More Sleep Equals Smarter Children, Study Suggests

Source: Lee Rannals for
February 27, 2013Image Credit:

A new study by researchers from the University of Tübingen’s Institute for Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology reinforces how necessary sleep is for a child’s brain, even more so than adults.

Researchers wrote in the journal Nature Neuroscience about how children’s brains turn learned material into active knowledge as they sleep and how their brains do it even more effectively than an adult’s.

Past studies have shown sleeping after learning helps long-term storage of the material learned, because during sleep, memory is turned into a form that makes future learning easier. When you are sleeping, implicit knowledge becomes explicit and becomes more easily transferred to other areas.

According to the researchers, children need to get deep sleep for longer durations because of the massive amounts of data they take in each day.

The team studied the ability of a child to form explicit knowledge through an implicitly-learned motor task. During the study, children between eight and 11-years old learned to guess the predetermined series of actions. After a night of sleep, or a day awake, the team tested the children’s memories.

Researchers found after a good night’s sleep, all age groups that took part in the study were able to remember a larger number of elements from the row of numbers than those who had remained awake in the interim.

“In children, much more efficient explicit knowledge is generated during sleep from a previously learned implicit task,” said Dr. Ines Wilhelm of the University of Tübingen’s. “And the children’s extraordinary ability is linked with the large amount of deep sleep they get at night. The formation of explicit knowledge appears to be a very specific ability of childhood sleep, since children typically benefit as much or less than adults from sleep when it comes to other types of memory tasks.”

A child’s brain isn’t the only thing that benefits from a good night’s rest. So does their attitude. A study published in the journal Pediatrics last year found kids who averaged about 27 minutes more sleep at night had fewer behavior issues.

Dr. Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, said as children have trouble coping with day-to-day issues, more sleep affects their relationship with teachers, as well as their peers. She suggested parents shut off their television or electronic devices about a half hour sooner before bedtime than what is already being practiced in the house. Both studies suggest more sleep doesn’t just lead to a less-bratty child, but a smarter one.

Bad sleep ‘dramatically’ alters body

Reprinted from BBC News
By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News, 26 February 2013

A run of poor sleep can have a potentially profound effect on the internal workings of the human body, say UK researchers.

The activity of hundreds of genes was altered when people’s sleep was cut to less than six hours a day for a week.

Writing in the journal PNAS, the researchers said the results helped explain how poor sleep damaged health.

Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and poor brain function have all been linked to substandard sleep.

What missing hours in bed actually does to alter health, however, is unknown.

So researchers at the University of Surrey analysed the blood of 26 people after they had had plenty of sleep, up to 10 hours each night for a week, and compared the results with samples after a week of fewer than six hours a night.

More than 700 genes were altered by the shift. Each contains the instructions for building a protein, so those that became more active produced more proteins – changing the chemistry of the body.

Meanwhile the natural body clock was disturbed – some genes naturally wax and wane in activity through the day, but this effect was dulled by sleep deprivation.

Prof Colin Smith, from the University of Surrey, told the BBC: “There was quite a dramatic change in activity in many different kinds of genes.”

Areas such as the immune system and how the body responds to damage and stress were affected.

Prof Smith added: “Clearly sleep is critical to rebuilding the body and maintaining a functional state, all kinds of damage appear to occur – hinting at what may lead to ill health.

“If we can’t actually replenish and replace new cells, then that’s going to lead to degenerative diseases.”

He said many people may be even more sleep deprived in their daily lives than those in the study – suggesting these changes may be common.

Dr Akhilesh Reddy, a specialist in the body clock at the University of Cambridge, said the study was “interesting”.

He said the key findings were the effects on inflammation and the immune system as it was possible to see a link between those effects and health problems such as diabetes.

The findings also tie into research attempting to do away with sleep, such as by finding a drug that could eliminate the effects of sleep deprivation.

Dr Reddy said: “We don’t know what the switch is that causes all these changes, but theoretically if you could switch it on or off, you might be able to get away without sleep.

“But my feeling is that sleep is fundamentally important to regenerating all cells.”

Baby health crisis in Indonesia as formula companies push products

Fifi and her baby at home in Jakarta
Original Post: Zoe Williams in Jakarta, The Guardian, Friday 15 February 2013

Fifi and her baby at home in Jakarta. She spends half her husband’s monthly salary on formula milk. Photograph: Poulomi Basu Photograph: Poulomi Basu

With poor access to clean water, giving up breastfeeding is a serious health risk in this part of the world – but milk formula companies continue to sign up midwives

To get to the baby immunisation clinic in North Jakarta, the mothers of the slum pick through rubble and muck and the stagnant remains of the January floods. Towers of water-damaged mattresses and mildewed plastic sofas flank the main thoroughfare; it looks like Hell’s Ikea. If gastrointestinal disease had its own smell, this would be it.

Fifi, who is 20, lives in a wooden room the size of a bathroom, with her husband and six-month-old daughter, Riska. We met her at the clinic, but only found out later that she wasn’t there for jabs, she was there because her daughter was already sick.

She started feeding Riska formula, rather than breastfeeding her, when her daughter was two months old; she was on contraceptives, and thought it was interfering with her milk supply. The midwife agreed, and gave her a free sample of formula milk. Now she spends 400,000 rupiah (about £26) a month on formula, which is half of her husband’s monthly salary. She seemed to be a pretty good example of one of the main problems of formula feeding in Indonesia. Even the cheapest brands punch a huge hole in a poor family’s budget, and they end up over-diluting it, which leaves the babies malnourished.

‘Killing fields’

But at Fifi’s home, it became obvious that the sanitation problem towers over this one – 45% of Indonesians have no access to clean water. There are only two places in the capital where anyone can drink from a tap, and that’s the American embassy and Jakarta international school. But Fifi can’t afford gas to boil water either. She has no kitchen. She has to pay every time she goes to the loo, which is shared between 26 people, and sometimes she cuts a deal with a neighbour where one of them goes to the loo while another has a shower, to save money.

Clean hands, clean utensils, clean bottles, clean anything, it’s all a total pipe dream. A paediatrician in a separate Jakartan clinic, Dr Asti Praborini, said: “Selling formula is like the killing fields, in my opinion. The babies will die of diarrhoea and they will die of malnutrition.”

Here, all the statements about breastfeeding, which in the developed world are made hyperbolically – how it’s the only safe choice for a baby – are true. Indonesia’s child mortality rates, at 35 per 1,000, are high anyway, but in the lowest wealth quintile, mortality is nearly five times higher than in the wealthiest.

Some mothers formula feed because they’re not eating enough themselves, and don’t feel confident that they’re producing enough milk. A Save the Children report due out on Monday will give details of breastfeeding rates and child nutrition across the developing world. Wahdini Hakim, senior programme manager, says that persuading mothers to breastfeed is a more effective intervention than efforts to improve sanitation.

But there is a looming influence, far greater than personal choice: that of the formula companies. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has codes on corporate selling of formula that go back to 1981. But this is big business for big companies – two thirds of their growth comes from Asia-Pacific. The Indonesia market is worth $1.1bn (£708m).

This is an example of how it works. Sari Husada, a subsidiary of Danone, has sales reps that build relationships with midwives. Up until 2011, it was purely financial – they would get a village midwife to sign up to a contract, which would involve selling a certain number of boxes of formula per month. Their rewards were pretty small – between 1m(£65) and 3m rupiah a year, depending on the number of deliveries the midwife’s practice had, and how much formula they sold. This is in manifest breach of the WHO codes, as well as Indonesian regulations, which expressly ban free samples, as well as direct marketing to healthcare workers or new mothers.

According to Danone, this no longer happens, and has been replaced by a scheme which runs training for midwives. As Usman Tasya, who worked for a subcontractor to whom Sari Husada outsourced its sales, explained: “Basically, what changed was the price. Previously, they were given cash. Post 2012, they were given gifts in kind, once they’d signed a contract.”

‘Act of beneficence’

Paperwork seen by the Guardian detailing these contracts specifies the change from cash to gifts. Sometimes they’ll get a gift, apparently for personal use, like a television or a laptop, but very often, it’s something they need for their practice, such as an oxygen canister, a TENS machine or a nebuliser.

The spokesperson for Danone insists that there is no connection between these events – the gifts are just that, an act of beneficence to the midwife, to help her set up her practice, they are unconditional upon the sales of any formula. Asked why that would include a television, he said: “They use them in waiting rooms. To make them places where people would want to go, where they’d feel comfortable going.” Asked about why sales reps have a relationship with midwives at all, the spokesman said: “We are permitted to have contacts with healthcare professionals, to tell them what’s good about our products. Separate to that, we support midwives in setting up their practices. They’re not necessarily separate people. But these are two separate activities.”

Formula companies are not allowed to contact new mothers or pregnant women directly and yet, according to Usman, this is rife: “We get details of the mothers who are giving birth, pregnant women, through the midwife.” But why would a midwife give out that information? “Midwives, when they get the samples, they really like it. They really like the gimmicks, even the small things. The patient data, they give it to Sari Husada because they think it’s part of the programme they’ve agreed to.”

The Guardian has seen a spreadsheet detailing the number of new mothers contacted, the amount of 0-6 months formula sold, and the proportion of their target this represents. Danone commented: “That may still be happening, that’s something we need to address.”

Sari Husada has legitimate links all the way up the chain. Doctors running seminars for midwives are in its pay. It sponsors professional bodies, conferences and midwifery awards (which are then bestowed by the minister for women’s empowerment and the protection of children). The sponsorship element sounds innocuous, and is allowed under Indonesian law; but you can forgive the midwives, who do the grunt work for the company and get the smallest rewards, for thinking that everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t they?

One young midwife in West Java, who didn’t want to be named, insisted she would never sign a formula contract. “Recently, the health officer came to the houses of mothers and found out that some mothers purchased formula from the midwives. They called the midwives all one by one, and questioned them. They are all afraid. Then they were made to sign an agreement with local government that they wouldn’t sell it any more. But senior midwives don’t like being told what to do.” The other midwives in the area disputed this, saying she had to be on a contract; she’d had more education than she could possibly have afforded on her own. Her bachelors degree would have cost her 25m rupiah, which is well over a year’s salary.

It may sound counter-intuitive that Indonesia has the strictest breastfeeding law in the world – since 2010, all babies have had to be breastfed exclusively for six months, unless there were compelling medical grounds not to. Anyone hampering this could be fined 100m rupiah or spend a year in prison. But nobody has been jailed for misdemeanours and it is noticeable that only civil charges could be brought against the formula companies, while individuals could face criminal charges.

Nia Umar, who set up the breastfeeding activist group AIMI in 2007, said: “It’s absurd that we would regulate something that we would do so naturally. It’s like regulating, you, yes, you – you have to eat rice. The formula industry is a stakeholder in the law that tells women to breastfeed.”

One of AIMI’s more recent successes was to scotch a research project at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Indonesia that would have taken newborns from the slums and fed them free formula for a year, to see how well they fared.

No provision was made for covering their medical bills if they fell ill. One of the many problems that AIMI had with the study was that there was no transparency about who was funding it – but that bit was rectified when someone accidentally copied them in on the consignment form from FrieslandCampina, a Dutch formula company that is a big seller in Indonesia.

More pressingly, though, the study was unethical in a number of ways, with big questions about using the poor as a testbed for the general population, not to mention generating conditions which are unsafe for a cohort of babies.

Wadhini, from Save the Children, is tactful – but not completely reticent – about the role of corporations: “I guess promoting breastfeeding is important, but behaviour change needs support at every level, the family, the community, the government … especially where we see that formula companies are a competitor to breastfeeding. That’s what we are trying to emphasise, it’s not merely about the mother and the baby, it’s about engaging with the family, the community, the local government, the central government.”

However, being a charity, it can’t say what many activists think, which is that this is an outrage; public health networks, not hugely well established in this country, are just well established enough to act as capillaries for an industry whose profit motive runs directly counter to the interests of public health.

Inevitably, the story ends back in the slum, where Riska has diarrhoea, a rash and a fever. She’s seen the clinic midwives. This story is crying out for a line like: “Riska is fine, for now. The next slum baby might not be so lucky.” But none of us knows what will happen. She seemed pretty sick.

Some names have been changed

The 10 Biggest Health Care Lies in America

Original Post: Wednesday, April 21, 2010
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, Editor of Natural News .com[Disclaimer: Mumanu Ltd does not believe that doctors and nurses are acting to mislead people or keep them sick. However, we have posted this article because of the likelihood that hospital financial administrators and drug companies are not always working in favour of the patient.]

Mainstream health care isn’t based on “health” or “caring.” It’s actually based on an engrained system of medical mythology that’s practiced — and defended — by those who profit from the continuation of sickness and disease. This system of medical mythology might also simply be called “lies”, and today I’m sharing with NaturalNews readers the top ten lies that are still followed and promoted under mainstream health care in America today.

Lie #1) Vaccines make you healthy

Vaccines have emerged as the greatest and most insidious mythology yet fabricated by western medicine. The idea that vaccines protect you from infectious disease is blatantly false in the long term because this year’s flu shot actually makes you more susceptible to next year’s influenza

On top of that, even the theoretical short-term effectiveness of vaccines is dwarfed by the far more effective protection offered by vitamin D and other immune-modulating nutrients.

Lie #2) Pharmaceuticals prevent disease

The big push by Big Pharma is now focused on treating healthy people with drugs as if pharmaceuticals were nutrients that could somehow prevent disease. This is the new push with cholesterol drugs: Give ‘em to everyone, whether they have high cholesterol or not!

But pharmaceuticals don’t prevent disease, and medications are not vitamins. Your body has no biological need for any pharmaceuticals at all. People who believe they need pharmaceuticals have simply been the victims of “fabricated consent” engineered by Big Pharma’s clever advertising and P.R. spin.

Lie #3) Doctors are experts in health

Doctors don’t even study health; they study disease. Modern doctors are taught virtually nothing about nutrition, wellness or disease prevention. Expecting a doctor to guide you on health issues is sort of like expecting your accountant to pilot a jet airliner — it’s simply not something he or she has ever been trained in.

That’s not to say doctors aren’t intelligent people. Most of them have high IQs. But even a genius can’t teach you something they know nothing about.

Lie #4) You have no role in your own healing

Doctors, drug companies and health authorities all want you to believe that your health is determined by their interventions. If you believe them, you have virtually no role in your own health or healing — it’s all managed by their drugs, their screening, their surgeries and their interventions.

Lie #5) Disease is a matter of bad luck or bad genes

Western medicine wants you to believe in the mythology of spontaneous disease — disease that strikes without cause. This is equivalent to saying that disease is some sort of voodoo black magic and that patients have no way to prevent disease through their own diets or lifestyle choices.

It’s funny, actually: Western medicine claims to be driven by scientific, rational thinking, and yet the entire industry still fails to acknowledge that chronic disease always has a cause and that most of the time, that cause has everything to do with nutritional deficiencies, exposure to toxic chemicals and a lack of exercise.

Disease is almost never a matter of bad luck or bad genes.

Lie #6) Screening equals prevention

Western medicine doesn’t believe in disease prevention. Rather, the industry believes in screening while calling it prevention. But screening isn’t prevention by even the wildest stretch of the imagination. In fact, virtually all the popular screening methodologies actually promote diseases.

Mammography, for example, emits so much radiation that it causes breast cancer in tens of thousands of women each year. Imaging dyes used in radiological scans can cause horrific side effects, and psychiatric “disorder” screening is little more than a thinly-disguised patient recruitment scheme disguised as medicine.

Real prevention of disease must involve disease prevention through nutrition, patient education about the causes of disease and lifelong changes in eating habits. Yet western medicine teaches absolutely none of these things. Heck, it doesn’t even believe in such ideas.

Lie #7) Health insurance will keep you healthy

This is a favorite lie of those who recently pushed for the Big Pharma-sponsored health care reform that has swept across America. The lie supposes that merely having health insurance will provide some sort of magical protection against disease. But in reality, health insurance doesn’t make you healthy! It is only YOU and your choices about foods, exposures to toxic chemicals, pursuit of exercise and time in nature that can make you healthy.

Health insurance is, in effect, a wager that you will get sick. How does gambling on your sickness provide any protection whatsoever for your health? It doesn’t. Personally, I’d rather bet on health than sickness, and the way to do that is to invest in nutritional supplements, organic produce, superfoods, physical fitness and non-toxic personal care products.

Lie #8) Hospitals are places of health and healing

If you want to stay healthy or get healthy, a hospital is the very last place you want to find yourself: They are unhappy, unhealthy places that are infested with antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Hospitals usually serve disease-promoting foods and lack health-enhancing sunlight, and potentially deadly mistakes with pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures now appear to be frighteningly common in U.S. hospitals.

Certainly, emergency rooms in hospitals play an important role in urgent care for injuries and accidents — and emergency room physicians do an amazing job saving lives — but for people with chronic, degenerative disease, a hospital is a very dangerous place to be. Unless you really need immediate critical care, try to avoid hospitals.

Lie #9) Conventional medicine is “advanced” state-of-the-art medicine

Even though doctors and health authorities try to pass off western medicine as being “advanced” or “modern,” the whole system is actually pathetically outdated and stuck in the germ theory of disease. Western medicine has yet to even acknowledge the role of nutrition in preventing disease — something that has been scientifically documented for at least the last several decades. Western medicine fails to acknowledge mind-body medicine and hilariously believes the mind plays virtually no role in healing.

Neither does western medicine acknowledge the bio energy field of living systems, nor that organ transplants carry memories, nor that living food is qualitatively different from dead food. Seriously: Conventional doctors still believe that dead food is exactly the same as living food! (And the USDA food pyramid still makes no distinction between the two…)

“Modern” medicine isn’t so modern, it turns out. It is, in fact, hopelessly outdated and desperately needs to upgrade its approach to health and wellness if it hopes to survive the next hundred years.

Lie #10) More research is needed to find “cures”

This lie is especially hilarious because western medicine does not believe in any “cure” for any disease. They aren’t even looking for cures! This lie has been repeated since the 1960′s, when cancer scientists claimed they were only a few years away from curing cancer. Today, four decades later, can you think of a single major disease that western medicine has cured? There aren’t any.

That’s because drug companies make money from sick people, not cured people. A patient cured is a patient lost. It is far more profitable to keep patients sick and pretend to “manage” their disease through a lifetime of pharmaceuticals. So when drug companies and disease non-profits claim to be searching for a “cure,” what they’re really doing is taking your money to fund more drug research to patent more medications that don’t actually cure anything.

Remember this the next time you’re asked to donate to some search for “the cure.” The cures already exist in nutrition, herbal remedies and naturopathic medicine, but Big Pharma and the conventional medicine cartel isn’t interested in real cures — they only want to promote the idea of a cure while pumping patients full of drugs that don’t cure anything.

Beyond the ten lies

When it comes to western health care, there are more than 10 lies, of course, but these big 10 lies are perhaps the most relevant to your own health decisions. By avoiding being suckered in by these lies, you can take charge of your own health and avoid the health care scam by staying healthy!

Staying healthy isn’t as difficult as you think, and it doesn’t require health insurance or disease screening. It only requires making informed, intelligent decisions about what to eat, what to put on your skin and how to get more sunshine and physical exercise. Once you do these basic things, you’ll find that you are no longer held victim by a western medicine health care system based on lies and outdated medical mythology.

It’s time for a revolution in medicine… a revolution that finally advances past the mental roadblock of a system of medical mythology stuck in the 1940′s. Don’t get me wrong, 1940′s medicine was great in the 1940′s. But this is no longer the 1940′s, and the germ theory of disease is hopelessly outdated when it comes to the primary diseases that are striking the population today. Yet the profiteers of our dishonest, outmoded health care system are doing everything in their power to keep us all stranded in the past, a past based on treating the body like a chemical battleground and attacking every disease with a patented pharmaceutical.

That whole approach to health care is so far outdated that it’s hilarious it can still be pushed with a straight face. No wonder doctors only spend an average of two minutes with patients these days. That’s the limit of how long they can hold their faces without breaking out in laughter at how stupid this whole “treat the symptoms and forget the causes” approach to health care really is. Even they know it! That’s why most doctors actually eat superfoods and take vitamins themselves, even if they never dare suggest it to patients.

True fact: It is illegal in every U.S. state for a doctor to recommend any vitamin, nutrient or food for the prevention or treatment of any disease. Doing so can cause a doctor to have his medical license permanently revoked. How crazy and outdated is that?

The Original Mumanu™ Pregnancy Pillow

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Mumanu is the only side sleeper pregnancy pillow that correctly aligns the hip, pelvis and spine to prevent and relieve low back pain and hip pain. Ideal whether you’re pregnant or not, the Mumanu Pillow is ideal for everyone. Self-inflating for the perfect fit, easy to travel with and store and exceedingly versatile! Read more >>

Relieve low back pain and hip pain naturally day and night with the Original Mumanu Pregnancy Pillow. So far we’ve discovered it’s great forlying down in bed, sitting in the car or at your desk, even relaxing in the evening or doing yoga. The Mumanu will help keep your posture correct and relaxed with the minimum of effort. Originally intended as a pregnancy pillow, we quickly discovered that everyone benefits from this fabulous product.

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This gorgeous, squidgy memory foam pregnancy pillow gently lifts your belly into a neutral position while side sleeping to stop that dragging feeling. It also prevents you from rolling forwards, twisting your spine and thus giving you relief from low back pain. Coupled with The Original Mumanu Pillow (sold separately) you’ll be set for the most comfortable night’s sleep.

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Accessorize your Original Mumanu Pillow with these soft and durable drawstring covers. We bring you only the best internationally certified organic cotton to make your Mumanu Pillow that bit more comfortable. Choose from three beautiful colours.

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The Real Breastfeeding Scandal


Posted in: Huff Post Parents By CAROLYN S. MILES President & CEO, Save the Children
Published: February 17, 2013

Last year, Time magazine’s “Are You Mom Enough?” cover practically shouted “Scandal! Women breastfeeding too long!”The unforgettable image stirred up controversy and I’m sure it sold magazines. But are moms and kids any better off?

Now, imagine funnelling all that outrage and punditry into something that really helped mothers and their babies when it came to breastfeeding — especially in the developing world where it can literally save lives.

The real scandal is not breastfeeding late, but that too many moms don’t get the support needed to breastfeed early — or to keep breastfeeding, should they want to.

In our new report, “Superfood for Babies,” Save the Children estimates that 830,000 babies could be saved every year if they were breastfed in the first hour of life. The colostrum, or first milk, provides a powerful shot of antibodies that can stave off deadly disease. And immediate breastfeeding more often leads to exclusive breastfeeding for six months, which can save even more lives.

So why isn’t this happening? Our report identifies four major barriers to breastfeeding:

1) Community and cultural pressures
2) The health worker shortage
3) Lack of maternity legislation
4) Inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes

These factors narrow breastfeeding choices that moms everywhere should be empowered to make — including in the United States. In the developing world, the price is particularly high. A baby dies every 30 seconds for lack of protection breastfeeding provides against malnutrition and deadly disease.

So let’s change the conversation and pose a different question. Are we supporting moms enough? In too many places, the answer is no.

One third of moms around the world give birth without the help of even one skilled health worker. In many communities, beliefs that the colostrum is dirty or that babies should drink (potentially contaminated) water or herbal tea rob them of “nature’s first vaccine.”

Globally, we face a terrible shortage of trained health workers, and new mothers need their support. I remember so vividly the wonderful nurses in the Hong Kong hospital where I gave birth to my two boys — helping me getting the hang of breastfeeding in those early hours and talking to me about the benefits.

Moms in most countries, including the United States, have no guarantee of the internationally recommended minimum 14-18 weeks maternity leave. And workplace accommodations to support continued breastfeeding simply don’t exist in much of the world, let alone protections for poor women working in the informal sector, such as domestic work or street vending.

Our report finds continued violations of The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which was adopted by the World Health Assembly after outrage in the 1970s over aggressive formula marketing in developing countries. Today, violations include free samples and direct contact with mothers and health workers. Sadly, many women still don’t have access to clean water or income needed to continue using formula properly.

And although it’s not the same matter of life and death in the United States, women who choose to breastfeed know how challenging successfully nursing after birth can be. Yet only, 6.7 percent of births here occur in “Baby-Friendly” facilities that meet international guidelines around supporting moms to breastfeed.

As moms, we all want the best for our children — but any of us can tell you we cannot do it alone, especially right after birth. Motherhood is not a competition, but a sisterhood and we do much to help each other tackle the challenges we face. That can extend beyond our own communities, where moms and their babies face the greatest risks.

In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama pledged the United States would work with allies to save children from preventable deaths. Research shows that empowering more mothers to breastfeed is among the most effective steps we can take.

So what can you do? Raise your voice for moms, at home and around the world. You can start signing a petition asking the United States to renew the 1,000 Days Call to Action.

This groundbreaking initiative is helping countries create nutrition strategies that support breastfeeding and other low-cost protections against malnutrition. It focuses on the critical 1,000 window between pregnancy and age 2, but is set to expire in June. Your signature can help more moms save their own babies lives !

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Beware the Nocebo Effect

Posted in: New York Times Sunday Review
Published: August 10, 2012

EVERYONE knows that a placebo — a fake medication or sham procedure, typically used as a control in a medical trial — can nonetheless have a positive effect, relieving real symptoms like pain, bloating or a depressed mood. The placebo effect is a result of the patient’s expectation that the treatment will help.

But expectations can also do harm. When a patient anticipates a pill’s possible side effects, he can suffer them even if the pill is fake. This “nocebo” effect has been largely overlooked by researchers, clinicians and patients. In an article recently published in the journal Deutsche Ärzteblatt International, we and our colleague Ernil Hansen reviewed 31 studies, conducted by us and other researchers, that demonstrated the nocebo effect. We urge doctors and nurses to be more mindful of its dangers, particularly when informing patients about a treatment’s potential complications.

Consider the number of people in medical trials who, though receiving placebos, stop participating because of side effects. We found that 11 percent of people in fibromyalgia drug trials who were taking fake medication dropped out of the studies because of side effects like dizziness or nausea. Other researchers reported that the discontinuation rates because of side effects in placebo groups in migraine or tension drug trials were as much as 5 percent. Discontinuation rates in trials for statins ranged from 4 percent to 26 percent.

In a curious study, a team of Italian gastroenterologists asked people with and without diagnosed lactose intolerance to take lactose for an experiment on its effects on bowel symptoms. But in reality the participants received glucose, which does not harm the gut. Nonetheless, 44 percent of people with known lactose intolerance and 26 percent of those without lactose intolerance complained of gastrointestinal symptoms.

In one remarkable case, a participant in an antidepressant drug trial was given placebo tablets — and then swallowed 26 of them in a suicide attempt. Even though the tablets were harmless, the participant’s blood pressure dropped perilously low.

The nocebo effect can be observed even when people take real, non-placebo drugs. When medical professionals inform patients of possible side effects, the risk of experiencing those side effects can increase. In one trial, the drug finasteride was administered to men to relieve symptoms of prostate enlargement. Half of the patients were told that the drug could cause erectile dysfunction, while the other half were not informed of this possible side effect. In the informed group, 44 percent of the participants reported that they experienced erectile dysfunction; in the uninformed group, that figure was only 15 percent.

In a similar experiment, a group of German psychologists took patients with chronic lower back pain and divided them into two groups for a leg flexion test. One group was told that the test could lead to a slight increase in pain, while the other group was told that the test had no effect on pain level. The first group reported stronger pain and performed fewer leg flexions than the second group did.

A doctor’s choice of words matters. A team of American anesthesiologists studied women about to give birth who were given an injection of local anesthetic before being administered an epidural. For some women, the injection was prefaced by the statement, “We are going to give you a local anesthetic that will numb the area so that you will be comfortable during the procedure.” For others, the statement was, “You are going to feel a big bee sting; this is the worst part of the procedure.” The perceived pain was significantly greater after the latter statement, which emphasized the downside of the injection.

The nocebo effect presents doctors and nurses with an ethical dilemma: on one hand, they are required to tell patients about the potential complications of a treatment; on the other hand, they want to minimize the likelihood of side effects. But if merely telling patients about side effects increases their likelihood, what is to be done?

Better communication is the answer. When talking with patients, doctors and nurses often say things with unintended negative suggestions, like “it’s just going to bleed a bit” or “you must avoid lifting heavy objects — you don’t want to end up paralyzed.” We recommend more extensive training in communication for doctors and nurses, to help them use the power of their words appropriately. As the great cardiologist Bernard Lown once said, “Words are the most powerful tool a doctor possesses, but words, like a two-edged sword, can maim as well as heal.”

Paul Enck is a professor of psychology at the University of Tübingen. Winfried Häuser is an associate professor of psychosomatic medicine at the University of Munich.

The Socially Accepted Violence Against Pregnant and Labouring Women

Birth Related Violence Against Women

By Samantha Thurlby-BrooksToday Amnesty International and One Billion Rising are campaigning together for women’s rights. They are encouraging everyone across the world to support the elimination of violence against women and girls. I think in the light of recent events, such as the horrific Delhi gang rape that happened in December 2012, this day is much needed.

We usually think of violence against a woman as being rape, beaten or emotionally abused, often by someone they are in a relationship with or someone else they know. Domestic violence is a serious issue and society is working together to find out what is going on behind closed doors and helping women in need. Sadly the prevalence of abuse specifically during pregnancy is rarely thought of yet 20% of pregnant women will suffer at the hands of their partner. This is unacceptable.

It is estimated that one in five women will be abused during pregnancy. As homicide during pregnancy now surpasses the previous leading causes of death (automobile accidents and falls), it is more important than ever that we know the signs and properly screen women for domestic

What I’d like to talk about here is the socially acceptable physical violence and emotional abuse pregnant and birthing women suffer. The abuse that leaves a woman feeling unworthy, incapable, doubting her abilities, fearful and physically and emotionally scarred. This is also the abuse that makes a woman feel like she deserved it, that there was something she did wrong to bring it on herself, that ‘it’s just what happens’ and brush it under the carpet to suffer in silence. It’s the socially acceptable abuse that leaves new mothers depressed and anxious or in a state of shock and numbness. Sometimes (and probably more frequently than is recorded) these women suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.

This violence I’m talking about is the way pregnant women are treated by the health profession in general and some health professionals (obstetricians and midwives). The problem is widespread because no one talks about it as being abuse and so many of the health professionals don’t even realise they are being abusive and how their words and actions affect a person. The Nocebo Effect is a term that is used when someone says something negative to a person and the person responds negatively. For instance, “your baby is measuring big” at 20 something weeks gestation sets a woman up to believe that her baby may be too big to be born vaginally. She wonders over the next few months how she would ever get a large baby out without tearing her perineum. When her healthcare provider then offers her the opportunity of an early induction or caesarean she is likely to accept.

Instead, it would be great if the healthcare provider didn’t comment on baby’s size or alternatively could say “Wonderful, your baby’s growing healthy and big. Just what we want. So long as you’re eating healthy foods this is great.” I had a client a couple of years ago who birthed an 11lb baby. She didn’t realise she was in labour because she wasn’t in much pain but, on a routine visit to her midwife, her midwife got suspicious and asked to do a vaginal exam. It turned out she was fully dilated and her waters had broken! She walked down to the labour ward and six pushes later her baby was born… no stitches, no tearing. It’s not the size of the baby that causes problems, it’s whether mum and baby are able to get into good positions and move together.

A client came to me for a postnatal massage a few months ago. She was feeling quite traumatised by her birth and the way she was treated. She had assumed that having a female private obstetrician would give her the best care available. Among some of the things that happened during her birth, the obstetrician, whilst stitching up her torn perineum, said she wasn’t surprised it happened as she [the mother] was overweight and probably sat around in cafes drinking coffee and eating cake. Besides the woman not being overweight at all this was horrendously inappropriate!

Pregnancy, birth and new motherhood is a time when a woman is at her most vulnerable. Her hormones for love and calm have increased since conception and during labour these hormones are peaking higher than any other situation can create. This love hormone, Oxytocin, is the creator of labour contractions. To feel the love and calmness of the hormone Oxytocin there needs to be an absence of the stress hormone Adrenaline. Adrenaline blocks Oxytocin. In otherwords, a woman must feel safe, confident and protected for Oxytocin to peek, giving her and her baby the safest and most empowering experience of birth.

Here are just a few facts about birth that are widely known;

  • A labouring woman must feel safe and relaxed
  • The safety of birth increases when a woman is continuously supported
  • A woman will birth her best where she feels safest; this can be a hospital, home or birth centre
  • Movement during labour reduces the experience of pain
  • Movement during labour helps baby position correctly for a safe, un-assisted vaginal birth
  • Lying on your back or semi-reclining during labour and birth is more painful, uses up more energy and is less effective than forward leaning, upright positions.
  • Forceful pushing can damage blood vessels in the mother’s eyes, create back pain and headaches
  • Forceful pushing won’t get a baby out if the baby’s shoulders are not in the pelvic brim… but moving around will
  • Foetal distress is frequently relieved if the labouring woman changes position (normally if she gets off her back)
  • Continuous Electronic Foetal Monitoring increases the caesarean rate (but is safer during an induction using synthetic oxytocin)
  • Inductions create more painful contractions
  • Bright lights and other distractions create more painful contractions
  • Hunger creates more painful contractions
  • Epidurals increase risk to mother and baby (lowers mother’s blood pressure, can create foetal distress, prevents baby from turning for birth, increases need for forceps, ventouse and caesarean)
  • IV fluid, necessary for epidurals, creates a bloated mother and baby and difficulty with feeding from bloated breasts, as well as diluting the mother’s blood which increases the chance of haemorrage
  • Hospital policies are largely there to protect the hospital against law suits

Even though we know all of these to be true, many health professionals still offer inductions without medical cause, offer epidurals as routine, require a woman birth on her back/semi-reclining with her feet in stirrups or more fashionably now with her feet pressed on the hip of a person on either side. If we know these things to be harder for the woman, but easier for the health professional, how can this not be abuse? How can forcing a woman to lie on her back, despite her saying no, saying she wants to be upright, saying that it hurts more, not be abuse and violence? This is an abuse of power, knocking a woman’s confidence and intuition that she knows her own body. How can doing an episiotomy (surgically cutting the perineum) or the perineum tearing because of this unfavourable position not be an act of violence against women?

Women who have suffered rape, sexual assault and other types of abuse (including emotional abuse) will agree that this creates the same feeling of helplessness, shame and guilt.

During labour, telling a woman that if she doesn’t birth her baby within two hours they will do a ceasarean is like telling a man that he has to have an orgasm within the next three minutes or they will cut the end of his penis…. except what they are threatening the woman with is major surgery. A woman doesn’t need to know what might happen while she’s in labour as this will disrupt her feelings of safety and the release of hormones that will improve her chances of a safe and easy birth.

These labour hormones are the same as the sex hormones. Imagine how each person would feel if the other said, during sex, “You’re not doing it right”, “Your penis isn’t big enough”, “Stay still”, “This isn’t about your pleasure”, “You’re no good at this because you’re too fat, too old, too sick, too tired”.

The health profession know this about birth. Doctors and midwives know that a woman must feel safe and confident and keep moving to have a good birth. However, when they don’t act for the whole good of the mother and baby, I believe they are putting themselves in the position of abuser. Hospital policies are not law yet they are pushed onto a healthy labouring woman as though they are.

Now, I’m not saying all obstetricians and midwives are abusers. I know many wonderful health professionals who do a truely amazing job at supporting women. But, having massaged over 2000 pregnant women and new mothers over the last seven years I have heard many, many wonderful and awful stories. A student of mine called me up recently feeling very upset about the way her midwife treated her during her birth. Upon arrival her midwife said she’d have to cancel her beauty appointment to be here, giving the labouring woman the strong feeling that her being in labour was such an incovenience. She was then set up for feeling guilty and also untrusting of her midwife and all that happened thereafter.

I’ve had many clients complain of painful vaginal exams during labour. Despite protests these women are often ignored, told to suck it up or reassured that it needs to be done and it’ll be over soon. How familiar this is to a child suffering sexual abuse from a person they know?Vaginal exams give very little useful information when done routinely. A cervix can dilate and contract very quickly or very slowly and still be part of a safe birth. The dilation of the cervix doesn’t tell us how soon a baby will be born… there are many other factors that affect this.

One midwife, during a birth I attended, carried out a vaginal exam during a contraction, despite it being more painful, and causing the woman’s waters to break (technically a surgical procedure). The midwife turned around and said that is was common for that to happen when doing a vaginal exam through a contraction. It is common for medical professionals to do these types of procedures ‘accidentally’ without the person’s consent, increasing the risks of birth and violating the person’s human rights of choice.

I have frequently heard of women being given Pethidene, an opiate based drug that strongly affects the mother and baby, without their permission. They weren’t told what it was or what the risks of it were before it being administered, with at least one woman being left on her own for the experience. The biggest fears humans have is to be abandoned in our time of need and to be held against our will. Labouring women are often subjected to both.

I could write a whole book about the stories I’ve heard, first hand, from women about their treatment through pregnancies and birth. About caesareans that weren’t necessary, about the terminology used by the medical profession (failure to progress is actually a successful protection of the baby, something I call the Lion Effect), the lack of scientific evidence for many diagnosed cases of cephalopelvic disproportion (baby too big for the pelvis), of women not being believed when they say how labour feels, that baby’s coming soon or that they are in labour at all. Of women, successful, well educated women, being called a ‘good girl’, of being ridiculed when she says she wants a natural, unmedicated birth, of being pressured into consenting to a procedure (often with the ‘your baby might die if we don’t do this’ threat for something that carries a very small risk).

So, yes, many midwives and obstetrician’s are wonderfully caring and supportive. But, there are equally as many who subject women to this socially approved low and high level abuse creating mothers who doubt themselves, go away feeling that birth was a trauma best forgotten, that they were ‘saved’ by a terrible experience, that their body’s don’t work and that other people know what’s best for them and their baby.

When we change the way pregnant women are treated, how society prepares women for birth and nurtures new mothers, when we train healthcare professionals and update hospital policies with the latest sound research… then we will be on our way to creating a society without violence.