A recent conversation with an older and more experienced OB/GYN (obstetrics and gynecology) led to some startling surprises about the behaviors, nutritional needs and deep concerns of women who are expecting a baby in today’s hectic world.
Given the higher ratio of infant deformities and health problems stemming from the 2012 Fukushima nuclear accident – which occurred in Japan and blanketed Hawaii and much of the West Coast with harmful radiation – the immediate concern of many pregnant women is that their babies might be physically compromised.
One of the most common defects resulting from radiation is thyroid cancer.
A collaborative study by two nuclear radiation experts reveals that hypothyroidism and thyroid cancers among babies born in the US have risen 28 percent, or more than one-fourth, compared to pre-2011 levels.
The largest occurrences are in a group of live births which took place between seven and 112 days after the March 11 nuclear meltdown, in an area ranging from southern California up through Oregon and Washington State, including the chain of archipelago islands in the Pacific Ocean known as Hawaii.
The increase is far from inexplicable – Japanese children show a 40-percent rise in thyroid gland defects – but it is disconcerting.
In fact, so much so that for a time it was almost a given that either a pregnant woman or her OB/GYN, would demand an amniocentesis, an ultrasound, or both.
Fortunately, the level has tapered off in both nations, so pregnant women need not worry as much as they once did about thyroid deficiencies. If, however, you choose these procedures for other reasons, be aware that there is a slight risk of miscarriage. You will probably be asked to sign a paper noting that you have been informed of this risk. This means that you may have a very hard time finding a personal injury or medical malpractice lawyer to take the medical technician and his or her clinic, hospital or screening facility, to court, no matter how rough, careless or unprofessional he or she seemed during the procedure(s).
Other tests your doctor might mandate if there is a cause for concern include:
- Genetic testing, which is entirely safe but also very expensive
- Cervical length measurement, which will determine if you are at risk for premature delivery
- Chorionic villus sampling, or CVS, which takes cells from the placenta to identify specific hereditable genetic anomalies
- Cordocentesis, or umbilical cord sampling to isolate odd or defective fetal chromosomes, blood defects like hemophilia, and fetal infections
- Fetal fibronectin sample, which checks to determine if fibronectin – the substance that adheres the placenta to the uterine lining – is in adequate supply
- Fetal biophysical exam, to check baby’s heart rate and to detect abnormalities in fetal nerve responses
Again, there is a slight but measurable risk of pre-term delivery. Concern over this should not overwhelm common sense, however, especially if your child will grow up with some crippling illness that could have been averted by proper testing and treatment in the womb.
Next on the “worry list” is the possibility that the baby will be born autistic. This neurological deficit has been linked, albeit cautiously, with women having the flu and a fever, and taking certain antibiotics to cure it. It might also be linked to:
- Older parents,
- Having a twin in the womb (according to early results from the California Autism Twin Study, or CATS)
- Chlorinated water and other chlorination byproducts
- Tobacco smoke
- Air pollution (particulates)
- Low birth weight
- Preterm delivery
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS
- Pubertal development
If you or a friend are “high risk” pregnancies – that is, having a serious medical condition like MS, being 35 years old or more, a smoker, or a current (or former) drinker and/or illegal drug user – you can expect more serious complications. These might include placenta previa (when the placenta covers the cervix), a breech birth, or any other of a handful of conditions that make carrying a fetus to term.
If this is the case, see a doctor early in the pregnancy, and follow all of his (or her) requirements to the letter. He has at least a decade’s worth of experience on you. Most important, and the first tip that OB/GYNs normally give high-risk pregnant women, is don’t stress! Stress is like taking an older car on a road trip and trying to force it to do 80 miles an hour the entire distance.