Green Pregnancy

Let’s talk about one of the most ubiquitous ingredients in the shampoos you (and millions of other people) are buying, cocamide DEA.

Cocamide DEA is cocamide diethanolamine. It is used to thicken the shampoo, a body wash, or a facial cleanser and give it a nice goopy consistency. That’s it. It serves no other purpose than creating a nice look to the product. It doesn’t help the health of your skin, it doesn’t assist in cleansing, it’s all about marketing gimmicks when it comes to cocamide DEA.

Product manufacturers believe that the thicker is the product, the more appealing it seems to the customers. Maybe they think the product is more “rich” or “nutritious” or “natural”. But there’s nothing natural about cocamide DEA.

Most of the time, smart marketers will state that cocamide DEA will be sourced from coconuts. That’s true: coconut oil is mixed with diethanolamine to make cocamide DEA. It’s then used as a emulsifier and a surfactant.

Diethanolamine may hide under such names as Lauramide diethanolamine, Coco Diethanolamide, coconut oil amide of diethanolamine, Lauramide DEA, Lauric diethanolamide, Lauroyl diethanolamide, and Lauryl diethanolamide.

Chemophiles also insist, and here I am quoting LUSH Cosmetics who are very protective about their parabens, synthetic dyes, and artificial fragrances in their “homemade” skincare, that “cocamide DEA has been safely used for more than fifty years.”

And how about skyrocketing rates of allergies and cancer in the last fifty years? I am sure that cocamide DEA, as well as its relatives triethanolamine and diethanolamine, parabens, and phthalates, is partially to blame. These ingredients do not make us healthy, but they make the manufacturers richer. And speaking of health…

DEA and its variants are suspected of increasing the risk of cancer. DEA can combine with amines present in cosmetic formulations to form nitrosamines (N-nitrosodiethanolamine), which are known to be highly carcinogenic.

 Studies also show that DEAs (including cocamide DEA) directly inhibits fetal brain development in laboratory studies by blocking the absorption of choline, a nutrient required for brain development and maintenance.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers have discovered that when DEA was applied to the skin of pregnant mice at concentrations similar to those found in shampoos, the fetuses showed inhibited cell growth and increased cell death in an area of the brain responsible for memory – the hippocampus.

“I don’t believe any woman who’s been using these products needs to have a sleepless night about having caused harm to her child,” said Dr. Steven Zeisel, Kenan Distinguished University Professor of nutrition in UNC’s schools of public health and medicine and associate dean for research in the School of Public Health.

“At this point it is a caution,” he added. “But it would probably be prudent to look at labels and try to limit exposure until we know more.”

DEA is also associated with miscarriages in laboratory studies. “We saw smaller and smaller litters as we gave higher doses. No one has ever noted that before,” Zeisel said.

“This agent not only affects brain development, but at higher doses probably affects some other development in a way that is fatal to the fetus,” he said.

So that’s what diethanolamine does to animals. But what about humans? An average bottle of shampoo contains up to 10 ml diethanolamine. When we use this shampoo, we massage the diethanolamine into our scalp, pouring in hot water to increase absorption. After 30 shampoos, we are exposed to 10 ml (0.3 oz) of pure, undiluted diethanolamine – more that poor lab mice were!

So stop thinking like a mouse. Just because it appears on a bottle with the word “organic” on it, it’s not organic. What’s worse, it’s carcinogenic and it damages your brain. Be proactive and shield yourself and your loved ones from harmful chemicals like cocamide DEA – they aren’t doing you any good!


not meant to be togetherMothers Exposed to Hair Spray on the Job More Likely to Have Sons with Hypospadias

Are you pregnant and using hair sprays? Consider this: Maternal exposure to hair sprays, some of which contain chemicals known as phthalates, has been linked to hypospadias in newborn boys.

So not run, not walk to your bathroom, take that can of hair spray and put it in the trash can.

Yes, sure, you can continue using that hair spray, especially if you don’t fancy having any grandchildren.

Here’s the shocking info in a nutshell: phthalates in hair sprays, fragrances and other synthetic skincare are damaging boy’s genitals while still in womb.

Hypospadias is a birth defect of the male urethra that results in an abnormally placed urinary opening. It is one of the most common urogenital congenital anomalies among baby boys.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, phthalates, most often diethyl phthalate (DEP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), are found in many beauty products including deodorants, fragrances, and nail and hair products. They are most abundant in fragrances and hair sprays.

Studies have linked the phthalates with androgen-lowering activities, abnormal Leydig cell function, and reproductive tract malformations including hypospadias. Since phthalates are endocrine-disrupting, they’ve been also linked to higher risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

The case–control study included 471 hypospadias cases referred to surgeons, and 490 randomly selected birth controls, born over a 21-month period in South East England.

Sons of women working in industries where there is exposure to phthalates—including hairdressers, beauty therapists, research chemists, line operators, pharmaceutical operators, electrical assemblers, and factory assistants—had a 2- to 3-times greater risk for hypospadias.  

It’s still possible to slightly offset the damage done to boy’s genitals by phthalates: same study found that folate supplementation in the first three months of pregnancy was associated with a 36% reduction in risk of hypospadias.

This is the first definitive study about the harm of phthalates to humans. The study appeared in peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).

baby5It’s a well-known fact: 40 percent to 50 percent of pregnant women experience back pain, but we all hope it will go after the delivery, like the rest of pregnancy-related discomforts such as heartburn and the close friendship with the loo.

Actually, your chances of having back pain again increase threefold after the baby is born.

“At first, new moms are lifting seven to 10 pounds 50 times a day, and by 12 months, they likely are chasing and lifting a 17-pound child. Two years later, mothers will be lifting a 25-pound to 30-pound child,” Baltimore orthopaedic spine surgeon Alan M. Levine, MD, says.

Here are ten great tips to prevent back pain in new moms. The tips are kindly provided by Dr. Levine, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons – and comments in italics come from the real mom, yours truly.

1. Begin exercising soon after delivery to restore abdominal and back muscle tone. Ten minutes of stretching exercises on the floor each day will restore hip and back flexibility. Dr. Levine suggests that you exercise when your baby is taking a nap, but, frankly, such tip can only come from a man.

When baby’s taking a nap, it’s our chance to strain our back even more by cleaning, mopping, doing laundry and all other things that comprise the life of a normal woman. Not exercising. That belongs to our pre-baby past, along with six-inch heels and 20-dollar lipsticks.

Please note: women who delivered by Caesarian-section (C-section) should wait six weeks or until they get the permission of their obstetrician before they begin exercising.

2. Try to get back to your normal weight within six weeks after giving birth. The risk of back pain is greater among young, overweight women, according to Dr. Levine.

Six weeks? That simply is not realistic and plain dangerous. You cannot shed that much weight in such a short time, especially if you are breastfeeding. It took me nine months to accumulate those ten kilos. Normally, women get back to their pre-pregnancy weight in about a year after giving birth, that’s of course, if you don’t go the lipo route.

3. Do not stretch your arms out to pick up the baby. Bring him/her close to your chest before lifting. Avoid twisting your body. Now, that makes perfect sense.

4. To pick a child up from the floor, bend at your knees (not at your waist), squat down, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles. Also a great tip.

5. Remove the high chair tray when you are trying to put the baby in or take the baby out of the high chair. That’s not always possible, but nice point anyway.

6. When picking the child up out of the crib, put the side down and pull the child toward you rather than lifting over the top. Now, that’s really gymnastic,  but I will try.

7. Consider using a “front pack” to carry the baby when you are walking. Again, a tip from a man’s world. Front carriers are notorious for making back hurt like mad. Even the most ergonomic ones. Wrap fabric slings are a bit gentler.

8. Do not carry a child on your hip; this overloads the back muscles. Completely true.

9. To avoid upper back pain from breastfeeding, bring the baby to your breast rather than bending over to the baby. Use an upright chair rather than a soft couch. Well-known fact but thanks for reminding.

10. Four-door vehicles are better than two-door vehicles for ease of placing the child in the car seat. With the car seat positioned in the middle of the back seat, do not stand outside the car, reach in and, at arm’s length, try to put the baby in the seat but rather kneel on the back seat to place the baby into the car seat.

Now, that’s a good point – although I cherish my recurring fantasy of having a designer baby seat installed into my dream Porsche.

PregnancyWe’re programming our children to be fat, says the author of a groundbreaking study that found how exposure to a high-fat diet during pregnancy produces permanent changes in the offspring’s brain.

Apparently, eating fatty foods during pregnancy leads to overeating and obesity early in life, according to new research by Rockefeller University scientists.

“We’ve shown that short-term exposure to a high-fat diet in utero produces permanent neurons in the fetal brain that later increase the appetite for fat,” says senior author Sarah F. Leibowitz, who directs the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurobiology at Rockefeller.

“This work provides the first evidence for a fetal program that links high levels of fats circulating in the mother’s blood during pregnancy to the overeating and increased weight gain of offspring after weaning.”

Research in adult animals by Leibowitz and others has shown that circulating triglycerides stimulate brain chemicals known as orexigenic peptides, which in turn spur the animals to eat more.

Scientists also have shown that obese and diabetic mothers produce heavier children and that exposure to fat-rich foods early in life leads to obesity in adulthood.

These studies suggested that food intake and body weight may be programmed during fetal development.

Leibowitz and her colleagues found that pups from the mothers fed high fat diets had, in utero, a much larger number of neurons that produce the appetite-stimulating peptides – and they kept them throughout their lives.

During gestation, the mother’s fat-rich diet also stimulated the proliferation of neuronal precursor cells and their migration to obesity-promoting centers in the brain.

In rats on a balanced diet, these neurons were much fewer in number and appeared much later after birth.

“We believe the high levels of triglycerides that the fetuses are exposed to during pregnancy cause the growth of the neurons earlier and much more than is normal,” says Leibowitz.

The researchers hypothesize that because the mother must prepare her embryos to survive on her diet, they need to be born with the brain mechanisms that allow them to eat and metabolize all the excess fat they are consuming.

“We’re programming our children to be fat,” Leibowitz says.

“I think it’s very clear that there’s vulnerability in the developing brain, and we’ve identified the site of this action where new neurons are being born. We now need to understand how the lipids affect these precursor cells that form these fat-sensitive neurons that live with us throughout life.”

This surprising finding, reported in the Nov. 12 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, provides a key step toward understanding the increased prevalence of childhood obesity during the last 30 years.

Doctors need not go straight to Caesarean section when delivering twins, but can start with vaginal delivery of the first twin in many cases, researchers have found in a study led by UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Should the second-born twin turn out to require a Caesarean section, there is a slightly higher risk of infection for the baby and the mother, but that is easily treated and the risk of more serious complications for the second twin is not increased, the researchers found.

“It keeps the options open for women and providers who are motivated for vaginal delivery,” said Dr. James Alexander, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern and lead author of the two-year study, which appears in the October issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Although such “combined” delivery is relatively rare, there have been no large-scale studies to gauge how the mothers and babies fared after the procedure, Dr. Alexander said.

The UT Southwestern researchers are members of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network, a subset of the National Institutes of Health that comprises 14 university-based clinical centers and a data coordinating center.

They compared deliveries of 1,028 women at 13 network locations from 1999 to 2000, using data collected from a registry of information maintained by the group. This made the study the largest to address the question of combined-delivery safety, Dr. Alexander said.

All of the women in the study went through a period of labor. Ultimately, 849 had Caesarean sections of both twins, while 179 had a combined delivery of the first twin vaginally and the second by Caesarean section, usually because of a non-reassuring fetal heart rate or a poor position for delivery.

Four percent of women who had combined delivery developed chorioamnionitis, an infection involving the uterus, while 13 percent developed endometritis, an infection of the lining of the uterus.

In contrast, 6 percent of the women who had Caesarean section of both twins developed chorioamnionitis, while 9 percent developed endometritis.

Dr. Alexander said the differences in infection rates were not statistically significant after accounting for the mothers’ ages, length of pregnancy and characteristics of the labor, such as whether labor was induced or an antibiotic was used, and the time from onset of labor to delivery.

There were roughly equal rates of injury, seizures, low Apgar scores and other factors to the babies in both types of deliveries, showing that overall health was the same. The difference in rates of serious infection was not statistically significant, although the second-born twins from a combined delivery showed a slightly higher rate (9 percent versus 5 percent) than sets of twins being delivered by Caesarean section.

Hmm… with twins gene running in my DNA, and me planning the second baby any time the financial crisis permits, I would rather push my eyes out of my sockets than expose my little ones to a hyper-dose of narcotics… Especially when my risk seems to be all the same. Don’t you think? I survived my first birth on epidural but Caesarean is way much more serious. This new research sounds optimistic. Please share your thoughts!

Baby cold medicines may leave you shivering...

Baby cold medicines may leave you shivering...

Finally, some sane advice from the traditional medical field!





Ken Haller, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University, has an important reminder for parents as cold and flu season approaches: skip [read: avoid] the over-the-counter medications for children.

Last year, citing concerns over safety and effectiveness, experts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended that the agency ban all over-the-counter, multi-symptom cough and cold medicines for children under 6.

The recommendation was long overdue, according to Haller.

“Cough and cold medicines were first approved many years ago under the assumption that children’s bodies worked like adult ones, but on a smaller scale,” Haller explained.

They were never tested for safety and effectiveness in children. There are a lot of side effects associated with these medicines.”

While infant cough and cold medications were pulled off shelves last year, nearly 800 over-the-counter cough and cold medications still are available for children over 2 years old – a decision with which Haller disagrees.

“I feel strongly that they should all be taken off the market,” Haller said.

“Numerous studies have shown that these do not make children with colds and sore throats feel better any quicker than doing nothing. And over the years, thousands of children have been hospitalized and scores of children have died as a result of taking these drugs because of their side effects and the fact that many of these drugs contain multiple active ingredients, which add up to a harmful dose.”

In the first two years of life, it’s normal for children to get an average of six significant upper respiratory infections per year.

While nothing can cure a cold, Haller suggests safe ways to prevent and treat symptoms of colds and flu, including:

• Have children vaccinated for the flu. [I would argue on this, backed with multiple other studies, but not here, not right now – JG]
• Use cool mist humidifiers whenever it’s cold enough outside to turn on the heat indoors. When the weather is cold, the air is dry and will dry out the membranes in the nose, breaking down the child’s natural barrier to infection in the nose.
• Use saline drops and sprays to moisturize the nasal membranes and loosen up mucus. [Absolutely! – JG]
• Avoid smoking in the household to reduce environmental irritants. [I bet not a single reader of my blog smokes – JG]
• Wash your hands when taking care of children and teach kids to clean their hands before they eat.
• Make sure children drink fluids and get plenty of rest. [Works like magic in the long run, but brace yourselves – JG]

“Parents often feel powerless when their kids are sick and are desperate to help them feel better,” Haller said. “But drugs are not the answer for every illness. Not only will these over-the-counter medicines not help your child feel better, but they can be very dangerous, too.”

Older age among fathers may be associated with an increased risk for bipolar disorder in their offspring.

Bipolar disorder is a common, severe mood disorder involving episodes of mania and depression, according to background information in the article. Other than a family history of psychotic disorders, few risk factors for the condition have been identified.

Older paternal age has previously been associated with a higher risk of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism.

Emma M. Frans, M.Med.Sc., of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues identified 13,428 patients in Swedish registers with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

For each one, they randomly selected from the registers five controls who were the same sex and born the same year but did not have bipolar disorder.

When comparing the two groups, the older an individual’s father, the more likely he or she was to have bipolar disorder. After adjusting for the age of the mother, participants with fathers older than 29 years had an increased risk.

“After controlling for parity [number of children], maternal age, socioeconomic status and family history of psychotic disorders, the offspring of men 55 years and older were 1.37 times more likely to be diagnosed as having bipolar disorder than the offspring of men aged 20 to 24 years,” the authors write.

The offspring of older mothers also had an increased risk, but it was less pronounced than the paternal effect, the authors note.

For early-onset bipolar disorder (diagnosed before age 20), the effect of the father’s age was much stronger and there was no association with the mother’s age.

“Personality of older fathers has been suggested to explain the association between mental disorders and advancing paternal age,” the authors write.

“As men age, successive germ cell replications occur, and mutations accumulate monotonously as a result of DNA copy errors,” the authors continue. “Women are born with their full supply of eggs that have gone through only 23 replications, a number that does not change as they age. Therefore, DNA copy errors should not increase in number with maternal age. Consistent with this notion, we found smaller effects of increased maternal age on the risk of bipolar disorder in the offspring.”

“However, the mental disorders associated with increasing paternal age are under considerable genetic influence.” Therefore, there may be a genetic link between advancing age of the father and bipolar and other disorders in offspring.”

The report appears in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

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