Pregnancy

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

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

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
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

Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisholm, MD, Contributor

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
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

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
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

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

Andrea Chisholm, MD
Andrea Chisholm, MD, Contributor

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
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
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.

What “native” Zika infections mean for the United States

Michaela Kane
Michaela Kane, Contributor

News that mosquitoes in the U.S. carry Zika is concerning, but experts say that Zika likely won’t spread here as it has in Central and South America. The virus poses a danger to pregnant women and their unborn children because Zika may cause microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby’s head is unusually small and the brain does not develop properly. The CDC warns pregnant women, or those trying to become pregnant, to avoid areas with high rates of Zika infection, and warns all travelers to such areas to take certain precautions.

Progesterone supplements don’t help prevent miscarriage

Hope Ricciotti, MD
Hope Ricciotti, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

Miscarriages can be devastating — especially for women who experience recurrent miscarriage, defined as three or more in a row. Doctors used to give these women supplements of progesterone, a hormone that helps maintain a healthy pregnancy. However, a recent study has confirmed that these supplements don’t improve pregnancy outcomes. For those who experience recurrent miscarriage, the best solution may be to simply keep trying.