Pregnancy

A soaring maternal mortality rate: What does it mean for you?

Since 1990, the maternal mortality rate in the United States, while still relatively low, has risen by 50%. Meanwhile, many other women experience pregnancy-related conditions that cause serious injury, and thousands more struggle with illnesses and a lack of support.

Preterm birth and heart disease risk for mom

A study found that women who delivered a baby before the 37th week of their pregnancy were more likely to have their blood pressure rise later, but preterm birth or other pregnancy complication does not mean that future cardiovascular disease is a given.

Fertility and diet: Is there a connection?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Research continues to explore the connection between fertility and diet. There is some evidence that what you eat can help increase your chances of getting pregnant, but right now the specific advice is simple. If you’re trying to conceive, eat a basic healthy diet, take prenatal vitamins, and talk with your doctor for preconception advice.

Inducing labor: A way to avoid a cesarean?

Toni Golen, MD

Contributor

A study comparing the health of babies delivered by induced labor with those delivered when labor occurred spontaneously also found that the chance of cesarean delivery was lower among the women whose labor was induced.

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.