Pregnancy

The crucial brain foods all children need

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Proper nutrition is crucial for mothers-to-be and their babies, as brain development depends on many nutrients and vitamins, but it’s not always easy or affordable for people to get the healthy foods they need.

Access to safe, affordable birth control is a maternal health issue

When a pregnancy puts the life of the mother at risk, access to birth control is essential. As more women are experiencing medical complications from or with pregnancy or after giving birth, the issue is becoming even more important.

Why parents should save their baby’s cord blood — and give it away

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Because blood cells from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord can be used to treat or cure a variety of diseases, the American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging expectant parents to consider donating this blood to a public bank.

Contrary to popular belief, epidurals don’t prolong labor. Phew.

Hope Ricciotti, MD

Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Challenging a long-held belief, a new study found that women who received epidural anesthesia during labor did not have prolonged labor or higher rates of cesarean births.

Flu shots during pregnancy

A recent small study linked the flu shot during pregnancy with an increased risk for miscarriage. However it did not establish that the flu shot causes miscarriage. Despite these results, pregnant women should be reassured that the benefits of getting a flu shot outweigh any potential risk.

How we can all help protect babies with immunizations

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

In a study of pregnant women, more than half received no information about immunizations for their babies. When they did, it was more likely to be negative if it came from a friend or family member.

Parents: How to manage injuries at home—and when you need to go to the doctor

Claire McCarthy, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Children are usually active and, as they explore the world, don’t have the common sense and good judgment of most adults. So, it is very common for kids to experience minor injuries throughout childhood. Parents need to know when and how to handle injuries at home and when medical advice or attention is needed.

Postpartum depression: The worst kept secret

Postpartum depression carries an unfortunate stigma, as symptoms of depression affect nearly 20% of new mothers. Early detection is key to ensure the best health for not just women, but for their new infants and family members as well. Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options that can support new mothers during a time that can be both joyous and challenging.

Your mom was right: “Morning sickness” means a lower chance of miscarriage

Hope Ricciotti, MD

Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

A majority of women experience some sort of nausea (morning sickness) during pregnancy. Many have speculated that nausea is a good sign that indicates a healthy pregnancy. Until recently, there was little solid evidence to support this belief, but a recent study suggests there is some truth to this old wives’ tale.

Birth control right after having a baby: Why it’s important, why it should be covered

Hope Ricciotti, MD

Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Many women may plan to start using birth control at their six-week postpartum checkup, but as many as 40% of women do not go to a follow-up appointment. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advocates for offering women the option of long-acting, implantable contraceptives in the period immediately following giving birth, before leaving the hospital. It’s safe, effective, and eliminates the need for an outpatient visit during a hectic time. Making postpartum contraception easily available and a covered benefit is essential to reduce unintended pregnancy and rapid, repeat pregnancy rates.