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Unfortunately, the role of obstetrics has never been to help women give birth. There is a big difference between the medical discipline we call "obstetrics" and something completely different, the art of midwifery. If we want to find safe alternatives to obstetrics, we must rediscover midwifery. To rediscover midwifery is the same as giving childbirth back to women. And imagine the future if surgical teams were at the service of the women and the midwives, instead of controlling them." --Michel Odent, MD, French Obstetrician, 2006
The miracle of birth creates babies, changes women into mothers, and turns individuals into families. Being born and, in turn, giving birth, are the most transformative and miraculous events human beings experience. Yet, in our society, most families experience birth as a technological and medical event, fraught with the possibility of disaster. Currently, 25% of babies born in the United States are surgically delivered from their mothers' bodies. Another 50% are born to mothers who are numb from the waist down and tangled in a web of tubes and wires. The rate of Cesarean section in the United States has more than quadrupled in the past 30 years, with no corresponding improvement in neonatal outcomes. In the midst of all of this birthing technology, the U.S. maintains one of the highest rates of maternal and neonatal mortality among all developed nations. When it comes to birth, most American families equate "safe" with the sterile, closely monitored, technological environment of the hospital. Giving birth in a "sterile" medical environment, designed to monitor and control the birth process, does not improve the quality or safety of birth. In fact, healthy women with low-to moderate-risk pregnancies, giving birth in a hospital is actually less safe than giving birth at home with a trained midwife.
There is an overall cultural belief that women are inadequate. This is the same line of thinking that kept them out of medical schools for centuries. That denied them the vote. That prevented the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Pregnancy and birth are the work women’s bodies are designed for. Women are meant to give birth. Babies are designed to be born, not cut out on some preplanned date and observed in the newborn nursery for 24 hours for the increased risk of respiratory distress that comes with cesarean delivery. If pregnancy and birth were as difficult as the medical community would have us believe, we would have died off as a species a long time ago. Instead, we are overpopulating this poor planet at ever-increasing rates. In one comparative study, the results showed that planned hospital birth resulted in greater numbers of birth injuries, maternal and infant infections, hemorrhages, and low apgar scores than planned, midwife-attended homebirth. Many other studies support these findings and no study has ever proven hospital birth to be safer than planned, midwife-attended homebirth.
Where are the women whom midwives are meant to serve? How is it that an entire population has been convinced that pregnancy is unsafe and birth is dangerous? What can we do as a united population of believers to reverse this nightmare, the final worst result of which may be an entire population of women unable to birth their babies as their bodies were meant to do? The notion of walking into a practitioner’s office and sitting down to discuss when to have an elective cesarean is an absurdity that needs to be stopped before it gains any more momentum. Women give birth. Babies are born. Cesareans are for those rare occasions when the body or the baby cannot tolerate the normal. Women are not told about cesarean scars, about how their bellies, no matter how thin, will always hang over the edge of the scar because the layers of tissue no longer slide back and forth over themselves, but are stuck together with scar tissue. Women are not told of the risks to them or their babies. Women are not told, really told, how long it takes to heal. What makes the notion of an elective cesarean so inviting to so many women?
Most labors today are induced at some point primarily because obstetricians are closing the birth canals of women by placing the expectant mothers in bed, keeping them on their backs and sacrum. "Being forced to immobilize her sacrum in a dorsal position, the laboring woman closes her birth canal up to 30%--a terrible mistake that is only aggravated when the OB chemically whips the uterus to contract violently with either Pitocin or Cytotec", writes Dr. Todd Gastaldo, a chiropractor who deals with the realities of the spine and the sacrum. Most midwives understand the basic physics of birth where as obstetricians seem to want to defy the laws of gravity, deliberately making birth much more difficult than it has to be. Dr. Gastaldo warns us that pressures from a closed birth canal can distort the brain case causing brain bleeds and asphyxiation (prolonging delivery of the baby) of brain tissue. This compression leads to a series of complications forcing interventions--episiotomies, c-sections and drugging of the mother, which of course means the babies are drugged. Mothers in labor are routinely given several different drugs without any way to know if the unborn baby is vulnerable to toxic side effects. The propensity to have an adverse reaction must be multiplied by the number of drugs received, and then must be doubled again for the newborn, whose virgin brain is being directly influenced by these substances. The risk of side effects is both immediate and life-long for infants.
Dr. Gastaldo, says IT'S A CRIME that OBs are closing birth canals and making women beg for the "extra" outlet area. He seems to be alone crying out against the "mass child abuse that is going on when OBs keep birth canals closed when babies get stuck--then performing GRUESOME spinal manipulation--pulling with forceps or vacuums. Sometimes OBs pull so hard they rip spinal nerves out of tiny spinal cords. Sometimes it's fatal--but usually babies "only" have their necks gruesomely wrenched." Gastaldo has no idea why his fellow chiropractors are silent on this issue, an issue of birth canal mechanics and physics that depends on the position of the sacrum during delivery. Dr. Gastaldo goes on to say that, "As naive, impressionable med students, MDs are TRAINED to perform felonies--and not just the close-the-birth-canal felony. OBs are senselessly slicing everything in sight--infant penises, adult vaginas and abdomens." Truly we are still in the Dark Ages of Medicine.
Though surgical capabilities have saved lives and cesareans are part of those surgical capabilities, technology in general has not been kind to birth. It has not been kind to women. Birth is being declared too dangerous for women and for their babies. There are serious reasons why elective cesareans should be avoided as far as possible. When a non-labor cesarean has been scheduled, there is no guarantee that the baby, particularly its lungs, are perfectly mature. Maternal and fetal hormones associated with the progress of labor contribute to the maturation of the lungs. The increased risks of respiratory problems with c-sections are well documented. A non-labor cesarean implies that the fetus has not participated in the initiation of labor. It also implies that the fetus has not been given the opportunity to put into action its system of stress hormones. Breastfeeding difficulties are more probable with a non-labor cesarean than after an in-labor cesarean. Furthermore, the chances for a successful vaginal birth after cesarean seem to be higher in the case of an in-labor cesarean.
Cesarean deliveries are where you turn when there is nowhere else to go, when you’ve tried every position, every mode of support, even Pitocin augmentation and epidurals, when there is absolutely no way a baby can safely be born vaginally and its mother survive as well. Cesareans are about saving lives when genetics provide a woman with a contracted pelvis, or the activities of the fetus tie it up in the cord, or there is a complication like pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) or abruption or placenta previa. Women say they get to skip the pain of labor, but they are not thinking about post-surgical pain while trying to take care of a new baby.
The primary objective should be to reduce the need for drugs, since all drugs used during labor are pharmacological substitutes for the hormones a woman is supposed to release when giving birth. All of them block the release of the natural hormones and don’t have the same behavioral effects. Decreased needs for drugs and lower rates of cesareans should be the result of rediscovering the basic needs of women in labor, rather than a primary objective. The essential first step is to improve our understanding of birth physiology and to rediscover the basic needs of women in labor. These basic needs are shared by all mammals. All mammals need to feel secure when giving birth: They postpone the delivery if there is a predator around.
All mammals need privacy: They have strategies for avoiding observation during the period surrounding birth. Stress hormones, like adrenaline, inhibit the release and the action of the hormone necessary to induce and maintain effective uterine contractions during labor and delivery. The most important aspect of the art of midwifery is, therefore, to protect the mother-to-be against anything that might increase her level of adrenaline. A good understanding of the physiological processes leads the midwife to make sure that nobody is under the effect of adrenaline in the environment of a laboring woman. After thousands of years of culturally controlled childbirth, decades of industrialized childbirth and a proliferation of “methods” of “natural” childbirth, these basic needs have been forgotten.
More and more families are choosing to birth their children in the comfort of their own homes with the help of midwives. Licensed midwives specialize in caring for healthy women throughout their childbearing years. The care provided by licensed midwives differs from that of nurse-midwives in many important ways. Unlike nurse-midwives, who receive their training and practice primarily in hospitals, licensed midwives train and provide care in home and birth center settings. Nurse-midwives typically are unable to spend large amounts of time with individual clients in prenatal visits. Large hospital practices leave clients unsure of which particular nurse-midwife will attend their births. Licensed midwives work in private practices and are able to dedicate great amounts of time to their clients. They recognize that birth is a profound rite of passage and needs to be treated as more than just a medical event. Licensed midwives offer hour-long prenatal visits, providing ample time to perform the necessary checks on mom and baby's physical well being, as well as to address the emotional and spiritual needs of the mother. Families who hire licensed midwives choose and know who will attend their births as licensed midwives do not work in shifts and they remain on call for each of their individual clients.
Birthing at home offers many distinct advantages over birthing in the hospital. In nature mammals instinctively seek out quiet, dark, familiar places to give birth; their labors stop if their space is disturbed. Humans also birth best in privacy, and one's own home is the ideal place to create such surroundings. Most women innately choose to move around during labor, finding the most comfortable positions in which to give birth. At a home birth, midwives encourage such position changes and a woman's freedom of movement is limited only by the size of her house and yard. Licensed midwives also offer their clients the choices of laboring and birthing in water, delivering their babies with their own hands, or having the father catch; none of these options are routinely available at any typical hospital. After birthing at home, mother and infant may bond without interruption. A comprehensive newborn examination is done right on the family bed next to the mother. Home birth also allows for greater sibling involvement in the birth process. If the parents desire, older children can be present at the births of their new siblings, an option that is not routinely available at hospitals, especially during the cold and flu season. The familiar comfort of home makes it the safest birthplace for healthy, low-risk women.
In the safety of their own homes, women are less likely to experience complications of labor, such as hypertension and meconium staining, which may be brought on by stress. The freedom to move about as desired, decreases both length of labor and the need for pain medications, therefore lowering the risk of maternal exhaustion, fetal distress, and cesarean section. Whereas a woman's home usually contains only microbes to which she and her baby are immune to; in daily exposure, the hospital is full of disease-causing microbes, many of which are resistant to most antibiotics. In fact, any person being admitted to an American hospital has a 4 to 10 per cent chance of acquiring a hospital based infection. Newborn babies are especially susceptible to such infections due to their immature immune systems. Birth is by nature unpredictable and in some instances families who choose to birth at home may have to transfer to the hospital for technological assistance. The small chance of such a transfer being necessary should not deter women from planning to birth at home. Birth is a family event and, with very few exceptions, happens most naturally and safely in the mother's home. Families who birth at home with the help of midwives generally report far greater satisfaction with the birth experience than those who have given birth in hospitals.
Women who birth at home and the midwives who attend them understand that birth is as safe as life ever gets, and that attempting to control birth actually causes more complications than it prevents. Midwives maintain the safety and sanctity of the natural birth process, mainly through the practice of non-intervention. When excellent prenatal care has been given, addressing all aspects of a woman's life and relationships, a mother is well equipped to birth her baby with minimal assistance. Midwives specialize in normal birth; they are quick to recognize any deviation from normal and to use the appropriate measures to help correct the situation. Midwives and families who birth at home are not anti-hospital, but feel that the hospital should only be accessed when truly needed. Midwives trust in women's ability to give birth normally and they help instill and reinforce this same trust in the families they serve. Far from being a medical event which must be suffered in order to receive a baby, a midwife-attended homebirth is a joyful celebration of life and the family.
Each year in America, approximately 1% of the births occur in home settings. It is probable that many more homebirths actually took place than statistics show, that weren't recorded due to a discriminatory birth registration practice that places the responsibility for registering midwife-attended homebirths on the parents and requires a different mechanism than is used for any other occurring births. One measure of the safety of birthplace is infant mortality, specifically, neonatal deaths within the first 28 days. According to the Center for Disease Control, there were 19,098 neonatal deaths for 1990 for babies born in a hospital. For those babies born at home, there were 260 newborn deaths. Infant mortality is figured as the number of deaths per 1,000 live births. The death rate for babies born in the hospital was 5.6 and for those born at home was 11.1, which would seem to indicate that a hospital is a better bet for a baby's survival. However, when the homebirth statistics are further broken down into who attended the birth, the picture changes dramatically. Direct Entry Midwives had the best outcomes with a death rate of 1.9 compared to CNM-attended births (2.9) or physicians --D.O.'s (15.1) or M.D.'s.
Until 1900, homebirth was the place of birth for most every American. Over 90% of those alive on earth today were born at home! Hospital or institutional birth is a fairly new occurance, which began to gain in popularity during the 1920's due to physician promotion and increased use of automobiles. As is the case today, it is a much more economic use of a physician's time to attend patients in a single place. There is also an economic incentive since a physician can attend to more than one patient at a time in the hospital and other, less important helpers can attend to the more mundane tasks of birthing. Part of this shift in birthplace must be attributed to the propaganda, denouncing midwives, which took place during this same time. With their economic and organized power, physician groups were able to legislatively increase hospital births by eliminating those who still attended homebirths--by eliminating the midwife. From the 1930's through the 1960's state after state changed their laws to either restrict the practice of midwifery or wipe out the legal practice entirely. Yet no valid study then or to date has proven planned homebirth to be less safe than hospital birth.
In 1900 half of all Americans were born into the hands of a midwife, at home. Early studies comparing the birth outcomes of physicians versus midwives showed that midwives had fewer maternal and infant loses than the doctors. The United States had a very high percentage of maternal deaths compared to other countries. Reports done by the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection, the National Committee on the Costs of Medical Care, and the New York Academy of Medicine in the 1930's all concluded that midwives were safer than physicians. These reports chastised doctors for their frequency of interventions which led to problems. Many physicians, in response to the findings of the reports, placed the blame on the midwives claiming that midwives were "ignorant," "dirty," untrained and a threat to the safety of childbearing women. Medical journals and popular magazines contained many articles bashing midwives and blaming them for the nations appalling maternal mortality and infant mortality rates. Many physicians and public health advocates spoke up for the midwives and their excellent statistics, but the prestige of the anti-midwife physicians and the strong push to move births into the hospitals far over-shadowed their voices. This barrage of anti-midwife articles and propaganda continues today despite the lack of any studies or statistics to prove claims that physicians guarantee the safest outcomes or healthier babies or mothers.
Undoubtedly the number of births attended by midwives of all kinds is higher. In some states, nurse-midwives mainly work as employees under physicians and the insurance companies pay more for a physician attended birth. In order to receive the largest monetary compensation for births, and because the midwife is "under physician supervision" by law, the birth certificate is completed as though the doctor were attending, even if this was not the case. Additionally, in states where Direct Entry Midwives are not licensed or Direct Entry Midwifery is prohibited, many births either go unreported or are reported as unattended or the category of midwife is absent from the birth certificate. Statistics from Center for Disease Control, US Birth Cohort of 1990, Table 43, May 18, 1995.
Figures released in the summer of 2003 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the cesarean rate in the U.S. has reached an all-time high of 26.1 percent. The five states with the highest rates are Mississippi at 31.1 percent, New Jersey at 30.9 percent, Louisiana at 30.4 percent, West Virginia at 29.3 percent, and Alabama at 28.7 percent. Of the 18 states with the highest cesarean rates, 11 are in the South and 8 are in the East.
In contrast, of the 18 states with the lowest cesarean rates, 10 are in the West and 5 are in the Midwest. The states with the lowest cesarean rates are New Mexico, where 25 percent of babies are delivered by midwives, at 19.1 percent, Utah at 19.1 percent, Alaska at 19.4 percent, Idaho at 19.7 percent, and Wisconsin at 20.6 percent.
Both the World Health Organization and the Coalition to Improve Maternity Services suggest that an acceptable cesarean rate is from 10 to 15 percent, a figure based on international scientific evidence. The federal goal of the U.S. is a 15 percent cesarean rate. In the 1960s, the cesarean rate in the U.S. was just 6.6 percent.
The cesarean rate reached its previous high of 24.7 percent in 1988. A public outcry ensued, women insisted on vaginal births after cesarean, and surgical births steadily declined from 1989 to 1996. By 2000, however, the cesarean rate was back up to 22 percent and climbing.
Many experts believe that the rise in the cesarean rate is due to complex factors including doctors' habits and beliefs; the monopoly of obstetrical, hospital birth; the climate of malpractice; increased public acceptance of interventions in childbirth; and lack of education about and public advocacy of normal birth. Tragically, the high rate of surgical birth in the U.S. does not result in better birth outcomes. The current increase in cesarean births means that more women are dying in childbirth; women are four times more likely to die during cesarean birth than during vaginal birth. In fact, in the last 25 years, there has been no decrease in the number of U.S. women who die during pregnancy and birth.
The U.S. ranks 21st among nations in infant mortality and has not improved measurably since the 1970s. The ten countries with the lowest rates are Sweden, Finland, Japan, Norway, Austria, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, and Spain. Since the late 1970s, the U.S. has dropped to and lingered at around 16th in the world in maternal death. Both infant and maternal mortality can be reduced in the U.S. by adopting five standards common in the countries with better birth outcomes. These standards are:
1. Nutrition--The top ten countries place great emphasis on good nutrition and healthy lifestyle; during prenatal visits, women are educated extensively in appropriate diet.
2. Midwifery--Skillful midwifery, not obstetrics, is the standard of birth care in all of the top ten countries. The majority of pregnant women in these countries are cared for exclusively by midwives; teams of midwives and physicians care for a small percentage.
3. Natural childbirth--Unmedicated birth is the standard. Girls grow up familiar with birth, don’t fear its pain and hard work, and appreciate the advantages of childbirth without drugs.
4. Homebirth--Homebirth, not hospital birth, is the standard of care in the top ten countries.
5. Breastfeeding--Breastfeeding rates in the top ten countries are more than 90 percent. Breastfeeding is socially expected in these countries, some of which even have incentives to encourage breastfeeding.
Many studies have been done in an attempt to prove that hospitals are the safest place to birth. Some of the earlier ones included all births, which took place out of the hospital, regardless of the gestational age or planned place of delivery. Those studies included miscarriages, which took place at home, as well as precipitous births, and births that were unattended. To be valid, a study must compare equals and change only one item. One study did this by matching 2,092 women and compared their birth outcomes. The result was that homebirth with a trained attendant was safer than a hospital birth. Most families do not want to know the statistical odds of having a good outcome; they want to know more concretely exactly how a homebirth will be safer. Many studies address this by listing criteria and comparing the results. Many complications seem to occur with greater frequency in the hospital. Many women are told they will need an episiotomy in order to prevent tears but the data from these births shows that this is not so since there were 9 times as many tears in the hospital group! Fetal distress, often cited as the complication necessitating a cesarean section, occurred 6 times more frequently in the hospital group. There were 4 times more newborn infections, 22 times more forceps deliveries, 30 times more birth injuries and 3 times more cesarean sections in the hospital group.
The following statistics, derived from data accumulated between 1940 and 1980, are conservative estimates of lives lost due to our system of treating pregnancy as a medical event requiring medical intervention and care. About 1,000,000 babies died at or before birth that should have lived. About 1,600,000 babies died before their 1st Birthday who should have lived. At least 1,500,000 children were left severely brain damaged by medical procedures. At least 45,000,000 children had minimal brain damage who would have been normal. Today, it is estimated that 50 newborns die unnecessarily each day whose deaths are preventable if the five standards for safe childbearing were employed. This breaks down into a preventable baby death every 29 minutes, every hour of the day, each day of the year. NAPSAC writes, "Since 1940 at least a million babies have died in American hospitals who would have lived were it not for the doctor-dominated maternity system that dictates the Standards for American Childbirth."
Childbirth is not a laboratory project that can be reproduced at will with the outcomes compared with each other. Nor is birth a medical event, like planned surgery, that can be timed, controlled or forced to obtain the desired outcome. Each year, it seems, scientists discover some aspect of birth that had been unknown or unverified. Also, it would seem that the technologies that are initially hailed as the "cure" for a certain problem are found to produce unacceptable side effects, or increase risks for more serious complications. Birth also has a psychological component, which can place some women at incredible risk in a hospital. A recent article in a prestigious magazine looked at homebirth and asked the question, "Is it safe? Is it ethical?" The physician writers concluded that homebirth has a "definite small risk" and that "hospital births entail a wider range of risks." They also felt that since the actual risk factors inherent in a home birth are very small, perhaps 1/1000, and the consequences of the birth decision will be borne exclusively by the parents, physicians should support parents who are willing to accept this risk so as to make the experience as safe as possible.
The Oxford Perinatal Project also came to this conclusion after an exhaustive look at every scientifically valid study performed since the 1950's addressing aspects of care of pregnant and birthing women and their babies. Since science cannot prove homebirth to be less safe than hospital birth, each family has the constitutional right to choose where to give birth. Until science can prove a detrimental effect on those who choose to birth at home, medical personal should support families in their decision. The National Association of Parents and Professionals for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth, NAPSAC, shares this view and asks, "Who is to decide what is the optimal balance between medical and psychological risk? It must be the parents."
In spite of all the advertising touting "home-like" birthing rooms in hospitals, for most women, a hospital birth will be nothing like a home birth. Interventions are routine in the hospitals. Every laboring woman will be hooked up for some period of time to electronic fetal monitor, given vaginal exams, and be told where and in what position she must give birth. If her membranes are ruptured, she will be required to deliver her baby within a certain time period. If her labor is moving too slowly, she will be given pitocin to augment it or have her water artificially ruptured. She will be told how many companions she may have with her. If she has other children she may or may not include them at the birth. How long she is kept in the hospital will vary depending on her physician and the particular hospital. How soon her baby will be released also will depend on the baby's pediatrician and hospital policy. Some of the more common interventions that take place during hospital births are discussed below.
Artificially breaking the amniotic sac is done routinely at many hospitals to speed labor up, get labor going, to test the fluid or to get it out of the way so that an internal monitor can be screwed into the baby's head. It was believed that breaking the water would speed up labor by 30 to 60 minutes, but the only randomized control trial done disproved this. This procedure causes cord prolapse, a serious complication for the baby and increases the chances of an infection. With less amniotic fluid in the uterus during labor, the baby has a greater risk of cord compression problems leading to fetal distress and malpositions of the head.
Nearly every woman giving birth in a hospital will receive a drug at some point during her stay. Pitocin is frequently used to induce or augment labor. Because it causes abnormally strong contractions, many women receive a pain-relieving drug such as a narcotic. Unfortunately, narcotics also are received by the baby and can affect the condition of the baby at birth and for years after. Some of these side effects are respiratory problems, impaired muscular, visual and neural development in the first week of life and in the following years, lower reading and spelling scores, difficulty in solving problems or performing tasks when they pose a challenge. The new drug of choice at many hospitals is the epidural. It must be administered by an anesthesiologist and requires the mother to remain in bed afterward. She must be flushed with an IV fluid prior to getting it to keep her blood pressure up. A needle is inserted into the woman's back and small catheter is left in place where the medication is injected. It numbs the woman's body from the ribs to the toes. Many women ask for this drug because they do not want to deal with the pain of childbirth and believe it is safe for themselves and their babies because the physician who administered it, their obstetrician and the labor and delivery nurses all encourage the use of it and give no information regarding side effects.
The known complications are many ranging from requiring electronic fetal monitor (EFM), IV, immobility, and urinary catheterization. An epidural also may allow no sensation of labor or the pushing urge, lower blood pressure, abnormally relax the pelvic muscles which may encourage the baby to adopt malpositions of the head, may decrease the production of oxytocin at critical times, and increase the need for forceps and cesarean section. Epidurals cause some serious complications such as heart attack, spinal damage, and spinal headache. After the birth, chronic backache is a common complaint as well as headache. The baby may be exposed to narcotic drugs given to enhance the effect of the epidural and which if given alone can compromise the baby's respiratory efforts as well as require the newborn to metabolize the drugs. We do not know the short or long term effects of the epidural or other drugs on the baby. Some claim that the baby is unaffected unless the mother becomes hypotensive.
Some non-interventionist birth attendants recognize that occasionally epidurals may be useful for certain situations. Some examples when an epidural may permit a normal birth are for maternal exhaustion, severe back labor, certain malpresentations or psychological dystocia. Although the FDA approves drugs as safe or unsafe, they have no definition of safe and do not guarantee safety of drugs. Many who work with brain damaged children, believe the disability is due to obstetric drug use. They also question if women would make the drug choice if they were given complete information about side effects. The American Academy of Pediatricians discourages the routine use of obstetric drugs.
This procedure is still done routinely at many hospitals, although no research proves any benefits for the mother or baby. Home birth and natural birth advocates recognize that for the vast majority of women, the process of labor will empty the bowels.
Although many believe that an episiotomy is necessary to have a baby to prevent damage to the baby's head, trauma to the mother's perineum, and the cut will heal faster and prevent 3rd and 4th degree tears, no research supports these myths. Shiela Kitzinger writes that in the U.S., 9 out of 10 American women will have an episiotomy with her first baby, although in Holland, only 2 or 3 out of 10 will. The facts are that episiotomy is a cultural phenomenon. Research shows that episiotomy is done because the doctor was trained to do it, not because it was a necessary procedure. It can be avoided by using more physiologic positions to give birth (not lithotomy), pushing only when mom feels need to, giving birth gently, slowly to the head, preparing for the birth by doing perineal massage and Kegel exercise, avoiding forceps delivery.
Forceps are obstetrical tools which are shaped like large spoons have been in use since the 1500's. Years ago, forceps were used for many problems which are now handled by cesarean section. Today, most forceps deliveries are low forceps, which means they are applied when the babies head is low in the pelvis and birth is imminent. According to Henci Goer, "There is no research to support the elective use of forceps." The risks to the mother are perineal trauma, extensive episiotomy, and possible extension tearing from episiotomy, hematoma, and nerve damage. Lasting effects of forceps or vacuum extraction to the mother may be anal incontinence in spite of a repaired third degree tear. The baby may have damage to the head, eyes, the nerves that lead to the face and neck and arms. However, an article, written by a physician, that appeared in Parents magazine claims, "Medical studies comparing outlet forceps deliveries with spontaneous (no forceps) deliveries have shown that there is no difference in risk to the baby." Vacuum extraction is a newer technology that sometimes takes the place of forceps. As with low forceps, the baby's head must be very low in the pelvis before the suction cup can be attached. It has the benefit of not requiring an episiotomy and maternal perineal trauma is less than with forceps, but the baby still has the possibility of trauma to the head and face. Chiropractors also recognize that pulling a baby out by the head tractions the spinal column and affects alignment, although this is not recognized in any medical texts.
Along with the lithotomy position comes immobility. It is impossible to move around when you are flat on your back. It's even more difficult if you have internal and external fetal monitors attached to your body, an IV running into your arm and after a narcotic drug was given to "take the edge off." If you have an epidural, you will not be going anywhere at all as your legs would have no feeling. Some hospitals encourage walking and moving around. Others do not like you to be out of your room, which may be quite small and loaded with equipment, making any real walking about nearly impossible. Studies have shown that moving about and being upright can shorten labor as well as changing positions.
According to statistics from health departments, one-third of all births in some states are the result of induction, the artificial starting of labor. Most inductions are accomplished using pitocin in an intravenous solution or artificially rupturing the amniotic sac. The reasons for doing this are many. One of the most common for healthy full-term women is fear of going too far past the "due date" and having a baby with postmature syndrome or meconium staining. Another reason is fear of having a big baby.
Benefits of inducing would seem to be avoiding postmature syndrome, attempting to deliver a baby that had grown too big for the mother and bypassing meconium staining. However, studies fail to confirm this line of thought. The actual amount of time needed for a baby to grow to term varies and figuring an exact due date for each baby has not yet been done. Ultrasounds have at best a 10 day window of error if done in the first trimester. The phenomenon of postdates, is poorly understood. Macrosomia occurs prior to postdates as does "postmature syndrome." The entity of postmature syndrome is based on a single physicians "subjective evaluation of 37 babies." Research seems to indicate that watchful waiting is the more prudent course of action for healthy women.
At a great many U.S. institutions, one of the first items of care to be rendered to the obstetric patient will be her IV, "just in case." Just in case she needs drugs or surgery or her veins collapse making insertion of an IV impossible. Many labor and delivery nurses have been interviewed to find out how frequently a laboring woman's veins collapsed They learned that this does not happen. This is not the way birth happens in other nations, where a laboring woman is permitted to eat and drink lightly. This cultural warping began in the 1940's when anesthesia was being given to nearly all birthing women by mask and vomiting and food aspiration were risks associated with this. Eliminating food and drink, they felt would eliminate this risk. Today, however, anesthesia methods have improved and this is no longer the problem it once way. Improved intubation techniques make this problem virtually a thing of the past. It seems that the cause was not eating or drinking prior to the surgery, but caused by incompetence of the anesthesiologist.
General anesthesia is given to approximately 4% of those who undergo cesarean section. Approximately 0.3% cesarean surgeries will require intubation that will be difficult to do yet not all women who require intubation will aspirate. This translates into denying all laboring women food and drink because 1 cesarean-sectioned woman out of 10,000 may aspirate. Although IV's are supposed to keep the stomach empty, a glucose IV actually works to slow down the emptying of the stomach. It also may encourage tissues to swell so that it makes it more difficult to intubate, if that becomes necessary. IV fluid accumulates in the bladder and that may slow down labor. Some women may have sensitivities to the IV and have a reaction from one. It restricts the woman's mobility. The needle in the arm is painful and inhibits free movement. The baby also may suffer from the mother's IV, as studies are being done to determine if the excessive sugar administered through a glucose IV may harm the baby.
Lithotomy used to be the position of choice for physicians doing hospital births. The mother lies flat on her back with her knees in the air. It is a most unphysiologic position for mom and baby, but it does give the physician a good view of the mother's perineum. While in this position, the mother must push the baby out uphill. It is known to cause fetal distress due to the baby lying on the mother's arteries and veins. Most women will not choose this position if given alternatives. Dr. Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia is considered an expert on this position for labor and delivery. He and his researchers found that this lithotomy or supine position is the worst one for laboring women because it adversely affects every facet of birth: makes labor more painful, reduces uterine activity, and can dangerously lower blood pressure. He says, "Except for being hanged by the feet, the supine position is the worst conceivable position for labor and delivery."
Electronic fetal monitoring is required at nearly every hospital for at least a short time. When it was first available, it was used only for the most high risk situations. However, it is now used for everyone regardless of risk status. A large reason why EFM is used so extensively is that staff is in short supply and this technology allows for fewer caregivers. There are two kinds of monitors: external and internal. The external monitors are attached to a heavy elastic band that is strapped across the mother's abdomen. She must lie quietly so the monitors do not slip. The baby's heartbeat is recorded on a machine that documents the moment-to-moment heart rate on graph paper along with the mother's contractions. The internal monitor does the same things, but it is attached directly into the baby's head by a metal screw. The uterine contractions are monitored by a probe that is inserted into the uterus. Some feel that this is a more accurate reading. During most labors and deliveries, no other method of monitoring the baby's heart rate will be used.
However, EFM does not reduce infant deaths, improve outcomes or give information that permits potentially bad situations to be corrected or avoided. The strips are frequently mis-read. One study found that 71-95 % of babies diagnosed by EFM as distressed were not. Additionally, studies have shown that most causes of brain damage are not related to actual distress during the birth process but rather due to distress prior to labor. In spite of near universal use of EFM, little evidence exists that any change has taken place in the numbers of brain-damaged babies being born. Auscultation with a fetascope, stethoscope, pinard horn and other low-tech devices for listening to the baby have been found to be as effective for monitoring most laboring women. The risks of using EFM are well known: higher intervention rate of all kinds due to misinterpretation of strips leading to a misdiagnosis of fetal distress. The use of EFM may increase the risk of cerebral palsy by increasing the risk of infection. More babies have abnormal fetal heart rate patterns when monitored by EFM than by auscultation, and it may be that this finding is caused by EFM rather than simply being detected by it. Mothers may report not remembering parts of their labors due to anxiety that was created by using the monitors. One of the greatest risks to the baby who receives an internal monitoring electrode is that of infection at the insertion site. The woman with a history of herpes may be wise to forego internal monitoring out of concern of passing this disease on to her baby via the scalp electrode.
Immediate cord clamping is clearly identified as a cause of newborn neurological (brain) injury ranging from neonatal death through cerebral palsy to mental retardation and behavioral disorders. Immediate cord clamping has become increasingly common in obstetrical practice over the past 20 years; today, rates of behavioral disorders (e.g., ADD/ADHD) and developmental disorders (e.g., autism, Asperger's, etc) continue to climb and are not uncommon in grade school. A major error in modern obstetrical practice is routine premature clamping of the umbilical cord. The error was defined very clearly over 200 years ago: "Another thing very injurious to the child, is the tying and cutting of the navel string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but until all pulsation in the cord ceases. As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta, which ought to have been in the child." Erasmus Darwin, (Charles Darwin's grandfather) 1801.
Despite repeated publications illustrating the effects of the error, and official notification, medical academia and its peer review press have yet to acknowledge the possibility of any error. Public exposure and knowledge of the issue is intended to accelerate correction of the error. The nature of the injury caused by this practice unhappily precludes a cure; for the unfortunate parents of an impaired child, the knowledge may assuage any guilt they may have and give them reassurance regarding future births. Modern obstetrics ignores the normal functions of the cord and placenta from the moment that the child is born, and in most hospitals the umbilical cord is clamped and cut at the earliest convenient time after birth. At premature births and when the newborn is depressed or "at risk," immediate cord clamping is routinely performed in order to rush the child to a resuscitation table and to obtain cord blood samples for medico-legal purposes.
Placental blood, which ought to have been in the child, is either thrown away or used to provide stem cells or other commercial products. Doctors are taught (and believe) that delayed cord clamping / placental transfusion gives the baby too much blood, (hypervolemia) while neonatal intensive care units (NICU) are filled with weak, fast-clamped newborns exhibiting signs of severe blood loss--pallor, hypovolemia (low blood volume) anemia, (low blood count) hypotension (low blood pressure), hypothermia (cold), oliguria (poor urine output), metabolic acidosis, hypoxia (low oxygen supply), and respiratory distress (shock lung)--to the point that some need blood transfusions and many more receive blood volume expanders.
At this point, an explanation of the terms anemia, polycythemia, hypovolemia and hypervolemia is required. Blood is a mixture of red cells and plasma, a fluid. Blood is usually about half cells and half plasma. When blood contains too few cells, the term anemia is used; the blood is "dilute." Polycythemia means there are too many red cells--"concentrated" blood. The -volemia terms refer to the total volume of blood in the child's heart and blood vessels; blood vessels are elastic and are constantly filled by the heart pumping blood through them, like a long, circular balloon. Too much blood volume (hypervolemia) overworks the heart and overfills the "balloon." Too little blood volume (hypovolemia) lets the balloon and the heart collapse; it makes no difference if the blood is diluted or concentrated. Anemia and polycythemia are about the quality of blood; hypo- and hyper-volemia are about quantity of blood. An anemic baby may be hypervolemic--too much fluid, and a polycythemic child may be hypovolemic--dehydrated. A normal child that suffers acute blood loss will have a normal blood count and low blood volume (hypovolemia). During recovery from the hemorrhage, blood volume is restored with fluid (plasma), and the child becomes anemic (diluted blood) as it takes much longer to restore the lost red cells. Early infant anemia is a strong indication that the child has suffered significant previous blood loss.
Humans and all other mammals have evolved, over millions of years, a very safe mechanism for closing umbilical cords at birth without interrupting "breathing," and ensuring optimal survival of their offspring. An occasional natural accident such as a ruptured cord may rarely occur, but it is biologically impossible for that mechanism to routinely give a child too much, or too little, blood; mammals that routinely give their offspring the wrong amount of blood for survival become extinct in one generation. Erasmus Darwin's late clamping method is safe because the tie is placed on vessels that the child has already closed physiologically (by natural constriction) after it has received the right amount of blood; the tie does no harm because it virtually does nothing. Safe cord closure at birth involves closing the placental life support system and starting the child's life support systems without significant interruption of life support during the changeover process. Oxygen supply and blood to carry the oxygen are crucial to life support; blue blood contains little oxygen, red (pink) blood is saturated with oxygen. Brain cells die quickly from lack of oxygen; they do not regenerate, and asphyxiation (choking / lack of oxygen) for about six minutes will cause permanent brain damage.
Before birth, the lungs are filled with fluid and very little blood flows through them; the child receives oxygen from the mother through the placenta and cord. This placental oxygen supply continues after the child is born until the lungs are working and supplying oxygen--that is, when they are filled with air and all the blood from the right side of the heart is flowing through them. When the child is crying and pink, the cord vessels clamp themselves. During this interval between birth and natural clamping, blood is transfused from the placenta to establish blood flow through the lungs. Thus the natural process protects the brain by providing a continuous oxygen supply from two sources until the second source is functioning well.
Placental blood transfusion occurs by gravity or by contraction of the mother's uterus which forces blood into the child. Transfer of blood into the child through the cord vein can occur after the arteries are closed (no cord pulsation). The transfusion is controlled by the child's reflexes (cord vessel narrowing) and is terminated by them when the child has received enough blood (cord vessel closure). The switch from placental to pulmonary oxygenation also involves changing the fetal circulation to the adult circulation--the one-sided heart (body blood flow only) changes to a two-sided heart (blood flows through the lungs, then through the body). Ventilation of the lungs and placental transfusion effect this change. This is a very basic account of a very complex process. It all happens usually within a few minutes of birth, and when the cord pulsations have ceased and the child is crying and pink, the process is complete. Clamping the cord during the changeover process disrupts these life support systems and may cause serious injury.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) advocate immediate cord clamping at birth before the child has breathed. This instantly cuts off the placental oxygen supply and the child remains asphyxiated until the lungs function. Blood, which normally would have been transfused to establish the child's lung circulation, remains clamped in the placenta, and the child diverts blood from all other organs to fill the lung blood vessels. After immediate clamping, the normal term baby usually has enough blood to establish lung function and prevent obvious brain damage, but it is often pale, weak, and slow to respond. Occasionally, a child will cry as soon as the head is delivered, and the uterine contraction that delivers the child may also squeeze in some placental transfusion before the fast clamp can be applied; however, cord clamping before the first breath always causes some degree of asphyxia and loss of blood volume: (1) It totally cuts off the infant brain's oxygen supply from the placenta before lungs begin to function. (2) It stops placental transfusion--the transfer of a large volume of blood (up to 50% increase in total blood volume) that is used mainly to establish circulation through the child's lungs to start them functioning.
While ICC is a danger to all newborns, if a child is born asphyxiated and depressed following fetal distress from cord compression (e.g. a tight cord around the neck) immediate cord clamping may very well be fatal. A child deprived of oxygenated placental blood before birth is in dire need of oxygenated blood after birth. Immediate clamping in such circumstances often produces a hypovolemic and asphyxiated child who cannot begin to breathe adequately to relieve the asphyxia; oxygen in the lungs will never reach the brain if the newborn does not have enough blood to flow from lungs to brain. The medical term for the condition that causes cerebral palsy (CP) is hypoxic, ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Hypoxic means lack of oxygen--the child has no placental oxygen supply; ischemic means lack of blood flow--half of the child's blood is in the placenta; encephalopathy means brain damage. HIE is often treated with blood transfusion or blood volume expanders after a large part of the child's own oxygenated blood has been discarded with the placenta. In addition, babies with HIE usually develop anemia. The obvious correct way to resuscitate the depressed child is to keep the cord and placenta functioning while ventilating the lungs. If a child is born depressed with a knot in the cord, should the knot be loosened or tightened? A newborn depressed from lack of blood and lack of oxygen is quickly restored to normal with a large transfusion of oxygenated placental blood and is unlikely to develop HIE. Rapid restoration of oxygenation is crucial in preventing brain damage in the depressed child, and that child must have enough blood to transport oxygen to the brain.
If hypoxic brain damage has occurred before birth, placental oxygenation and transfusion will not cure it after birth--nothing will--but progression of the damage will be prevented. Blood transfusion given after the child has developed HIE will not restore the dead brain cells. Blood transfusions given in the NICU are usually examples of "too little and much too late." Fetal distress (intra-partum asphyxia from cord compression, such as occurs with a cord prolapsed during labor (a cord squeezed between the head and the cervix,) may be rapidly reversed by relieving the compression--elevating the presenting part (head) or changing the mother's position. The fetal heart rate and monitor tracing soon return to normal and at delivery by emergency c-section, the child may show no sign of asphyxiation. The same result can be obtained at birth in a child asphyxiated with a tight cord around the neck by reducing (unwinding) the cord and allowing the placental circulation to resuscitate the child. The current standard obstetrical practice is to clamp the cord immediately to obtain a cord pH--this maximizes the asphyxiation and hypovolemia, and accelerates HIE; the life-saving blood in the placenta is thrown away while parts of the child's brain die.
The varying degrees of cerebral palsy and spastic paralysis are usually evident soon after birth in the movement and reflexes of the child, but lesser degrees of hypoxic, ischemic brain damage may remain hidden for years. Iron deficiency anemia in infants is associated with learning disorders and behavioral problems to the point of mental retardation when these children reach grade school; the degree of mental retardation increases with more severe degrees of infant anemia. At birth, no newborn is anemic; adequate iron is supplied from the mother regardless of her iron status. Any newborn that receives a full placental transfusion at birth has enough iron to prevent anemia during the first year of life. It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that full placental transfusion will prevent the mental retardation, behavioral disorders and learning disabilities that occur following infant anemia. The immediately clamped newborn may be missing one third to one half of its normal blood volume and is very prone to develop infant anemia, and as shown previously, it is also at risk for hypoxic, ischemic brain damage at birth.
While some studies on treatment of the anemia in infancy have shown some behavioral improvement, most studies show no improvement or prevention of the brain dysfunction following correction of anemia, making it difficult to establish a cause and effect relationship between anemia and brain dysfunction. In HIE and CP (severe brain dysfunction) anemia develops AFTER the brain is damaged. Moderate hypovolemia and hypoxia at birth will produce infant anemia; it may also cause undiagnosed minor brain damage that will later produce behavioral defects. Evidence strongly points to infant anemia and behavioral brain dysfunction having a common cause--immediate cord clamping; in other words, both anemia and brain dysfunction are effects, not a cause and an effect.
In a comprehensive review of cord clamping in 1982, Linderkamp concluded: "immediate clamping can result in hypovolemia and anemia. A medium placental transfusion appears to be more appropriate in order to avoid the risk of hyperviscosity, whereas iron deficiency in later infancy is probably less dangerous." And in a similar review in 1981, Peltonen stated: "Closing of the umbilical circulation before aeration of the lungs has taken place is a highly unphysiological measure, which should thus be avoided. Although the normal infant survives without harm, under certain unfavorable conditions, the consequences may be fatal." Within a few years, reports of these unharmed, "normal," anemic infants being mentally retarded in grade school began to appear in the literature. While Linderkamp never proved that hyperviscosity, (a hematocrit of >65%) was any risk at all to a newborn, Peltonen's remarks were based on his observations of newborns' chests viewed under a fluoroscope, and he described incomplete filling of the cardiac ventricles (decrease in heart size) following immediate clamping; his use of the word "fatal" indicates that, after immediate clamping, he witnessed a cardiac arrest that was not reversed. His blunt advice to avoid the procedure (he mentions no exceptions) emphasizes that the "normal" child may not be free from risk. He did not advise repeating his experiment; ACOG and SOGC do. Cardiac arrest, or inadequate cardiac output for a few minutes, will produce permanent brain damage.
1. That immediate cord clamping is no longer officially sanctioned as standard care.
2. That the person who clamps the cord before the lungs are oxygenating the child should have sound, documented, clinical justification for doing so and
3. That the person who clamps the cord immediately or prematurely is individually responsible and liable for the resulting injuries.
Pregnancy cannot be normal unless magnesium levels are adequate. The concentration of magnesium in the placental and fetal tissues increases during pregnancy. The requirements for this element in a pregnant woman’s organism generally exceed its supply; hence, pregnancy should be considered a condition of “physiological hypomagnesemia.
The role of magnesium begins its importance when we are in the womb. During pregnancy, magnesium helps build and repair body tissue in both mother and fetus. A severe deficiency during pregnancy may lead to preeclampsia, birth defects, and infant mortality. Magnesium relaxes muscles and research suggests that proper levels of magnesium during pregnancy can help keep the uterus from contracting until week 35. Dropping magnesium levels at this point may start labor contractions.
In animal studies, it has been shown that magnesium plays a role in ovule maturation, sperm viability, and fertilization. In rats pregnancy cannot be normal unless the food contains an adequate supply of magnesium. Severe or mild deficiencies affect the site of fetal implantation and, if they are prolonged, lead to abortion in the first instance and pathological disorders in the latter.
The evidence is clear that inadequate magnesium intake is common during pregnancy and that the plasma levels of magnesium tend to fall, especially during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy.
Magnesium is needed for reproductive fertility and the use of pharmaceutical contraceptives is known to diminish magnesium stores in our body. The rate of premature births has increased more than 30 percent since 1981, but an obvious central cause is ignored by doctors. Magnesium plays a crucial role in fertility, pregnancy, and in early newborn life, and many of the problems associated with pregnancy and birth can be resolved by magnesium supplementation.
Primary magnesium deficiency may occur in fertile women. Gestational magnesium deficiency is able to induce maternal, fetal, and pediatric consequences that might last throughout life. Experimental studies of gestational Mg deficiency during pregnancy may have marked effects on the processes of parturition and of post uterine involution. It may interfere with fetal growth and development from teratogenic effects to morbidity—i.e. hematological effects and disturbances in temperature regulation. Clinical studies on the consequences of maternal primary Mg deficiency in women have been insufficiently investigated. Magnesium is frequently used as a the treatment for stopping premature labor and the seizures of eclampsia at the point it starts, but might be more helpful in preventing these if supplemented throughout the course of pregnancy.
Magnesium deficiency/depletion is involved in the etiology of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Magnesium prevents hemorrhaging in the brains of infants whose mothers have this form of hypertension. Several randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have provided compelling evidence that MgSO4 (magnesium sulfate) is the substance of choice for maternal seizure prophylaxis in pre-eclampsia, whether preterm or term. Scientists have shown that giving magnesium sulfate to pregnant women may greatly reduce the incidence of cerebral palsy in infants born weighing less than 3.3 pounds. These low-birth-weight infants are 60-75 times more likely to develop cerebral palsy than babies that reach a normal weight before birth—and the number of children with cerebral palsy is growing. In studies done, another surprising outcome was the reduction of mental retardation when magnesium was provided during pregnancy.
From Byron Richards PhD. we learned that the dangers of psych drugs during pregnancy and lactation have been reported for a number of years. However, within the past six months a stunning amount of new data has become available which I will now summarize for you. A lot of this information is new since the Senate bill was first crafted. Any Senator who was truly interested in the health and well being of mother and child would put the Mothers Act on hold until the true risks of these drugs are fully known. It is completely irresponsible of Senators to create laws which will directly injure mothers, unborn children, and new babies.
It is a well known scientific fact that psych drugs readily cross the placenta and expose the fetus to pharmacologically active levels of these drugs. It is also known that nursing mothers have pharmacologically active levels of these drugs in their breast milk.
Exposing a fetus or new baby to these drugs is far different than exposing the adult nervous system which has already established brain circuitry. The fetus’s evolving nerves are trying to form core nerve circuitry (like computer hardware) that cannot easily be changed later, establishing connections throughout the body such as to the heart and lungs, and setting up how these organs will be run by the nerves over the course of a lifetime. Available evidence clearly shows that psych drugs interfere with these natural processes and pose a grave risk to the unborn a risk that can result in a lifetime of poor health.
A meta-analysis published in May of 2007 showed that women taking antidepressants in the first trimester of pregnancy had a 72% increased risk for a child with cardiac malformation (birth defect). A study published in Dec of 2006 reviewed earlier studies showing that the use of antidepressants during any phase of pregnancy carried serious risks for birth defects, especially cardiovascular. It reviewed a Danish study showing 60% increased risk, an American study showing 100% increased risk, and a Swedish study showing 120% increased risk for cardiovascular defects. The American study showed 4% of women who used antidepressants during pregnancy had a baby with any type of birth defect; 2% of women having babies with cardiovascular birth defects. It is clear that antidepressant medication interferes with how nerves communicate to the heart as the fetus is evolving.
A Dec of 2007 Dutch study reports on the broad array of side effects in babies whose mothers took antidepressants during pregnancy. These include respiratory distress, feeding and digestive disturbances, irritability, and convulsions. The authors also point out that animal studies have shown “permanent changes in specific parts of the brain and altered behavior in adulthood after perinatal exposure to SSRIs.” A Dec of 2007 Swedish study confirms much of this information, again pointing out the high rates of respiratory distress, convulsions, hypoglycemia, and overall poor health (low Apgar scores). An Oct of 2006 study explains that 30% of babies born to mothers who used antidepressants have significant inability to adapt (adjusting to being born and then thriving). This means that even when there are not blatant birth defects, general health of the newborn is compromised across the boards an incredibly dangerous situation.
Indeed, data published in Oct of 2006 showed mothers who took antidepressants are much more likely to have premature deliveries and low birth weight babies indicative of general malnutrition induced by antidepressant medication. Studies in sheep clearly show that this is because antidepressants reduce the flow of blood to the uterus, in turn reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrition that can get to the baby.
An Oct of 2007 U.S. study reviewed the animal data that shows exposure to antidepressants causes lifelong abnormalities in behavior and stress tolerance. A Feb of 2005 study demonstrated that 2 month old infants already had a depressed and inappropriate response to pain a key factor indicating disturbed development of the nervous system. This issue is directly related to properly coping with stress or pain as an adult, the failure of which leads to anxiety, fibromyalgia, and increased risk for sudden death from a cardiovascular event. This is a profound neurologic change because it means that the developing nervous system, as a result of exposure to psych meds, has been “traumatized,” adversely priming nerves to hyper-react to future stress.
Several studies have tried to identify childhood behavioral and attention issues in those exposed to psych drugs during pregnancy. (Jan of 2007, June of 2006) While poor coping trends are evident, a clear pattern has not emerged because these children are still living in high stress environments due to parental instability which is never good for children whether they have been exposed to medication or not.
The bottom line of all of this information about psych drug use during pregnancy is that it is one huge experiment with many unknown and likely adverse health consequences. Once again we see the failure of the FDA to protect the public, as the FDA does not demand Big Pharma do studies to prove these drugs are safe for pregnant women. To the contrary, most available science tilts in the direction that they are quite unsafe and carry extreme risks for the baby with ominous implications for future poor health for the child and health care costs to society. Senators in favor of this legislation, which would steer 80% of pregnant women on to these meds, need their heads and morality examined. They should be personally held accountable to the mothers whose babies their law injures.
By Bruce E. Levine
Today in the United States, 11 percent of women take antidepressants, the use of antidepressants by pregnant women has dramatically increased, and postpartum depression, rare in those cultures in which women receive high levels of social support following childbirthhas become so staggeringly common among U.S. women that Congress is legislating increased medical treatment.
Receiving little attention in 2007 was the study "Increasing Use of Antidepressants in Pregnancy," published by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Medical records of 105,335 pregnant women enrolled in Tennessee Medicaid from 1999-2003 revealed that antidepressant use during pregnancy increased from 5.7 percent in 1999 to 13.4 percent in 2003.
Among Tennessee Medicaid-treated women in 2003, 10 percent took antidepressants during the first trimester, 6.4 percent used antidepressants during the second trimester, and 5.9 percent used them during the third. White women were four times more likely than nonwhite women to have used antidepressants during pregnancy, and older women and those with greater schooling were also more likely to have used antidepressants while pregnant.
In another study of pregnant women treated at seven health maintenance organizations (HMOs), American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported in February 2008 that "antidepressant use in pregnancy nearly quadrupled from 1996 to 2005" and that nearly 8 percent of pregnant women used antidepressants in 2005.
To the delight of antidepressant manufacturers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently told Americans that we need not worry about the effects of Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft and other antidepressants on newborns. In June 2007, the CDC issued a press release stating "New Study Finds Few Risks of Birth Defects from Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy." CDC epidemiologist Jennita Reefhuis concluded, "Overall, our results are generally reassuring with respect to the use of antidepressants during pregnancy."
This CDC press release was trumpeted by many U.S. newspapers with headlines such as "Antidepressants Not Big Risk for Defects" (Associated Press) and "Reassurance on Antidepressants in Pregnancy" (The Wall Street Journal). However, the actual research findings are the opposite of reassuring.
We have all heard about "crack babies" (newborns addicted to crack cocaine because their mothers were using it during pregnancy). What about "Paxil babies"? In 2006 the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine reported that 30 percent of infants who had prenatal exposure to antidepressants experience some withdrawal symptoms, with 13 percent of them experiencing severe ones, most notably tremors, respiratory distress, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, and high-pitched crying. Other withdrawal symptoms include rapid heartbeat, irritability, feeding difficulties, and profuse sweating.
There are several other serious problems that newborns are more likely to suffer when exposed in-utero to antidepressants. A 2006 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) alert stated, "A recently published case-control study has shown that infants born to mothers who took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) after the 20th week of pregnancy were 6 times more likely to have persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) than infants born to mothers who did not take antidepressants during pregnancy." In persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, the newborn's arteries to the lungs are constricted, this limiting the amount of blood flow to the lungs and therefore the amount of oxygen into the bloodstream. The FDA alert also noted, "Neonatal PPHN is associated with significant morbidity and mortality."
It turns out that the CDC based its approval of antidepressant use during pregnancy on studies in which women were taking antidepressants the month before they became pregnant or in the first three months of pregnancy. But is it even in fact safe for newborns if mothers use antidepressants only in the first trimester?
Antidepressant use in first trimester, according to the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007, is associated with more than double the risk of anencephaly (birth without forebrain), omphalocele (the child's abdomen does not close properly allowing intestines and other organs to protrude outside the body), and craniosynostosis (premature closure of the connections between the bones of the skull before brain growth is complete).
What then is the rationale of those medical authorities who encourage antidepressant use among depressed pregnant mothers? Their claim is that while antidepressants might present some risks, the stress of not receiving medication for depression is more risky for the newborn and mother. However, the research simply does not back up this claim.
Two major studies comparing the health of newborns from depressed mothers who took antidepressants versus newborns of depressed mothers who did not take antidepressants show that newborns are better off with mothers not taking antidepressants. In 2007 the American Journal of Psychiatry reported that the preterm birth rate of antidepressant exposed newborns was 14.3 percent as compared to 0 percent for newborns of depressed mothers who did not use antidepressants; and the rate of admission to the special-care nursery is more than double for antidepressant exposed infants compared to infants of depressed mothers who did not use antidepressants. These findings echo those reported in a 2006 Archives of General Psychiatry study using health data from a large sample of infants in British Columbia, Canada during a 39-month period.
Moreover, there is no evidence that antidepressant use by depressed pregnant mothers lowers their likelihood of suicide, and there is a great deal of evidence that antidepressant use can make some people manic, agitated, and violent. And while millions of people swear by their antidepressants, there is increasing evidence that antidepressants do not work much better than placebos. In 2002 Prevention & Treatment reported an analysis of forty-seven studies that had been sponsored by drug companies on Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa, and Serzone. Many of these studies had not been published but all had been submitted to the FDA, so researchers used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the data. They discovered that in the majority of the trials, the antidepressant failed to outperform a sugar pill placebo.
For politicians, a much safer issue than pushing antidepressants for pregnant mothers is promoting the expansion of medical treatment for postpartum depression. In 2007 the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the "Melanie Blocker-Stokes Postpartum Depression Research and Care Act" and sent it to the U.S. Senate, which renamed it the Mothers Act. The stated goal of the Mothers Act, currently in committee, is to "ensure that new mothers and their families are educated about postpartum depression, screened for symptoms, provided with essential services, and to increase research at the National Institutes of Health on postpartum depression."
But will the Mothers Act merely ensure that federal dollars are used to identify more pregnant and postpartum women as depressed and then convince them that antidepressants are safe and effective? After all, while psychiatry authorities and antidepressant manufacturers admit that antidepressants used by nursing mothers do in fact enter breast milk, they maintain that antidepressant concentration in breast milk is too low to be terribly concerned about (though they do acknowledge that there are no long-term studies to confirm this).
In the "Findings" section of the Mothers Act we are told that postpartum depression is a "devastating mood disorder" and that "postpartum depression is a treatable disorder if promptly diagnosed by a trained provider." But inconvenient truths about postpartum depression are omitted. Not many in Congress would vote for legislation that stated the following: The U.S. could eliminate much of postpartum depression by transforming American values, culture, and economics.
The Mother Act states that "postpartum depression occurs in 10 to 20 percent of new mothers." It should state that postpartum depression occurs in 10 to 20 percent of American mothers. A 2004 BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal) cross-cultural review reported that postpartum depression is rare in Fiji and in traditional African and Chinese populations. The BMJ authors concluded that "structured social supports after childbirth are described in groups of women with low rates of postpartum depression." Structured social supports for women after childbirth are decidedly missing from American culture.
The Mothers Act findings also neglects the 1996 British Journal of Psychiatry finding that postpartum depression is associated with unemployment of the mother (no job to return to), unemployment of the head of the household, unplanned pregnancies, and not breast-feeding.
And the Mothers Act omits relevant truths about Melanie Blocker-Stokes, the woman for whom the initial House bill was named for. Blocker-Stokes was a pharmaceutical sales manager who began suffering severe symptoms of depression after the birth of her child, and she did in fact receive extensive psychiatric treatment. She was hospitalized three times in seven weeks, given four combinations of anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, and antidepressant medications, and underwent electroconvulsive therapy (electroshock). But despite her psychiatric treatmentor because of itMelanie Blocker-Stokes jumped to her death from the twelfth floor of a Chicago hotel.
Postpartum depression could be dramatically reduced in the United States with a political will to transform American society from one that is dominated by money, productivity, and consumption to one that has vital communities which put energy into caring about the well being of new mothersas do cultures where postpartum depression is rare.
The rate of U.S. depression has increased more than tenfold in the last fifty years. During that same time, Americans have received increasing medical treatment for depression, especially antidepressants, which currently gross more than $13 billion annually in the U.S. Nowadays, drug companies, psychiatry officialdom, and U.S. governmental authorities recommend antidepressants even for pregnant women, and an increasing number of American newborns discover that their first worldly challenge is withdrawing from Zoloft.
When exactly will be the appropriate time to challenge mental health professional pretensions and rebel from cultural craziness?
Birth is a normal, natural process that's been around since the beginning of humanity. As with any other task the body was created to perform, when you support normal functioning, you have your best chance of success. The road down the birth canal and out into the world can be a trying one, particularly in the case of medical intervention and high-tech births. (A Journal of the American Medical Association study showed the
Traumatic birth syndrome describes the presence of trauma-induced skull, spinal damage and spinal misalignment as a result of the birth process. Imagine going through it with a mother lying on her back, working against gravity and on medications to increase the intensity of labor and numb the delivery muscles. Combine that with common surgical interventions, and the birthing process becomes exponentially more traumatic. And, when you think about it, it should be no surprise vertebral subluxation (misalignment and/or damage of the spine) in infants is a common reality.
During the pushing stage of labor, the spine may be injured as the fetus is compressed and pushed down the birth canal. The most frequent cause of subluxation in infants is the pulling, twisting and compression of the infant's spine during birth, leading to respiratory depression and other illness. If something alters the normal birth process, subluxations will frequently occur at the point of greatest stress (upper and lower cervical vertebrae). While in severe cases, these can result in more obvious, clinical nerve damage such as nerve palsies, more frequently subluxations remain subclinical, with health issues arising at a later time.
These issues can range from colic, sleep disorders and symptoms of lowered immunity to poor development and more. "Subluxations should be analyzed and corrected as soon as possible after birth to prevent these associated conditions," says pediatric expert Dr. Maxine McMullen. These subluxations have been found to be severe enough to lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) due to the pressure they cause upward toward the lower brain as well as creating numerous other disorders common to newborns, infants and young children. Reports show chiropractic care can be helpful in such diverse disorders as cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, ear infections, the prevention of SIDS and others.
While chiropractic care is not a treatment for anything, the benefits of adjusting subluxation to remove interference has been particularly telling in the case of small children. The facts show young people need chiropractic care as much as or more than anyone to maximize proper development and minimize the advent of common infant symptoms and disease. One of the most interesting studiesbased on the examination and adjustment of 1,000 infantswas done by Dr. Gutmann, a German physician. He concluded blocked nerve impulses at the level of the first vertebrae can be a cause of central motor impairment and lower resistance to infections, especially those of the ear, nose and throat.
One example of Dr. Gutmann's published case studies describes an 18-month-old boy with early relapsing tonsillitis, frequent enteritis, drug therapy resistive conjunctivitis, frequent colds and earaches and increasing sleeping problems. After the first specific adjustment, the child was put to bed and slept peacefully until morning. The conjunctivitis cleared up completely, and his previously disturbed appetite returned to normal.
Dr. Gutmann's research showed the 1,000 children treated had success, almost without exception, for a variety of ailments after spinal adjustments at the atlas.
Symptoms to have responded favorably included the following:
*Congenital torticollis *Cerebral spasms
*Disturbed mental and especially linguistic development *Disturbed motor responses with repetitive falls
*Recurrent rhinitis *Infantile scoliosis
*Bronchitis tonsillitis *Distortion of ilio-sacral joint
*Enteritis (inflammation of the intestine) *Growing pains
*Persistent conjunctivitis *Appetite disturbance
*Restless sleep *Inability to thrive
*Unmotivated central seizures
"If the indications are correctly observed," Dr. Gutmann said, "Chiropractic can often bring about amazingly successful results, because the therapy is a causal one. With developmental disturbances of every kind, the atlanto-occipital joints should be examined and in each case be treated manually in a qualified manner. The success of this treatment eclipses every other attempt at treatment, including especially the use of medications.
Questions to Ask
How long has she been a midwife?
Where did she attain her training?
How long did she train?
How many births did she attend while under supervision?
How many children does she have and where were her births attended and by whom?
How many mothers has she delivered and how many were home births?
Does she work alone? With apprentices? Other midwives?
What happens if she must transfer to the hospital?
What is her transfer rate?
What are her views on episiotomy? What is her rate?
How often do mothers have intact perineums?
How often do they require stitches?
Does she suture?
When does she go on vacation?
Does she have a back up if something happens during her absence?
What is her fee? What does this include? When does it have to be paid?
Ask when she attended her last three births.
Ask to be given their names and phone numbers as references.
Why should you want a home birth, if your doctor is against it? Because your doctor might be wrong. Many experts in childbirth--midwives and obstetricians--believe that home birth is a safe and sensible option for healthy women with normal pregnancies. There's much of research which supports this view. Of course, there are also plenty of midwives and doctors who do not support home birth. Their views may be based upon their own experience, beliefs and fears, or just on habit. It may be that they are not aware of research on home birth safety--family doctors may not have time to read specialist literature, for example. Their reasons will vary. If you ask 100 doctors for their beliefs on this subject, you will receive 100 different answers--not all of them compatible. They can't all be right! Listen to the opinions of your medical advisors, but remember that there are other experts who might well have a different view on the matter. Your doctor/midwife can offer you advice based on her own experience, but she is not infallible, and you do not have to take her advice. Ask what evidence the advice is based on. Ask what particular details of your own case lead them to recommend/not recommend a home birth.
It is not an insult to your doctor to ask these questions; it just shows that you are an intelligent adult who wants to know more about her healthcare options. Consider showing your doctor some printed pages from this site and other sources. The sources that are likely to carry most weight are the respected medical journals. Some family doctors are opposed to home births because they worry that they will be asked to attend the birth, and that their experience and skills will not be sufficient. It is understandable that this would concern them, as the job of a family doctor is demanding enough without the need to keep up to date on obstetric research and practice. However, your doctor will not usually be needed to attend the birth--the lead professional will normally be a qualified midwife. In some situations your midwife might want to call upon a doctor in an emergency, but she can arrange cover from another doctor if your family doctor is not comfortable with this. Your family doctor should certainly not be required to have any specialist obstetric skills--if these are needed, you should transfer to a hospital. There are some surprising misconceptions among family doctors about home birth. The recent family doctors' magazine, had an editorial explaining why many GPs did not support home births, primarily because they "do not have the time, skills or inclination to spend hours with women in labor.." There is no reason why a GP should normally be expected to attend a home birth. If a respected publication, which is widely regarded as the family doctors' trade journal, can be so misinformed about the doctor's role in a home birth, it would not be surprising if some individual doctors were also misinformed about what might be expected of them.
Their negative reactions to the idea of home birth might reflect the thought that their own skills would not be adequate to cope with an emergency, rather than a realistic assessment of the safety of home birth attended by a specialist midwife. There are some situations where home birth will be safer than hospital birth, and others where it will be less safe. You might decide, after studying the evidence that home is not the best place for you to give birth this time. Just remember that it is your decision. If you feel that your doctor or midwives do not support your wish for a home birth, or you think that they are not giving you objective advice on the matter, then you could consider hiring an independent midwife. Many independent midwives specialize in home births and are experts in the field. Data which lump planned home births together with unplanned out-of-hospital births are misleading; the unplanned out-of-hospital births are very high-risk, including teenagers who deliver their babies in secret, and unexpected rapid premature births at 28 weeks, for example. In one study, 976 women who booked a home birth were compared with a matched group of 2,928 women planning a hospital birth. Women in the home birth group had longer labors (presumably because they would not have been accelerated with drugs or other interventions), but were less likely to have induction, caesarean, or other operative delivery, and were less likely to have complications of labor overall.
Babies in the home birth group were in better condition at birth--hospital group babies were more likely to take a while to start breathing, to need resuscitation, and to have Apgar scores under 8. Perinatal mortality was slightly higher overall in the home birth group--no explanation for this is given--but the authors of the study state that the increase was not (statistically) significant. However, neonatal mortality (after birth) was significantly higher in the hospital group. Another study found no significant differences between the two groups in maternal morbidity (ill mothers), or fetal morbidity of mortality (ill or sick babies). The only difference which the researchers found significant was that more mothers in the simulated home birth group were satisfied with the care they received. There is more to home birth than sympathetic care in a nicely-decorated room. For many, the benefit comes from being at home, where you feel secure, and where you are in control. Humans are territorial animals. We do not know enough yet about the way environment affects the production of hormones necessary for birth. For those giving birth in hospital: if providing midwife-led care and comfortable birthing rooms is just as safe as consultant care in conventional delivery rooms, and if women prefer it, then why are all women not offered this option? Cost should not be an obstacle, as midwife-led care is cheaper than consultant-led care; the savings should help to furnish a few birthing rooms. Researchers looked at data on damage to the perineum for 1068 women who delivered at home with a nurse-midwife in attendance. Most of the women--69.6%--had an "intact perineum," defined as no tears, minor abrasions (grazes) and small tears that were not stitched. Only 1.4--15 women--had an episiotomy, whilst 28.9% had first- or second-degree tears. Only 0.7% had third- or fourth-degree tears. An episiotomy is equivalent to a second-degree tear, in that it involves a cut through underlying tissue as well as skin.
Bathed in its warm cerebro-spinal fluid and protected by a barrier of cells, the brain is like a child in a shielded womb. And yet, the brain is not immune from the effects of many drugs. But, then, neither is a woman's placenta, the organ that surrounds the real child. Pregnant women are themselves exposed to a number of foreign substances. Cosmetics, household chemicals, fumes, prescription drugs, and over the counter drugs all get into a woman's circulatory system. Alcohol, for example, travels through both the placental barrier and the infant's blood-brain barrier. Fetal alcohol levels reach those of the drinking mother in about 15 minutes and can even be detected on the baby's breath at birth. Anesthesia, often used to relieve the pain of mothers in labor, also gets into the infant. Ten minutes after secobarbital is injected into the mother, the blood levels of the anesthetic are nearly identical in both mother and newborn baby. The infants delivered this way are lethargic. Though the baby and the mother share the same blood, the dosage of drugs are given according to the mother's body weight, which is 40 times more than the baby's. Narcotics, barbiturates, DDT, mercury, and nicotine eventually get to meet the fetus. Natural vitamin-A provided by liver, eggs, butter, cream and cod liver oil is well recognized as providing excellent protection against birth defects. Vitamin-A deficiency in pregnant mothers results in offspring with eye defects, hydrocephalus, displaced kidneys, harelip, cleft palate and major malformations of the heart and large blood vessels. Vitamin-A stores are rapidly depleted during exercise, fever and periods of stress.
Vitamin-A deficiencies are widespread and contribute to high infant mortality, blindness, stunting, bone deformities and susceptibility to infection. These occur even in communities that have access to plentiful carotenes in vegetables and fruits. It is required for cellular differentiation (determines the function that cells will have): this assures that the cells which are lost from natural turnover, stress, insult, injury, disease, etc. are reproduced in the exact same form as the ones being replaced. Growing children actually benefit from a diet that contains considerably more calories as fat than as protein. Generous amounts of vitamin-A insure healthy reproduction and offspring with attractive wide faces, straight teeth and strong sturdy bodies. This vitamin assists in normal pregnancy, embryonic development, successful reproduction, fertility, lactation (nursing), and reproductive organ function, spermatogenesis, to adrenal, thyroid, and other gland functions. Vitamin-A is important for normal eyesight; necessary for night vision. A high-fat diet that is rich in vitamin-A will result in steady, even growth, a sturdy physique and high immunity to illness. Vitamin-A-rich foods like liver, egg yolk, cream and shellfish confer resistance to infectious diseases in children and prevent cancer in adults. Children with measles rapidly use up vitamin-A, which can result in irreversible blindness. An interval of three years between pregnancies, allows mothers to rebuild vitamin-A stores so that subsequent children will not suffer diminished vitality. Kwashiorkor is as much a disease of vitamin-A deficiency, leading to impaired protein absorption, as it is a result of absence of protein in the diet. High-protein, low-fat diets are especially dangerous because protein consumption rapidly depletes vitamin-A stores. Children brought up on high-protein, low-fat diets often experience rapid growth. The results--tall, myopic, lanky individuals with crowded teeth, and poor bone structure, are commonplace in America. High-protein, low-fat diets can even cause blindness.
Cigarette smoke has long been associated with increased health risks to the unborn baby. It has been calculated that cigarette smoke contains over four thousand different chemicals, including the toxic carbon monoxide gas, nicotine, cyanide, sulfides, and carcinogenic (cancer-inducing) compounds. Most of these compounds cross the human placenta and circulate in the baby's blood. Take for example the gas carbon monoxide. In the blood carbon monoxide binds to the hemoglobin, not allowing this protein to carry oxygen. Inside cells, it poisons the breathing processes and the vital utilization of oxygen. This is probably why babies of smokers are smaller, because their bodies do not benefit from the same amounts of oxygen. To make things even tougher, a baby's hemoglobin binds carbon monoxide tighter than the hemoglobin of adults, resulting in more damage than would have been predicted in adults. Nicotine, a potent toxic substance in the brain, has been shown to adversely affect the developing brain of animals. It is now evident that the above fetal damages occur not only if the mother is actively smoking, but also when she is exposed to second-hand smoke.
The damage done to smokers' babies during pregnancy often is irreversible, however. Smoking during pregnancy is associated with dire consequences for the baby as a fetus, as a newborn, and even as a child. Recognition of the evidence of this damage has prompted researchers to designate it as "fetal tobacco syndrome." Miscarriage is two to three times more common in smokers, as are stillbirth due to fetal oxygen deprivation and placental abnormalities induced by the carbon monoxide and nicotine in cigarette smoke. Smokers have a fourfold risk of having a low birth weight baby; such babies are more likely than normal-weight babies to have impaired physical, emotional, and intellectual development.
The authors of a 1996 study found that women who smoked during pregnancy were 50 percent more likely to have a child with mental retardation of unknown cause than were nonsmoking women. Sudden infant death syndrome is significantly associated with smoking, as is impaired lung function at birth. Women who quit smoking as late as the first trimester may diminish some of these risks, but the risk of certain congenital malformations--such as cleft palate--is increased even in women who quit early in pregnancy.
The blood-brain barrier is a normal mechanism that is supposed to restrict the entry of substances into the brain. The transfer of substances such as nutrients, waste products, oxygen and carbon dioxide, hormones, and poisons in and out of the cells of the body, is accomplished through the smallest of blood vessels, the capillaries. The capillaries of the brain have a special structural design to provide extra protection for the critical brain cells. Unlike capillaries elsewhere in the body, the cells lining the brain capillaries are overlapped and less porous. This special structure prevents many substances from passing into or out of the brain that would easily pass to and from other body cells. Substances that can dissolve in fats readily penetrate the membranes of cells, as these membranes have large amounts of fat-containing molecules. Elemental mercury vapor and methylmercury are fat-soluble and therefore easily penetrate cell membranes, including those of the placenta and the blood-brain barrier. This barrier does, however, selectively allow passage of certain smaller water-soluble substances necessary to the brain, such as glucose and essential amino acids. Mercury vapor has no electrical charge (non-ionic) and is fat soluble, which accounts for its extremely potent toxicity in the elemental vapor form. The oxidation of mercury vapor occurs in the blood and in the body cells. Ionic mercury is the harmful form of mercury because it is now chemically active and can readily conbine with body substances, exerting its toxic influence in that manner. Elemental mercury vapor, after entering the blood stream, is oxidized through the mercurous into the mercuric ion. Completion of these reactions requires several minutes; because of this delay, elemental mercury exists in the blood for a sufficiently long time to reach all tissues and organs. In its elemental form, mercury easily penetrates the blood-brain barrier and infiltrates nerve cells, where final oxidation proceeds.
By easily overcoming the blood-brain and placental barriers, elemental mercury is particularly dangerous during long-term or chronic exposures, representing a potentially serious hazard in many occupations. Once mercury has penetrated the blood-brain barrier, its oxidation to the ionic form is completed. This ionic mercury now has an electrical charge and is no longer fat soluble. Ionic mercury is very active chemically and readily combines with body substances, thereby exerting its toxic effect. This ionic mercury can no longer easily penetrate the blood-brain barrier and is very resistant to removal from the brain. Mercury is retained in brain tissue for extremely long periods of time. Autopsy studies have demonstrated a definite correlation between levels of mercury found in the brain and the number and surfaces of dental amalgam fillings present. When mercury ions are absorbed into the bloodstream, though of minute amounts (less than 1.0 parts per million), they are capable of impairing the blood-brain system within 4-6 hours, leading to an extravasation of normally barred plasma solutes, allowing passage into the brain of harmful substances from the blood that otherwise would be denied entry. Mercury will not only damage the brain but it will also increase exposure of the brain to other harmful substances in the blood. The blood-brain barrier is also an active site for the regulation of the uptake of metabolites from the blood to the nervous system. The impairment of the blood-brain barrier, together with the possible inhibition of certain associated enzymes by the mercury, is probably responsible for the great reduction of the uptake of amino acids and other metabolites by the nervous system after mercury administration.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins which are the structural materials used to construct the cells of the body, as well physiological materials such as enzymes and hormones. There is no scientific evidence that brain cells can be regenerated. This is why mercury damage to the brain is permanent and irreversible. Since mercury vapor readily traverses the placental membrane, the oxidation of mercury vapor in the fetal blood or at the fetal blood-brain barrier itself no doubt results in damage to the fetal blood-brain barrier. But the damage to the fetal blood-brain barrier may be even more important, preventing the uptake of vital amino acids for the construction of the irreplaceable brain cells. There is absolutely no doubt that exposure to methylmercury in pregnant women presents a serious threat to the fetus. A number of studies have described the effects on infants of prenatal exposure to methylmercury, while the exposed pregnant mothers exhibited little or no observable signs or symptoms from exposure. The neurological effects on these infants were as severe as cerebral palsy and even death, but less easily recognizable symptoms were more common, such as delayed mental development, delayed speech development, delayed motor development, and learning deficits.
The major influence of mercury vapor on the fetus is not the promotion of birth defects, but rather the toxic effect on the body cells, particularly those of the brain. In spite of the wealth of information strongly demonstrating the potential risk of elemental mercury vapor to the unborn child, the scientific community has not yet seen fit to responsibly investigate this awesome question.
The circulatory systems of the mother and fetus are separated by a very thin membrane in the placenta. The purpose of this membrane is to ensure that there is no actual mixing of maternal blood with the fetal blood. This placental membrane was formerly called the placental barrier. Its function was assumed to be one of protecting the fetus from possible damage from any of the potentially toxic drugs or substances that might be present in the mother's blood. The Thalidomide disaster in 1961 demonstrated that the passage of toxic substances from mother to fetus did occur and could result in tragic birth defects and deformities. Mercury reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen and, although fetal blood flow might be normal, the reduced oxygen content of the blood would parallel the hypoxic condition. Mercury has the ability to affect the balance or status of most of the body's essential nutrients. No scientific study has ever addressed the relationship between chronic mercury exposure and placental weight/birth weight. From the time of fertilization until birth, the offspring is dependent upon maternal sources for all nutrition. There are four major areas that are considered to be critical or determinants in the outcome of fetal development: (1) the mother's nutritional status; (2) the structural and functional quality of the placenta; (3) the genetic makeup of the offspring: and (4) the presence of physical, chemical, or mechanical insults to mother and child during pregnancy. Mercury can also affect the satisfactory outcome of fetal development in all four of these areas.
A possibly contributory factor in cadmium and mercury fetotoxicity may be an effect on the transmembrane transport of nutrients, such as amino acids, across the placenta to the fetus. An inhibition of nutrient transport may cause fetal death, congenital malformations, or growth retardation. The toxic effects of cadmium and mercury may be occurring in the placenta where the presence of these metals might be preventing the passage of required nutrients to the embryo/fetus. The placental membrane will stop many substances. However, it is made of fat molecules, and mercury vapor and methylmercury, being fat soluble will penetrate the membrane. The lack of knowledge concerning the mechanisms of mercury toxicity as they relate to the human reproductive cycle is compounded by the scarcity of scientific studies investigating the effects of mercury vapor. The majority of scientific studies on mercury have dealt with methylmercury or inorganic mercury. Very little attention has been paid to the threat posed by low-level chronic exposures to toxic metals.
A great deal of the available scientific data was derived from acute exposures where a large single injection of the toxic metal being investigated was administered and the results examined. While there is no barrier preventing the transfer of mercury, there is a slight barrier to the transfer of lead, and the greatest barrier is to the transfer of cadmium. Mercury is mercury once it reaches the body's cells, and mercury vapor enters the body and its cells far more readily than most other forms of mercury. Researchers have found that the placental transfer of mercury varies with the chemical form of mercury; that is, methylmercury is more readily transferable than mercuric nitrate. The mercury concentrations in the placenta and the infant's hair are directly related to the infant's body burden of mercury. Total mercury and methylmercury, cadmium, and iron were higher in cord blood than in maternal blood, whereas copper and zinc were lower. Significant positive correlations were observed between maternal and cord blood with regard to total mercury and methylmercury, lead, cadmium, and manganese contents. Significant correlations were also observed between many pairs of metals, particularly in the umbilical cord and its blood.
These results suggest a more serious and complicated influence of heavy metals on infants than their mothers. The presence of selenium in the placenta can modify and greatly reduce the transplacental passage of mercury to the embryo/fetus. Environmental chemicals taken into the body, may considerably increase the fetal body burden of mercury and its concentration in certain tissues like the liver or thyroid, after mercury vapor inhalation. Most scientists and researchers are ignoring elemental mercury vapor in their research and in their recommendations for future research areas considered critical. These researchers either do not know or have forgotten that once in the blood, elemental mercury vapor remains in its elemental form for minutes, during which time it can penetrate most tissues easily. It is this capability that permits it to also readily move through the placenta to the embryo or fetus, as does organic mercury. Most of the published research has assumed that the only exposure to elemental mercury vapor is from a minute amount contained in the atmosphere. Most research therfore has only focused on probable exposure from dietary mercury, which is usually in the form of organic methylmercury. A glaring omission has been made by not considering the exposure to elemental mercury vapor from mercury amalgam dental fillings.
Chronic inhalation of mercury vapor from amalgam fillings for twenty years or more can result in accumulation of pathologic quantities of mercury in the brain and other critical organs and tissues. Human autopsy studies of accident victims have shown a positive correlation between the numbers of mercury amalgam dental fillings and the concentration of mercury in the brain. Other human autopsy studies have shown accumulation of mercury in the kidneys, liver, heart, muscles, lungs, spleen, and pancreas, as well as specific accumulations of mercury in the pituitary. The onset of clinically observable signs or symptoms of mercury toxicity may take as long as 20-30 years to appear, depending on a person's biochemical individuality. Female dental personnel have higher rates of spontaneous abortion, raised incidence of premature labor and elevated perinatal mortality and a high incidence of spina bifida births, than females in other professions. Folic acid deficiency has been associated with spina bifida, and mercury is a known inhibitor of folate metabolism in the body. There is a positive correlation between mercury levels, reproductive failures, and menstrual disorders. About 8 percent of U.S. women of childbearing age have enough mercury in their blood to be at risk. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 60,000 newborns a year could be at risk of learning disabilities because of mercury their mothers absorbed during pregnancy.
A special relationship regarding mercury distribution exists between the mother and the fetus. Mercury has been shown to pass the placental membrane in pregnant women and cause permanent damage to the brain of a developing baby. Much higher levels of methyl mercury have been reported in cord blood versus that contained in maternal blood. There is a much higher accumulation of mercury in the fetal brain tissue than in the maternal brain tissue. Mercury is one of the sulfhydryl-reactive metals. Mercury will steal sulfur groups from biologically active proteins and inactivate them. Many of these proteins are enzymes, hormones, or cell receptors, and their destruction wreaks havoc on the body's well-organized systems, such as the body's energy-producing system. Mercury also destroys the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract, one of our most powerful immune defenses. It is especially destructive against the kidneys, liver and brain. One amalgam filling can place as much as 500 mg of mercury, the most toxic, non-radioactive metal known to man, 5 centimeters from your child's brain!
Silver mercury fillings emit mercury vapor at a rate of 2.8-3.5 micrograms per surface per cubic meter of air breathed in the resting state, and their emission rate accelerates dramatically (as high as 49 micrograms) after minimal mechanical, chemical, and temperature stimulations. It is also very volatile, which means that "metallic" mercury gives off mercury vapor when agitated, compressed or exposed to increases in temperature. Vapor detectors, held above amalgams, revealed an increase from 3 micrograms to over 500 micrograms, ten seconds after a hot drink is swallowed. Mercury vapor--which is colorless, tasteless and odorless--when inhaled into the lungs can pass into your blood stream for distribution to all body tissues. Mercury vapor inhaled into the lungs, is absorbed almost 100 percent, and immediately passes into the bloodstream. In its elemental mercury vapor state, it takes approximately four minutes before it is converted or oxidized into an ionic state. While in its elemental form, mercury vapor is lipid (fat) soluble and readily passes through the blood-brain barrier and the placental membrane. The estimated average daily intake of mercury from dental amalgams is 3.8 - 21 micrograms per day.
Two-thirds of the body burden of mercury is derived from the mercury vapor released from amalgams. The static, unstimulated release of mercury vapor from amalgam fillings, which goes on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, is a major contributor to total mercury body burden. Scientific data clearly demonstrates that mercury, even in small amounts, can damage the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, thyroid gland, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, blood cells, enzymes and hormones, and suppresses the body's immune system. One part per million (PPM) will alter cell membrane function. Stopping cell growth or reproduction can occur at levels as low as 0.2 ppm. One ppm ionic mercury will substantially reduce the activity of succinic dehydrogenase, ATPase, and alkaline phosphatase in the brain. Glioma cells of the brain are destroyed at 0.2-ppm ionic mercury, and only 0.04-ppm of methylmercury. Even the most resistant parts of the central nervous system are destroyed at 2.5-ppm. Ten ppm ionic mercury will induce cancer-producing DNA-DNA cross-links. This amount can also cause genetic defects. Only 2-ppm of the inorganic form will inhibit the rejoining of single-strand breaks in DNA.
The blood-brain barrier loses its protective selectivity at 1-ppm within hours of administration of either the ionic form or methylmercury. Mercury exposure leads to hormone and immune disturbances that can reduce fertility. Reduced fertility among dental assistants with occupational exposure to mercury is a common problem. Many of the female fertility cycle events are related to posterior pituitary activity, so amalgam is another event that can disturb fertility as well as non-pregnant functions. Estrogen function can also be influenced by amalgam. Lubricated condoms and birth control creams or gels have mercury as the primary spermicide. The reason it's unnecessary for the word mercury to appear on the label is that it's assumed that "everyone knows mercury is in there." The uterus is a collection center for mercury. Hal Huggins reported that more than 90% of the imbalances, created by sex hormone disturbances, corrected within a few weeks of amalgam removal. His patients noted differences in fertility, less pain during periods, relief from endometriosis, and a trend toward optimization of the days of menstrual flow. PMS is one of the most common symptoms to change after removal. Amenorrhea, or the complete absence of a menstrual flow, responds to amalgam removal. This is usually in women in their twenties or thirties. Even in women who have gone through a sort of premature menopause in their early forties, the periods may start up again for a couple of years. This has resulted in surprise pregnancies. Women should avoid pregnancy for at least six months after amalgam removal.
After analyzing an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, the environmental coalition, Clear the Air, found more than half the fish living in lakes and reservoirs have excessive levels of mercury. So much so, these fish aren't safe for children and child-bearing women to eat. The EPA report studied 268 chemicals from some 2,500 fish living in 500 lakes and reservoirs around the United States. Environmental groups like Clear the Air analyzed the EPA report to highlight more information about contamination, states suffering from high levels of contamination and the companies responsible for the problem. Clear the Air is pressing the EPA to set tougher mercury emissions standards for coal-fired power plants than the current federal administration wants. Although new standards for power plants are to be finalized next spring, the EPA isn't expected to complete their final survey until 2006.
Among the EPA findings: * Texas power plants produce the most mercury emissions annually. Five of the 10 leading power plants with the highest mercury emissions are located in the Lone Star State. * More than three-quarters of the samples surpassed the safe limit for children under 3 eating fish twice a week and more than half the women of an average weight who eat a similar amount. Even with the controls, Clear the Air claims they aren't nearly enough. EPA defended its findings, believing mercury to be a serious public health issue and that's why they are working with the FDA to provide warnings to consumers about fish consumption and mercury. Earlier in 2004, both agencies issued a joint warning that advised women in their child-bearing years and children not to eat shark, swordfish and king mackerel, fish known to have high levels of mercury. Industry groups defended EPA's stance against the environmental coalition's findings, arguing coal-fired power plants make up less than 1 percent of worldwide mercury emissions. Although an independent analyst from another environmental organization agreed with that number, coal-fired power plants account for 41 percent of all mercury emissions (some 90,000 pounds of mercury) and 80 percent in some regions including the Great Lakes and Northeast.
The FDA recommends pregnant women avoid: swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish. The Environmental Working Group says pregnant women should avoid: swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish, tuna steaks, sea bass, gulf coast oysters, marlin, halibut, pike, walleye, white croaker, and largemouth bass. The Food and Drug Administration softened its warning to pregnant women about the dangers of mercury in some fish, notably tuna, under industry pressure, an environmental group charges in a report released March 1, 2002.
A 2000 National Academy of Sciences report estimated 60,000 women nationwide are putting their fetuses "at risk" of brain damage because of mercury in the fish they eat. In 2001, the FDA warned pregnant women not to eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. But the agency said they could eat up to 12 ounces--equal to two cans of tuna--of any other fish weekly, potentially exposing them to mercury levels that the NAS report deemed dangerous. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization best known for raising concerns about pesticides, obtained 1,036 pages of FDA transcripts from focus group meetings with consumers conducted two years ago to test safety messages about mercury and fish. EWG officials say FDA scientists told participants that following the agency's advice wouldn't protect a fetus from harm.
"What we see in the FDA documents is an agency in disarray," says Laura Chapin of EWG. The focus group meetings show the FDA was considering a broader warning for pregnant women that would limit tuna steak consumption to three times monthly and canned tuna to 9 ounces weekly. Some women in the focus groups said they ate a can of tuna daily while pregnant. Of the five most popular seafood--shrimp, trout, salmon and catfish are the others--only tuna has worrisome mercury levels, EWG says. In one focus group transcript, an FDA scientist warns that a woman should eat only 1 cans of tuna a week. In another, the same scientist says, "The action levels we have in place are not protective enough for this--the fetuses." But Chapin's group says that after three meetings with the seafood industry, the FDA opted only to suggest that pregnant women eat fish in moderation. About 40 states have separate mercury-level fish warnings to pregnant women. The EPA recommends that pregnant women and young children eat only small amounts of fresh-caught fish once a week.
Pantothenic acid deficiency causes edema and cleft palate. Folic acid deficiency causes cleft lip, cleft palate, oblique facial clefts, and atrophy of nostrils. Vitamin C deficiency causes diminished bone formation, hemorrhages in the bone marrow, and formation of medullary substances. Vitamin E deficiency causes hydrocephalus, scoliosis, agnathous, cleft mandible, receding maxilla and mandibles, cleft lip, cleft palate, and harelip. Mercury affects the maternal status of each of these nutrients. When the effects of lead, fluoride, and alcohol are added to those of mercury, the potential effects on the embryo and fetus can be devastating.
Both national and international studies have shown vaccination to be a cause of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Estimates range from 5,000 to 10,000 cases each year in the US. One study found the peak incidence of SIDS occurred at the ages of two and four months in the US-precisely when the first two routine immunizations are given., while another found a clear pattern of correlation extending three weeks after immunization. Another study found that 3,000 children die within four days of vaccination each year in the US, while yet another researcher's studies led to the conclusion that half of SIDS cases--that would be 2,500 to 5,000 infant deaths in the US each year--are caused by vaccines. In the mid-1970s the Japanese raised their vaccination age from two months to two years; their incidence of SIDS dropped dramatically. In spite of this, the US medical community has chosen a posture of denial. Coroners refuse to check the vaccination status of SIDS victims, and unsuspecting families continue to pay the price, unaware of the dangers and denied the right to make a choice.
Sodium fluoride is the most violent protoplasmic poison known to science. The National Library of Medicine's computerized data service on toxic substances rates fluorides 4-5 (very toxic--extremely toxic) on a scale of five. There are many scientific papers showing fluoride to be both mutagenic and carcinogenic. The weight of the evidence from studies on mutagenic effects of fluoride indicate that it is mutagenic (causes mutations) at low concentrations, and there appears to be virtually no margin of safety for fluoride. Many psychoactive drugs are fluorinated. The primary ingredients of most psychoactive drugs suppress enzyme production, and the fluorine ion is also an enzyme inhibitor. So now we have fluoride in our water--mass-medication of the population. Fluoride has been added to toothpaste, mouth rinses, and dental floss. Dentists treat the teeth topically with fluoride and doctors prescribe fluoride supplements. And of course, if fluoride is in the water it's in the food chain.
Food is irrigated with fluoridated water, washed with fluoridated water, and processed with fluoridated water, so we're consuming much more fluoride than we think. Independent lab reports show high levels in common products: .98 to 1.2 ppm in Coca-Cola, 1 ppm in Minute Maid orange juice, 2.1 ppm in Fruit Loops, 10 ppm in Wheaties, 6.8 ppm in Gerber's white grape juice which is often used as a sweetener in baby foods. (Grapes are commonly sprayed with an insecticide that contains fluoride. A 1996 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association warned parents to limit their children's intake of juices due to excessive fluoride content.) In fact, according to a 1993 government survey, children in non-fluoridated communities are already receiving at least 3 times the amount of fluoride recommended for total consumption, while children in fluoridated communities are receiving 4.6 to 7 times the recommended amount.
The National Research Council of Canada has done extensive research on the many environmental sources of fluorides and the multiple avenues by which they enter the human food chain. Most packaged foods are processed with fluoridated water, and many fruits and vegetables contain fluorides in pesticide and fertilizer residues. Foods such as sardines, tea, lettuce, spinach, and others have particularly high fluoride contents. Many medications, especially tranquilizers (Prozac is 90% fluoride), are composed of large amounts of fluoride. People taking such drugs might exceed 5 mgs in just one prescribed application. If fluoride is ingested, even though a person is eating a nutritious diet and taking the best supplements in the world, all the good nutrition is rendered almost completely ineffective and development or advancement of degenerative disease will ensue. The harmful effects of fluoride have been known for over one hundred years. Calcium is the main structural mineral in the body. Osteoporosis is a result of calcium loss in the skeleton. During the last trimester of pregnancy, between 200 and 300 mg. of calcium is deposited every day in the skeleton of the fetus. Pregnant women are given synthetic prenatal vitamins with added fluoride. Biochemical research has established that chemical poisons, like fluoride, form hydrogen bonds with protein amide groups together. Since "DNA" strands are connected by hydrogen bonds, fluoride will damage chromosomes. Because its electro-negativity is higher than that of any other element, fluorine occurs with a positive oxidation state in any compound.
Thus, Fluorine is the most reactive element known to chemists and its greatest affinity is for calcium. Fluoridated areas have an exceptional number of stillbirths. Fluoride passes through the placenta. Dr. Ionel Rapaport, University of Wisconsin, carried out two studies showing that mongolism, a birth defect characterized by mental and physical retardation, occurs more often in areas where there is a relatively high fluoride content in the water. The summer 1959 issue of Clinical Physiology reported on page 96, a study done by experimental embryologist James D. Eberrt and published in Scientific American March 1959. It relates: "...he found that sodium fluoride in low concentrations blocked, almost completely, the regions destined to form heart muscle but left the developing brain and spinal cord intact." He correlated this with the high incidence of ventricular septal defect, which was relatively uncommon before the 1950s, and fluoridation. The Pituitary gland takes up several times as much fluorine as any other soft tissue, which is especially dangerous, because the pituitary is the master gland of the endocrine system of the body.
In 1927, Hermann J. Muller had demonstrated that x-rays caused inheritable genetic damage, and he received a Nobel Prize for his efforts. In 1956, Alice Stewart showed that a single X-ray of a fetus in the womb would double the likelihood of childhood leukemia. Medical X-rays accounted for 90% of all radiation from human-created sources.
Baby food companies started to mass-market infant formulas back in the early 1930s. Advertising dollars of the 1930s and 1940s were aimed at two targets: mainstream magazines with a predominantly female readership, and trade publications written for doctors. Advertising in the form of articles and news clips that look like endorsements by the magazine were scattered throughout the professional articles in the medical journals. The Committee of Foods of the Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry of the American Medical Association fully endorsed commercial products on a regular basis, mimicking the information supplied by the manufacturers. The endorsements didn’t look like advertisements; they carried the full weight of approval by doctorssomething a mother would find difficult to disagree with.
In the professional articles and advertisements, nothing was said about the superiority of human milk over infant formula. It is not so hard to understand how formula companies were able to exert their financial power over medical professionals to ensure their endorsement, and then, as today, the word of the doctor went a long way in the minds of most people. Did doctors actually think that smart brains could be built from the food designed for dumb animals? Hadn’t they considered that even if the babies appeared to thrive, small defects might occur, defects so small as to be invisible to the naked eye but devastating in the long run? Knowing that breast-feeding offers the baby the best chance of being healthy and intelligent, even today AMA does not strongly advocate breast-feeding.
Breastfeeding continues to be threatened by the marketing activities of companies. These companies are systematically breaking the code on marketing and putting the health of babies in the developing world at risk, as well. Instead of encouraging mothers to exclusively breast-feed their babies for at least one year, as is recommended by nutritionally trained physicians, they dilute the message and promote the use of their products. The number of U.S. babies who receive breast milk as part of their diet through one year of age, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or through two years of age, as recommended by the World Health Organization, is so small as to be almost statistically insignificant. Virtually no one breast-feeds their babies past the first birthday. It takes a strong woman to stand up to the pressures heaped upon her by public opinion and continue to breast-feed her child after s/he has grown teeth and started walking.
Instead of seeing her offering a gift of love only she can give, we see her as a social misfit, maybe even a little exhibitionistic. By marketing their formula to developing countries, as well as in the West, formulators may also jeopardize one of nature’s methods of birth control: breast-feeding. If mothers do not breast-feed and have dried up their milk, they again become fertilethereby increasing birth rates. It is in these numbers that we truly see what is happening to our culture’s brain trust. Our brain trust is drying up in the dried-up breasts of mothers who were never encouraged or taught to breast-feed by their mothers or their doctors.
Science is now validating what mothers have known since the beginning of time: Human breast milk was designed for human babies, and cow’s milk was designed for calves. The balance of nutrients in bovine milk is designed to grow a hundred-pound newborn calf to several hundred pounds within twenty-four months. When we look closely at the fine print and compare the composition of artificial formulas with mother’s milk, however, we see that the differences are great and can, in some cases, translate into tangible, permanent physical deficits. From the moment of birth when colostrum is delivered to the breast, through the lactational period to weaning, breast milk differs substantially from even the best of the commercial baby formulas. The two milks appear different. Mother’s milk looks thinner, almost blue in color, lightly translucent. Formula looks rich, creamy, and heavy in texture. It is tempting to believe that such a rich substance must be superior in nutrition. Depending on the time of day or how long the baby nurses, the composition of mother’s milk changes significantly, from colostrum to true milk that varies in fatty acid content, protein content, and so on. Colostrum is higher in protein and minerals than fat, but as true milk replaces colostrum, the fat content increases to reflect the greater needs of the child. Other bioactive substances in human milk include friendly bacteria, immunoglobulins, enzymes that destroy unfriendly bacteria and aid digestion, growth factors, hormones, and nonessential amino acids that aid in the growth and healing of the intestinal tract.
Formula contains none of these additional factors. In fact, there are about one hundred elements found in breast milk that are missing form infant formula. The absence of any of these biofactors has the potential for long-term damage to the vulnerable child. The composition of mother’s milk changes from moment to moment during a single meal and from hour to hour during the day to reflect the varying needs of the child. The fore milk, or first milk, nursed in a single meal contains less fatty acids than hind milk, or the milk nursed in the later part of the meal. The midmorning meal typically contains the most fat. If both breasts are used in one feeding, hind milk and fore milk will mix in the second breast, resulting in milk that is higher in calorie and fat content. The protein composition is different. The whey-to-casein ratios in infant formulas range from 18:82 (Similac and Gerber) to 60:40 (Enfamil, SMA), to 100:0 (Good Start). The amino acid balance in mother’s milk gives preference to amino acids that aid in the growth of the brain, as opposed to an amino acid content of cow’s milk that spurs growth of muscle and fat tissue. Mother’s milk contains active enzymes that facilitate the digestion of the milk; infant formulas lack these enzymes, forcing the baby to produce its own enzymes to do the work of digestion. Mother’s milk contains growth factors that promote the development of the GI tract; these growth factors are missing in infant formula. Mother’s milk is rich in immune bodies that help prevent infection in the baby; infant formulas lack these immune protective agents.
Fatty acids that are used to construct the brain and nervous system of the growing child (Omega-3 and Omega-6 long chain fatty acids) are present in mother’s milk but are either missing altogether or are in very short supply in infant formulas. Where cow’s milk averages about 3.5 percent fat, mother’s milk, as thin as it looks, contains about 4.4 percent fat, or about 1.4 grams per ounce of fat (a little more than 50 percent of its calories), a valuable contribution to the growing structure and size of the brain. While fat composition can vary drastically, depending on the diet of the mother, how long the child has nursed, and other factors, the ratio between the types of essential fats remains fairly constant but can change to meet the dynamic needs of the baby. Unless the mother’s diet is seriously deficient, her milk provides her baby with the structural elements needed to build the structure of his brain. Human milk also contains types of fatty acids not found in any other species, animal or plant, such as GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), one of the critical precursors of the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin 1 (PGE1) variety. One of these fats, called DGLA (dihomogammalinolenic acid) is converted in the body to arachidonic acid, from which the prostaglandin 2 (PGE2) hormones and other brain structures are made. Human milk is high in cholesterol, with about four mg. per fluid ounce. The cholesterol in breast milk is used to provide structural strength to the neurons so that they do not collapse in upon themselves from the pressure of the surrounding cells and fluid. Cholesterol is particularly important in the myelin sheath, which surrounds the axon of the neuron. Although several types of fatty acids comprise the insulating myelin sheath, it contains more than twice the cholesterol as other fats.
Nearly eighty percent of the dry weight of the human brain is fat. Each one of those fat molecules that form the cell membrane and the myelin sheath, and perform many of the other functions needed for the brain, is derived from either the maternal or the infant diet. Where will the baby get these essential fats to construct her brain if they are missing from her infant formula? Cow’s milk-based formulas do not contain cholesterol, a fatty acid that is used to myelinate the nerve cell sheath and provide a solid structure to the cell membrane. The structurally and functionally important Omega-3 fatty acids, used to enhance the conductivity of the nerve signal, are also essentially absent. The fats provided in artificial formulas, usually are from a vegetable source like coconut, corn, safflower, or soybean oil, and differ substantially from the oils found in human milk in that they provide only minuscule amounts of the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Corn oils may not support normal biochemical development of the central nervous system when present as the only polyunsaturated oil in the diet. It has been speculated that the body can make its own fatty acids from vegetable oils, but whether or not an infant can manufacture his own is dependent on a number of variables, including the vitamin and mineral content of the formula.
One certainly can’t depend on it, especially since infants may be deficient from birth in some of the nutrients needed to complete the metabolic transformation. Animal studies indicate that when they are deprived of adequate amounts of essential fatty acids, the weights of their brains are up to thirty-three percent less than those of animals that received adequate amounts of dietary fats. Even when the deficiency was corrected later, while they were still young, they never recovered beyond a thirty-percent loss in brain weight. Rehabilitation could not reverse the changes in brain composition. Other studies show that while human infants may, in fact, be able to convert some of the fatty acids found in formula to the essential fats for the construction of the brain, the amount they are able to produce is inadequate to meet the developmental requirements of the infant. When infants are fed synthetic formula instead of breast milk, they have less of the important brain-modeling DHA and other Omega-3 fatty acids and arachidonic acid in their blood, thereby making them susceptible to a form of brain damagethe building blocks for brain material are missing.
The sugars in the infant formulas are different from the sugars found in mother’s milk. The mineral content differs in some formulas by as much as 500 percent. But it really is in the balance of essential amino acids (EAAs) where the news is bad. The proteins and the ratio of amino acids in human milk are designed to grow both a healthy human body and a healthy human brain. When proteins are digested into individual amino acids in the human diet, they circulate throughout the body and are pulled into cells to provide the building blocks of the hundreds of thousands of protein bodies synthesized there. When they approach the brain, however, the blood-brain barrier presents a challenge to amino acids as they try to cross the barrier. Amino acids compete for entry through the blood-brain barrier into the brain tissue. To get nutrients up into the brain, a type of “shuttle service” ferries nutrients through the barrier to the other side into the blood brain system. A limited number of “seats on the shuttle” are available for amino acid transport; amino acids compete for a place on the transport system.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are used primarily in the construction of muscle tissue. Cow’s milk is rich in branched chain and other amino acids; human milk contains relatively few BCAAs. When too many branched amino acids seek entry through the blood-brain barrier, for example, they take up too many places on the transport system, thereby blocking other amino acids form entering the blood-brain system. There are only so many “seats on the bus.,” so to speak. One essential amino acid that frequently gets left behind is typtophan. Tryptophan is critically important to the brain, as it is metabolized into serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter. Mother’s milk is rich in tryptophan; cow’s milk is weighted more heavily toward other amino acids. Infant formulas are particularly low in tryptophan. We might think that adding protein to the formula only enhances its value. Protein is, after all, an essential nutrient, used to build strong muscles and a healthy brain. The problem lies, however, not in the total protein but in the ratios of the individual amino acids that make up the long strings of protein. Many of these amino acids play a minor role in lean tissue building and play a major role in building brain tissue. When they are lacking or unavailable to the brain, serious consequences may follow.
When the blood balance of EAAs is tipped toward amino acids that compete with tryptophan, tryptophan is left off the shuttle and out of the brain. Tryptophan is first converted to niacin, one of the B-complex vitamins important to brain function. It also converts to serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with lowering hyperactivity, controlling aggression, muting the response to sensory input, enhancing sleep, and improving mood and cognitive performance. When adequate amounts of tryptophan have reached the brain, serotonin levels are normalized, exerting a calming effect, decreasing aggressive behavior, inducing sleepiness, elevating mood, and so on. For years, physicians have used tryptophan to treat depression, PMS, carbohydrate cravings leading to obesity, insomnia, and other disorders of the brain. Tryptophan is, indeed, very essential for human happiness and self-control.
The amino acid profile of many of the infant formulas is heavily weighted toward the branched-chain amino acids and other amino acids, reducing the amount of tryptophan available to the brain. What we are seeing in reduced sleep in infants and subsequent aggressive behaviors in childhood may be related to tryptophan deficiency in infancy. The ratio of plasma concentrations of tryptophan to the sum of neutral amino acids (valine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, and tyrosine) was found to be significantly lower in formula-fed infants as compared to breast-fed infants and to newborns at birth. This ratio in the blood is thought to control the synthesis of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin deficiency in the developing brain, based on a decreased plasma tryptophan to neutral amino acids ratio may contribute to developmental obesity and/or permanent changes of mental capacity and social adaptability. Serotonin regulates sleep. Serotonin deficiency makes it more difficult to fall asleep and sleep soundly through the night. Serotonin levels are reduced in the hypothalamus in SIDS infants, as well as other changes in the availability of serotonin and other neurotransmitters.
Long-term epidemiological studies have demonstrated a number of interesting differences between breast-fed and formula-fed infants. These have included a link between formula feeding and increased risk of infection, Crohn’s disease, type I diabetes, childhood lymphomas, celiac disease, and altered neurodevelopmental outcome among pre-term infants. The absence of these critically important fats and the imbalance of amino acids and minerals have lifelong effects on bottle-fed babies. Studies have shown that bottle-fed babies do worse in school and struggle with more affect disorders than do breast-fed babies. Whether or not a baby is breast-fed or bottle-fed can make a lifelong difference in intelligence. Breast-feeding improved intelligence by 4.6+ points on some test scores. Human milk promotes cognitive development according to a study done at the University of Ohio.
Feeding cow’s milk to an infant sets it up for a greater risk of developing juvenile-onset diabetes, either due to a type of protein called bovine serum albumin (BSA) that can be found in cow’s milk-based formulas or other milk products, or because cow’s milk often stimulates the production of other antibodies that may destroy portions of the pancreas. Canned whole milk is substantially higher in calories, in sugar, in fat, and in protein, creating the potential for juvenile obesity. Throw in some corn syrup, and not only does the allergy potential increase, setting the baby up for a lifelong tendency toward corn and dairy allergies, but the mineral balance is skewed, particularly with respect to sodium and potassium ratios. Infants fed whole cow’s milk formulas are exposed to inadequate intakes of iron, the essential fatty acid linoleic acid, and vitamin E, and excessive intakes of sodium, potassium, and protein. Every one of these nutrient imbalances affects brain development.
Soy formulas, the alternatives to dairy-based formulas, are specially designed for infants who are allergic to dairy products or for parents wishing to avoid giving their children any animal-based product. But, they may, if possible, be even worse than the milk-based products. Soy-based formulas are rich in plant chemicals (phytochemicals) called isoflavones. The isoflavones so highly touted as the answer to menopause symptoms or reducing the risk of certain forms of cancer in the adult are actually plant-based estogrens. Infants on soy formula may receive the equivalent, by body weight, of estrogen that is found in five to ten birth control pills each day. The potential for biological effects in infants due to the soy isoflavones has been clearly identified and includes changes in the function of sex glands, the central nervous system, the thyroid, and behavioral patterns. Infants readily absorb Isoflavones. Like many endocrine disruptors, the soy isoflavones cause thyroid dysfunction in humans. Exposure of infants fed soy-based formulas to isoflavones is high, greater than 1000 times that found for infants fed on breast milk or cow’s milk-based formula. Disrupted menstrual cycles and effects of isoflavones continue for up to three months even after cessation of a soy diet. These effects are at dose levels that soy-based formula-fed infants are exposed to. For infants, high levels of exposure, with frequent and regular daily feeding, results in soy-based formula-fed infants having much higher plasma levels of isoflavones than any other population group. The reproductive and developmental toxicity of isoflavones has been demonstrated in several species of animals. It was the toxicity of dietary levels of isoflavones in animals that first raised the awareness of the scientific community to the fact that soy isoflavones were endocrine disruptors.
Reproductive effects, infertility, thyroid disease or liver disease due to dietary intake of isoflavones has been observed for several animals. This daily dose of female hormones can have devastating effects on little boys. In the first six months, the normal infant male can produce approximately the same amount of testosterone as an adult male. It is through the influence of testosterone during this period that the little boy is programmed to be a man. Boys are wired differently in the brain than girls, giving them better three-dimensional perception, an advantage in some ways but a trait that makes some cognitive tasks a little harder. Boys on soy-based formulas not only are manufacturing large amounts of testosterone but also are ingesting huge amounts of estrogen. Receiving these confusing hormonal messages can wreak havoc with their emotionality. Many women know that imbalances in estrogen cause the quintessential menopause symptoms of depression, hostility, and aggressiveness. Little research has been done on the isoflavones (estrogens) in the infant formulas. When soy-based formulas were developed and were being used as a healthy replacement for cow’s milk-based formulas or by infants who were allergic to cow’s milk, no negative effects could be seen owing to the use of the soy. Infants seemed to thrive. Because no immediate effects were seen, researchers stopped looking. Research dollars are limited, after all. Conversations about the safety of soy-based formulas are only now beginning to take place.
How a plant-based estrogen expresses itself in an immature infant is unclear. Scientists know that androgens and estrogens are essential in males and females in the developmental and mature stages of life. Both androgens and estrogens are responsible for sexual differentiation, and there are critical windows, or time periods, in the fetal period when these hormones influence different systems of the body. Both sexes need both hormones to develop properly, but in the gender ratios determined by nature. Human studies on this issue are virtually nonexistent. Animal studies have been done, and from it a picture of the possible effects on human babies has emerged. Excessive estrogens in rodents during the fetal period lead to aggressiveness or problem behaviors, hyperactivity, precocious puberty in females (early menstruation and body development), increases in certain reproductive cancers, increased breast or prostate cancers, reduced sperm count, retention of testes in the body cavity (cryptorchidism), malformation of the male genitalia (hypospadias), enlarged prostate gland, and increased prostate cancer.
The high content of estrogen in the soy-based formula results in permanent damage to the reproductive system. It has long been known that modification of the sex steroids in neonatal rodents alters reproductive axis function and sexual behavior and leads to structural changes in specific areas of the brain. The effects of neonatal steroid treatment, although irreversible, are often not manifested until the reproductive system is activated at puberty. There are several critical periods for development that occur not only prenatally but also during the early postnatal period. Estrogen in the soy formula can inhibit the testosterone from having its effect on the male programming and on the wiring in the brain. When feeding an infant a soy-based formula along with cereal, the amount of estrogen (isoflavone) the baby receives is greater than that shown to alter reproductive functions in adults. The implications of this hormone assault on the developing child, whether male or female, are frightening. Some speculate that they act as a blocker on the estrogen receptor site, thereby leaving less access of “real” estrogen to the receptor. Others believe that phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) act as true hormones, thus increasing by exponential amounts the level of estrogens in the blood.
These potential effects occur due to increased levels of estrogen in the prenatal period, when these sex organs and the brain are developing and growing. Prenatal effects don’t always correlate to effects later in life. Increased levels of hormones are transitory in the adult (the body has developed regulatory mechanisms that keep hormone levels in check). These regulatory mechanisms are not in place during the fetal and post-fetal period, however, and effects are both different and potentially permanent. When a cluster of syndromes is seen in the human population that can be produced experimentally in rodents, there is cause for concern. While science hasn’t proven that soy is a causative agent for behavioral problems in humans, we can make an inference. If excessive estrogen in rodents leads to increased aggressiveness, hyperactivity, etc., and we are seeing similar characteristics in the human population, there could be a correlation. Soy-based formulas may not lead to increased aggressiveness in every child; some humans can protect themselves from high physiological doses of phytoestrogens, but not everyone has the same level of built-in protection. We all have unique individual metabolic characteristics, as we have different blood types, some are fast oxidizers of carbohydrate, some are slow oxidizers, some are autonomic nervous system dominant, etc. Some children may indeed suffer the consequences of too much estrogen at a critical period in their developmental timeline.
Not only are babies getting high doses of estrogen with every sip of formula, they also get a dose of pseudo-estrogen from some baby bottles and teething rings, particularly those made from a clear, rigid plastic called polycarbonate. Consumer Reports states that polycarbonate leaches a chemical called bisphenol-A, which has produced physiological effects similar to those produced by estrogen. During such endocrine disruption, chemicals interfere with or mimic the action of hormones, upsetting normal development. A typical baby who drinks formula sterilized by heating in a bottle can be exposed to a bisphenol-A dose of about 4% of an amount that has adversely affected test animals. Safety limits for infant exposure can be as low as 0.1% of what has adversely affected animals.
Unfermented soy products contain another natural protein that makes soy-based formulas hazardous to your baby’s health: phytic acid. Phytic acid is classed as an antinutrient because it blocks the absorption of minerals, especially calcium zinc, and magnesium. All three minerals play a crucial role in brain health. Zinc and magnesium are used in hundreds of brain enzymes, and low levels of these two minerals are associated with symptoms like depression, aggressiveness, emotional instability, easily aroused anger, learning disabilities, blood sugar disorders, etc. Even if the formula has been supplemented with minerals to more closely reflect the typical profile in human milk the phytic acid in the soy formula will block the absorption of these minerals. They will simply pass on through the body and be excreted in the stool. Fermenting soy products to make tempeh, miso, etc. eliminates the phytic acid content of the soy product, but baby products are produced from unfermented soybeans.
Zinc and copper are antagonistic essential minerals. The body needs about 8.5 times more zinc than copper, and keeping these minerals in this proportion is critically important to the health of the brain. Phytic acids in soy block the absorption of zinc in the intestine, which increases copper and unbalances these two powerful minerals. High levels of copper increase emotional lability and cause low energy (by decreasing the thyroid hormones), depression, emotional hyperactivity, and mood swings mimicking bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder. Babies fed on soy formulas show a negative zinc balancebabies are losing zinc more rapidly than they are taking it in. Low zinc levels become problematic for a number of reasons, whether or not they were induced by soy-based formulas. Zinc plays a role in the metabolism of essential fatty acids in the brain and is essential in the myelination of the neuron sheath. Low zinc levels can aggravate EFA deficiency and cause a reduction of the fatty acids in the myelin sheath. When a double deficiency in EFA and zinc occurs simultaneously, as when a soy-based formula is given, there can be an even greater impairment in brain development and maturation. There is no cholesterol in soy-based formulas; cholesterol is needed to form the structural base for much of the brain’s architecture. The other essential fatty acids are inadequately supplied, as well. The nutritional content of breast milk is only one aspect of the superiority of breast-feeding. When mother holds her child to the breast and baby is allowed to gaze into its mother’s face while he nurses, changes in brain activity take place. The hypothalamic, limbic, and other brain stem structures are activated, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle and increases attention and vigilance through cortical activity. The emotional bonding between infant and mother is increased. The increased feeding time and the physical closeness of the partners are more satisfying emotionally to both mother and child, causing measurable changes in motivation. A mother feeds her baby a rich psychological meal when she breast-feeds it.
Even though breast-feeding is nearly always better than any type of formula, our Basic American Diet itself may be jeopardizing the quality of breast milk. If the correct proportions of essential fats or essential amino acids will be deposited into the breast milk, they first must be present in the diet. Some of these fundamental building blocks of a healthy brain are disappearing from even the “good foods” mother may be purchasing and eating. If she smokes or has dental amalgam fillings, she will be passing mercury, copper, cadmium and other heavy metals through the breast milk, further upsetting the baby’s biochemistry. We have seen how important fatty acids are in the structure and function of the brain. It is critically important for the prenatal mother’s diet to contain adequate levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and that the correct proportion of these be given through the first two years of life while the baby’s brain is being built. But even in human milk, differences in the EFA balance can occur, depending on the types of foods the mother consumes. Women who consume large amounts of trans-fatty acids (found in margarine and other hydrogenated products, in fried foods, etc.) have lower amounts of essential fatty acids in their breast milk. Hydrogenated fats are not adequate for optimum development of brain tissue.
If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, now is the time to make those dietary changes away from highly processed fats and oils, and enjoy the beneficial oils provided by nature, like extra-virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, sunflower oil, hemp oil, grape seed oil, walnut oil, borage oil, etc. These oils will help construct a healthy brain in your growing child. Unless the diet is severely deficient, the composition of mother’s milk is still superior to any man-made substance. Wisdom tells us that if we want our baby’s brain to be developed to their full genetic potential, we will eat the very freshest, the very best foods we can. Above all, we will turn our backs on the Basic American Diet and eat traditional whole foods instead. Many credible sources believe that it is the mercury in vaccines that is causing the massive increase in autism seen today. The most numerous references on vaccination adverse reactions are related to brain disorders like epilepsy, convulsions, retardation, slow learning, lowered IQ and delayed sensory and motor skills. Vaccines need to be added to our list of potent brain toxins, since they are mandated neurotoxins. The FDA has announced that pregnant women should not eat swordfish, shark, king mackerel or tilefish because they may contain enough mercury to damage the fetus’s nervous system. The agency warned that young children, nursing mothers and women who may become pregnant should also avoid those fish. Consumer groups wanted fresh tuna added to the warning list as well. A National Academy of Sciences report estimated up to 60,000 babies are born yearly to women exposed during pregnancy to levels of mercury that could interfere with the developing brain and nervous system. Hg enters the environment through industrial pollution. Nearly all fish contain trace amounts of methylmercury, but longer lived, larger fish that feed on other fish, accumulate the highest amounts of methylmercury and pose the largest threat. Mercury fillings in the mother's teeth, however, contribute far more mercury to the developing fetus and the nursing infant.
Young women who have never thought about nutrition become interested in the topic when a new life begins to form inside their bellies. Most of the time this interest wanes after the baby is born; they want to get back into their normal clothes again and get on with life. Some young mothers who have engaged in destructive behaviors during adolescence get their act together when they find out they are pregnant. They try to eat and live a healthier life, knowing that the life and health of their baby is at stake. Ideally, good nutritional habits should become part of both the father and mother’s life several months or years before conception. By the time a new mother realizes she is pregnant, several weeks have passed during which the brain of her child has been rapidly developing. Providing good nutrition during those first weeks helps to lay a good foundation for the structure of the brain tissue. To produce healthy sperm, fathers need to be well-nourished from the outset as well. Nutritionally aware doctors often recommend that young couples prepare for birth several months before expecting to conceive. The prenatal period while the child is developing in the womb is when nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and proteins are needed so that the developing brain grows properly.
Many women never really recuperate from the process of giving birth. By the time they have nourished their babies in the womb for nine months, then breast-fed their child for several months, their mineral and vitamin stores are so depleted that fatigue, depression, and a host of other symptoms dog their steps. Postpartum depression from lowered progesterone, often sets in shortly after birth, and it is all she can do to care for the baby, let alone feel the normal maternal love. Deficiencies in certain minerals can trigger these feelings. For example, the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and oxytocin play a role in maternal bonding. Estrogen and progesterone are closely associated with zinc and copper levels. When estrogen is dominant, copper is dominant; when progesterone is dominant or more optimally balanced with estrogen, zinc is dominant (as it should be). High levels of estrogen, in relation to progesterone, with low zinc levels can reduce the bonding instinct in the mother. Building strong bones in a growing infant takes a toll on the magnesium and calcium stores of the mother. Over sixty percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Many symptoms of magnesium deficiency are emotional or mental in nature: depression, anger, fears, and panic attacks, emotional instability, and fatigue.
Unless these minerals are adequate in the postpartum mother, it is difficult for her to maintain her emotional balance, especially with sleepless nights, a crying infant, and an altered marriage relationship. If these nutrients are in short supply for Mom, her baby will be undernourished in the breast milk as well. Continuing to eat processed foods only prolongs the deficiency state, making it increasingly difficult to recover from childbirth. The new mother should seek out fresh produce and whole foods. It is particularly difficult for the young mother with several little ones running around her feet to eat healthy meals. Every time she steps foot into the grocery store, with little ones in tow, the bombardment starts. “Mommy, can I get this? Oh, look! I want this! Here, Mommy, let’s buy this!” Items slip unnoticed into the grocery cart and magically appear on the checkout belt. A mother’s energy stores are so low from pregnancy and keeping up with her children that she often falls into the junk food rut, snacking on the run.
After the kids are tucked into bed for a nap, she sits down to a cup of coffee and a bowl of sugared cereal just to infuse enough energy to get her through the rest of the afternoon. What she should have done is enjoyed a healthy snack, then curled up on the sofa with a pillow and blanket and drifted off for a few minutes. Snacking on healthy foods will help keep her energy levels high and improve the quality of her breast milk. Healthy foods will feed her brain and her body, providing the energy to care for and enjoy her kids.
Once you’ve made the decision to breast-feed your baby, don’t be dissuaded by those who suddenly profess to know what is best for you and your child. The nutritional quality of breast milk can vary remarkably, depending on the diet of the mother. Not even the most astute nutritionist can formulate an infant product to exactly match, let alone exceed, the quality of mother’s milk to fulfill baby’s requirements. The milk of women who eat large amounts of trans-fatty acids (margarine, shortening, fried foods, etc.) contains harmful amounts of trans-fatty acids that are passed on to her child. In fact, trans-fatty acids are transmitted through the placental barrier, into the fetus, impairing formation of the brain tissue. Trans-fatty acids block the metabolism of the beneficial oils, reducing their potential in the body. Read the ingredients small print on packaged products carefully.
The milk of mothers who include the beneficial Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, healthy proteins, lots of brightly colored organic vegetables, and so on, is rich in the essential elements. It is also important to drink more than ten glasses of pure, filtered water each day and, whenever possible, to choose organic meats and produce. Not only are organic foods higher in nutrient content, but they are also free from the hormones and other chemicals that influence brain chemistry. We can’t avoid all chemical exposure, but we can surely limit exposure, and reducing the toxic burden from foods and the environment is particularly important to growing children. Breast-feeding mothers need to avoid aspartame (Nutra-Sweet and Equal), monosodium glutamate (MSG), and other chemicals known to induce brain damage. Just as these substances cross the placental barrier, they cross into the breast milk and the blood-brain barrier, passing directly into your baby’s brain to inflict its subtle damage.
You need to decide what you will feed your child before he or she is born. Get as much information as possible about the benefits of breast-feeding and determine in your heart that breast milk is the best food for your baby. Decide how you are going to work breast-feeding into your life and schedule. There is no question that breast-feeding is best for you child nutritionally. Emotionally and spiritually it is best for your child as well. The bonding that takes place while the baby is nursing will last for a lifetime. Settle it in your mind that you will give your child one of the most precious gifts possibleyour breast milkand that you will continue to nurse your baby as long as possible (two years or so). If, after nine months or so, you believe that your child will benefit from supplementary food, start with a little fresh fruit like organic bananas or peaches, mashed, unsweetened. Under no circumstances give your baby any type of grains other than a little brown rice for the first eighteen months to two years of his or her life, to reduce the possibility of grain allergy. Grain allergies are one of the most common sources of depression and learning disabilities in the adult and the older child. Do not give your child any type of cow’s milk products before the age of twoideally, never.
Unfortunately, infant formula manufacturers are only the first line of companies to produce products that inadequately support essential brain development. Our children aren’t safe once they’ve been weaned and put on solid foods. How can we ensure that the nutritional needs of their brains and bodies will be met after they have left our arms and reached for a knife and fork (or chopsticks)?
Every new baby occasions more than 5,000 diaper changes. Most of these diapers are disposable and end up buried in the local dump. In fact, 90 percent of American parents cover their children with plastic, non-breathable diapers that contain toxins. Approximately 18 billion of theseenough to stretch to the moon and back seven timesare thrown away each year. Up to 12 percent of the total trash in the United States can be attributed to disposable diapers.
The various types of plastic in these diapers are not only toxic to the environment, but are possibly harmful to a baby’s skin. Some diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a super absorbent gel, and polyethylene film, a flexible plastic. The Environmental Protection Agency has reported that exposure to these ingredients may lead to problems later in life with the central nervous system, kidneys, and liverand they also spell trouble for local landfills where the diapers are likely to remain for up to 500 years. One disposable diaper can outlive your children’s great-great grandchildren. Toxic human feces can leak into local water supplies and cause viruses such as Hepatitis a and Rota Virus.
Parents who select reusable cloth diapers save $300 a year in diapering costs. Cloth diapers, which range in price from $17 to $27 for a set of six, can withstand 80 to 100 washings. (www.babybunz.comwww.ecobaby.comwww.mother-ease.com) After that, they can be recycled into household rags. If you still long for the ease and convenience of disposable diapers, or you’re more concerned about the water required to wash cotton diapers than the issue of toxicity, shop around. Some conscientious diaper companies have stopped using so much plastic and have replaced the absorbent gel with a blend of cotton, wood pulp, and other natural products. (www.tushies.com)