reduces with age – as women are born with a set number of eggs that age as she does – but it’s less clear why male fertility should decline as men produce fresh sperm all the time. My opinion would be that due to lifestyle factors, stress and poor diet, the man could be producing sperm that are not as healthy as when he was younger. But because men are continually producing sperm, it means that by making sure he is following a healthy diet and not deficient in any vitamins and minerals it is possible to change the quality of the sperm.


Does weight matter?

According to the Miscarriage Association Study women who are underweight with a BMI of under 18.5 per cent are up to 70 per cent more likely to miscarry. At the other end of the scale, quite literally, women who are overweight risk high blood pressure, diabetes and an increased risk of miscarriage. So if you are planning a pregnancy it really makes sense to think about how healthy both your diet and your weight are. You don’t need to be extreme and lose lots of weight as research has shown that changing your weight just a little by eating and living healthily while trying to conceive, and during your pregnancy, is beneficial.


What about exercise and sex?

Staying fit both before you get pregnant and while you are pregnant will help you cope better with the demands of pregnancy, labour and motherhood. And, contrary to popular opinion, there is no link between high intensity workouts and miscarriage. Having said that, it is always best to consult your doctor about the amount of exercise you do when you get pregnant and you should stop exercising immediately if you feel pain, shortness of breath, faint or notice any bleeding.


As far as making love is concerned studies show that sex during pregnancy does not increase your risk of miscarriage. The exception is if you have any bleeding. 



The Miscarriage Association Study also found that women under stress are more likely to miscarry, and experiencing more than two stressful or traumatic events during pregnancy trebled the risk of miscarriage. Worryingly, other studies have found that the most common stressful event was having a demanding or high stress job – especially one with high levels of public contact, such as a nurse.


Stress also affects a man’s hormone balance. Some researchers also believe that stress causes miscarriage because it triggers the production of malformed sperm or eggs if the woman is under stress. Pregnancies created by a damaged sperm or egg tend to result in miscarriages so early that you may not even realise you are pregnant and just think you are having a heavy period.


It’s important to keep things in perspective as far as stress is concerned. Women in Third World Countries who are under huge levels of stress still manage to have successful pregnancies, so getting stressed about the amount of stress in your life is futile. However, if you do find yourself feeling stressed a lot of the time – or unhappy about your relationship or your work life balance – you do need to bear in mind that this could interfere with your fertility.


Recurrent miscarriage

For many women who come to my clinic the problem is not getting pregnant but staying pregnant. All too often they have been told to keep on trying, but new research shows that if the problem is the result of an autoimmune disorder trying again and again can just make things worse. So if you have had one miscarriage already, especially if you are over the age of 35, I strongly advise you to seek advice to help you get to the root of the problem. You are welcome to contact my clinic, or see the information on the link between autoimmune disorders and miscarriage in my book ‘Getting Pregnant Faster’. Above all, don’t give up – but do get help. 


Don’t worry 

In a nutshell, even while planning to get pregnant or in the very early stages, the best thing you can do to prevent the possibility of miscarriage is to look after yourself by following a healthy diet and lifestyle. The next best thing you can do is be happy. The more worried you are about the possibility of miscarriage the more anxious and stressed you will become and, as we’ve seen, stress isn’t good news for a healthy pregnancy.


If you feel anxious, or if something is making you anxious at work or home, try a relaxing class such as yoga, or do something to distract yourself or to change your situation. Remind yourself that the majority of pregnancies turn out just fine. And if you get pregnant and feel terrible because of nausea, comfort yourself with the thought that studies show that women who suffer nausea in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy are almost 70 per cent less likely to miscarry. It seems that the worse the sickness, the better the odds of having a healthy baby. 

In the News: Vitamin D deficiency can increase Caesarean risk

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D are more likely to need a Caesarean, according to the latest study from Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Centre, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.


Researchers checked the blood levels of vitamin D in pregnant women. In total 253 women were enrolled in the study, of whom 17% had a Caesarean section. Some 28 per cent of women with low levels of vitamin D had to have a surgical delivery compared with 14 percent of women with high levels. The researchers also believe there may be a clear link between lack of vitamin D and the pregnancy disorder pre-eclampsia, which requires immediate delivery of the baby and usually involves Caesarean section. The reason vitamin D deficiency causes problems in childbirth are unknown, but it may be related to the fact that lack of vitamin D is linked to poor muscle strength.


Other studies have shown a link between lower levels of vitamin D and a higher risk of cancer, joint pains, heart disease, diabetes and, of course, osteoporosis. Fatty fish, such as mackerel and salmon, is a good source of vitamin D and so are egg yolks. One of the most beneficial sources is the manufacture of vitamin D through the skin from exposure to sunlight. 


Testing vitamin D is done with a simple blood test and if you are deficient then you would supplement with vitamin D for three months, then re-test to make sure that the level is back to normal. If you would like to be tested for vitamin D deficiency then do contact my clinic on 0870 5329244 or go to