Tag Archives: study

Science proves becoming a parent sucks the happiness out of life

Someone recently told me I changed 5 years ago, for the worse. I wondered what could have happened that would have turned me into a horrible person, when it dawned on me- 5 years ago I had a kid!

The reality of parenthood, taken 30 seconds after the first, Thanksgiving 2012

The reality of parenthood, Thanksgiving 2012

That was the end of sleep/sleeping in/getting enough sleep, having nice things, cleaning only your own poo, leisurely meals, peaceful car trips, etc. The lack of sleep alone is enough to make people irritable and irrational, never mind the crying. I think most parents would agree that having a kid was a profound, and possibly irreversible, life change.

Et voila! Science proves it.

It turns out parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment — even the death of a partner

Life has its ups and downs, but parenthood is supposed to be among the most joyous. At least that’s what the movies and Target ads tell us.

In reality, it turns out that having a child can have a pretty strong negative impact on a person’s happiness, according to a new study published in the journal Demography. In fact, on average, the effect of a new baby on a person’s life in the first year is devastatingly bad — worse than divorce, worse than unemployment and worse even than the death of a partner.– The Washington Post

Parenthood is, in its way, worse than getting divorced, losing your job, or the death of a partner. Read it and weep (or perhaps I should say keep weeping if you’re already there).

I can’t imagine being a single parent, or not having the choice whether or not to have a child. Even at the lowest points, at least Mac and I could fall back on, “We got ourselves into this mess.”

It may be a choice to procreate, the end result may be positive, and parents may not choose to change anything, but parenting is freakin’ hard. Especially that first one.

So, on behalf of parents everywhere, apologies that we couldn’t be sunshine and roses when sleep-deprived and devoid of free time. Sincere thanks for folks who tolerated us and supported us during that transition.

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Coffee: Gatorade for parents and scientists

Everyone who drinks coffee knows that it makes you have to pee, right?

You may also be aware that scientists are heavy coffee drinkers.

Thus, when I am in meetings that run longer than an hour and a half, starting around the 50min mark, people start taking ‘bio breaks.’

My "Pessimist's Mug"

My “Pessimist’s Mug”

This anecdata would support the idea that coffee/caffeine dehydrates you by acting as a diuretic.

Well, this is why anecdata is dangerous to rely on.

I heard it on NPR (who did good by linking to the original PLoS study in their article!) that, caffeine, “when consumed in moderation by caffeine habituated males provides similar hydrating qualities to water.” (Source: Killer, Blannin, and Jeukendrup PLoS 2014 since PLoS stands for Public Library of Science, the article is freely available for all to read!).

It’s practically a health drink!  It’s like Gatorade for parents and scientists!*

 

Check it out on NPR here: “Coffee Myth-Busting: Cup Of Joe May Help Hydration And Memory

At PLoS here: “No Evidence of Dehydration with Moderate Daily Coffee Intake: A Counterbalanced Cross-Over Study in a Free-Living Population

*Disclaimer:  DO NOT dump an urn of hot coffee over the head of anyone as a celebratory gesture as is frequently done with Gatorade. Coffee is hot and can result in severe burns.

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Your brain on coffee

The other day my IRL friend Christi (who also happens to have a blog at Three Mugs To The Wind) posted a link to this piece in from the New York Times Well Blog:  This Is Your Brain on Coffee.

Grab a cup of java and check it out for a short read on all the wonderful things coffee does for your brain.

It reminded me of this infographic which I’ve shared before, here.

I have documented my coffee habit, scientifically proven to be common among scientists, add in parenting two small humans, and I am reliant.

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Another unremarkable reaction to vaccinations

My friend and fellow Evidence-Based Parenting blogger, Tara Haelle shared her story of her son’s unremarkable reaction to his childhood vaccinations, here.  She also dissected a recent study from Pediatrics, the journal of the American Association of Pediatricians, on the impact of religious exemptions on  pertussis rates.  You can read Tara’s post here.  You can also join the Evidence-Based Parenting community on Facebook and discuss it, share your stories, here.

I’ve written before about the importance of vaccinations.  I’ve even written about a case of measles that hit WAY to close to home for me, here.  In light of that, the study which Tara wrote about is concerning to me.  The crux of that paper from Pediatrics?  “Counties with higher exemption rates had higher rates of reported pertussis among exempted and vaccinated children when compared with the low-exemption counties.” (Source).

If you think that choosing NOT to vaccinate your child doesn’t impact anyone else in your community, you are WRONG!

Parents are lying about their religious beliefs to score immunization waivers on the basis of a religious objection.  Those lies, that failure to vaccinate is having real and measurable impacts on their communities, in the form of increased cases of pertussis.  Vaccination is important.  Vaccines save lives.  We all have to do our part to keep our communities safe and healthy.

Today, I’ll join Tara and I’ll add my voice to the chorus of vaccine stories.

I have two children, Mable is 3.5 and Nemo just turned one.  Both children have been vaccinated according to the standard schedule recommended by the CDC, AAP, AMA, etc.

While I have done a lot of reading on the topic of childhood vaccinations, we relied heavily on the decades of schooling and practice that our pediatricians and nurse practitioners had, in deciding how to vaccinate our kids.

Columbus wknd mcphd

Both of my remarkable children have had only unremarkable reactions to their vaccinations.

Just last week Nemo recieved his first dose of the MMR vaccine and the Varicella vaccine.

I could not even tell you what happened after each and every vaccination.  I have a recollection of Mabel sleeping through the night for the first time after getting several vaccinations at her 8 week well child visit.  I have a recollection of Nemo having a slight fever after some shots- I don’t remember which ones or how old he was.

My experience has been completely unremarkable.  Other than expected tenderness at the injection site or being sleepier than usual, maybe a fever, neither of my kids have had any reactions.  And, as is clear from my inability to recall details, those reactions aren’t even memorable enough for me to recall.

That’s my unremarkable vaccine reaction story.  What’s yours?  Share it here or with other Evidence-Based Parents on Facebook.

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Adverse Effects of Pitocin in Newborns

OMG!  “Pitocin Side Effects:  Harm to Newborns Found in Child Labor Drug Study Triggers mommy-Blog Firestorm!

I wasn’t really sure what the problem was from the headline.  Were mommy-bloggers upset over child labor?  Were newborns put to work on a drug study?  What’s going on?!

Apparently the moms at Babble and The Stir have their granny-panties in a knot reporting, sensationally*, on a press release from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (*meaning they are sensationalizing the results for clicks, not that they are doing a sensational job reporting on the study)

All the hubbub is over Poster #74 at ACOG’s Annual Meeting.  Title:  “Oxytocin Usage for Labor Augmentation and Adverse Neonatal Outcomes” by Dr. Michael S. Tsimis et al.

What the study looked at?

…a  retrospective analysis of deliveries that were induced or augmented with oxytocin. The study included more than 3,000 women delivering full-term infants from 2009 to 2011. The researchers used the Adverse Outcome Index, one of several tools used to measure unexpected outcomes in the perinatal setting and to track obstetric illness and death rates. (Source)

What the data showed?

Researchers found that induction and augmentation of labor with oxytocin was an independent risk factor for unexpected admission to the NICU lasting more than 24 hours for full-term infants. Augmentation also correlated with Apgar scores of fewer than seven at five minutes. The Apgar is a test that evaluates a newborn’s physical condition at one and five minutes after birth based on appearance (skin coloration), pulse (heart rate), grimace response (medically known as “reflex irritability”), activity and muscle tone, and respiration (breathing rate and effort). A baby who scores eight and above is generally considered to be in good health. (Source)

What the authors concluded?

The analysis suggests that oxytocin use may not be as safe as once thought and that proper indications for its use should be documented for further study. “However, we don’t want to discourage the use of Pitocin, but simply want a more systematic and conscientious approach to the indications for its use.” (Source)

The take home message?  The study (as far as I can ascertain from the ACOG press release) did not establish a causal link between pitocin use and adverse effects in newborns, it showed a correlation.  Like any drug, pitocin isn’t without side effects.  Doctors and patients must exercise their judgement in using it- adverse effects from pitocin may be preferable to outcomes of NOT using it and complications of delayed delivery of a baby.

Keep in mind, since this is a poster and not a published paper, the data hasn’t been peer reviewed, actually, unless you are actually AT that meeting, you can’t see the data, because it’s on a poster. My search for the abstract was fruitless, leading me in circles back to the press release.

So, as always, talk to your doctor, ask questions, make informed choices.  Don’t just listen to some random mommy-blogger (or in this case, #scimom blogger/Evidence Based Parenting blogger) on the internet.

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How to calm a baby and/or a baby mouse

Saw this article in The New York Times: “In Parents’ Embrace, Infants’ Heart Rate Drops

As I mom, I can attest to the fact that there have been numerous occasions where my children were crying- either in their bed, on the floor, or in the arms of another person- and the moment I took them into my arms, the crying ceased.  It’s often insulting to the person who has been holding them, but that is what they’ve done.

I’ve written before about research showing just how calming a mom can be for children of all ages- even just that mom’s voice, here.

It’s always oddly fascinating to me when research proves what we’ve always known/felt/believed to be true.

Turns out that human babies, and lots of other mammalian babies, respond similarly to being carried by their mother (or perhaps caregiver in the case of humans), by calming down.

Mother Mouse rescuing her pup from a cup.

Image from Esposito et al of the ‘behavioral task of maternal rescue’ wherein Mother Mouse rescues her pups from a cup.  This is similar to humans rescuing an infant from under the coffee table or a toddler from the monkey bars at the park.

A recent paper by Esposito et al entitled “Infant Calming Responses during Maternal Carrying in Humans and Mice” published in Current Biology looked at the responses of babies (of the human and murine variety) as well as dissecting what signals actually contribute to those responses (in the murine babies).

By monitoring babies movements, crying, and heart rates (electrocardiograms) the researchers found that within seconds of being carried (not just held, but picked up and moved around) by their moms, infants’ heart rates declined, their movements slowed, and their crying diminished.  Compared to an infant laying alone in a crib, just holding the infant while the mother was seated did elicit some calming effects, but not as strongly as carrying the infant.  (I’m pretty certain that further study would show this is primarily responsible for many a parent pacing up and down the aisles of an airplane to placate a cranky baby)

The same happens to mice, and since we can do experiments on mice that we can’t on babies, researchers looked further into the murine response to see how it worked.

Turns out, mice babies cry too (Ultrasonic Vocalizations, USVs).  Just like humans, when a mouse mom carries her pup, it calms down.  In a mouse, that means the pup stops crying/making USVs, adopts a compact posture (drawing up its hind legs and being still), and its heart rate drops.  The researchers used several different techniques to figure out what cues were causing these behaviors and figured out that it was a combination of actually feeling the mother grasping its skin and proprioception (basically sensing that it is being carried).

It’s fascinating to me how behaviors and responses are shared between species. It also reminds me how primal newborns are.

However, the paper had one CRITICAL flaw.  MAJOR.  As in I don’t know how the reviewers and editor missed it.

See here:

A scientific understanding of this physiological infant response could prevent parents from overreacting to infant crying. Such understanding would be beneficial to parents by reducing frustration, because unsoothable crying is a major risk factor for child abuse [26]. Source.

To this I say, “HAHAHAHA!  Are any of you even parents?!  At 3 am when you haven’t gotten any sleep and your kid just WILL NOT SHUT UP- does the knowledge that “the identified effects of carrying on parasympathetic activation and cry reduction were significant and robust” make one damn bit of difference?!*  I think not.

If I had been the reviewer, I might have responded, “If you want those two sentences in the paper, you gotta include a figure on whether that knowledge actually mattered to any parent in the dead of night with a colicky infant.”

 

 

*I’m only partly joking.  When my kids were infants and being difficult/impossible to soothe, I did remind myself that they weren’t intentionally trying to piss me off.  I suppose this understanding of what soothes them might similarly serve as a reminder that babies aren’t out to get you on a personal level at 3am by refusing to sleep and/or let you stop pacing around and/or nursing them.

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From The Annals of the Obvious: HPV vaccination does not make girls more promiscuous

Yesterday it was all over the news what anyone with a brain cell might have been able to figure out on their own- vaccinating girls against Human Papilloma Virus does not make them whores.

Here’s the study:  Sexual Activity-Related Outcomes After Human Papillomavirus Vaccination of 11- to 12-Year Olds, by Bednarczyk et al.

To briefly borrow a summary for the NYTimes:

They selected a group of 1,398 girls who were 11 or 12 in 2006 — roughly a third of whom had received the HPV vaccine — and followed them through 2010. The researchers then looked at what they considered markers of sexual activity, including pregnancies, counseling on contraceptives, and testing for or diagnoses of sexually transmitted diseases.

Over all, in the time that the girls were followed, the researchers did not find any differences in these measures between the two groups.  Source:  Anahad O’Connor, NYT.

When I was a tween and got vaccinated against hepatitis, I didn’t run out and spread my legs either.  I don’t think I even realized that hepatitis could be sexually transmitted at that age- or even paid close attention to what I was being vaccinated against.

I’m not sure why people think that being vaccinated against an STD would make a child more promiscuous, but apparently that’s the most cited reason given by parents for not vaccinated against HPV!

I can’t understand the reasoning, “Hmm.  Should I vaccinate my daughter against cervical cancer?  Give her protection against oral cancers as well?  All with this simple vaccination?  Oh, wait!  It’s an STD?!  Heck no.  I’d rather a daughter who died of cervical cancer than a daughter who engaged in premarital sex- because I know my precious little angel would never do that otherwise!”

Look.  HPV is an STD that causes genital warts.  It also causes cervical cancer.  It’s also now been linked to oral cancers as well, see here.  The HPV vaccine could guard your children, female and male (it causes penile cancer as well) against infection.  That means your daughters won’t get cancer and neither will your sons (they also won’t pass it on to your future daughter in law*).  Even if your precious little angel saves him/herself for marriage, who’s to say their spouse did the same?  Newsflash:  Almost one third of 14- to 19- year olds are infected with HPV!  Those are not odds I want to take with the health of my kids.

Just as I do with every other vaccine, I’m going to follow the CDC guidelines when it comes to the HPV vaccine.  Mabel and Nemo will both be vaccinated.

That said, I’m not going to turn them loose without a healthy dose of info on sexuality and sexual health.  I hope they always make the wisest of decisions when it comes to sex.  I would be happy if they waited until they were married.  Do I know the odds of that are slim?  Yes.  Are young people inherently unable to make decisions based on the long-term consequences of their actions?  Heck yeah. That’s why this vaccine is so important-  I don’t want a single bad decision to result in a cancer diagnosis down the road- for them or for their future partners.

Also note, all of this is assuming that children only engage in consensual sexual relations.  We know that this is not the case.  Children should be protected from predators, but they should also be protected from being victimized twice- first at the hands of an abuser, and second from any STD that abuser might transmit to them.

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*Pardon the hetero-normative language, but I’m guessing a person who fears a vaccine causing their daughter to have premarital sex, and that chance trumping her healthy, is NOT considering the possibility that their son or daughter could possibly ever be homosexual.

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