The Benefits of Newborn Circumcision: Deciding Whether or Not to Circumcise Your Infant After Birth

The universal rate of circumcision is about 30%, with the highest levels of over 80% in the United States and some European and Asian cultures reporting the lowest. In recent years, there has been a gradual shift in the minds of health professionals who advocated for the parents’ right to choose circumcision or not. It is hard to argue with research that continues to show health benefits that seem to weigh heavily against some of the cons of newborn circumcision .

Reasons to Circumcise

A review of the current research shows numerous health benefits of newborn circumcision. Infant males can benefit from being circumcised since studies show that they have have significantly fewer UTIs. Circumcision affects sexually transmitted diseases in the following ways:

  • Circumcision decreases getting HIV by 50-60%.
  • Circumcision decreases the acquisition of herpes simplex type 2 by 30%.
  • Human papillomavirus in circumcised men is 30% less prevalent.
  • decrease in the incidence of syphilis

Though the incidence is rare, another health benefit from circumcision in later years includes a nearly complete elimination of penile cancer.

The circumcised male is not the only one who experiences health benefits. The female sexual partner of a circumcised male also benefits from her partner’s circumcision in the following ways:

  • Bacterial vaginosis was reduced by 40%.
  • Trichomonal vaginalis was reduced by nearly 50%.

Reasons to Avoid Circumcision

Those who support avoidance of circumcision cite several disadvantages of this procedure:

  • pain and elevated levels of cortisol during the procedure
  • surgical risk during the procedure
  • risk of complications after the circumcision
  • possible long-term psychological or behavioral effects

While it is true that there is pain from circumcision, local anesthetics and nerve blocks can and should be utilized. Risks do occur with circumcision; however, they are very rare and tend to be minor.

According to research studies, the rate of complications from circumcision is approximately .2% or about one in every 476 circumcisions. Research has not shown any newborn deaths from circumcision in developed countries. Most of the evidence that shows psychological effects from circumcisions have been anecdotal in nature.

Proponents of keeping newborn males in tact also cite that circumcision is a human rights violation since the baby cannot provide consent. This is a tough argument since so much of healthy newborn well care could fit this category including doing routine blood work and performing vaccinations.

Pending CDC Guidelines on Circumcision

Because of the renewed interest in the issue of circumcision, the CDC is currently reviewing its position on providing specific guidelines and recommendations for circumcision. There is reason to believe that the CDC guidelines may likely include a universal recommendation for newborn circumcision in the United States in order to reduce the spread of HIV.

The CDC estimated that about 56,000 people were newly infected with HIV and over 50% of these new cases occurred in gay and bisexual men. So the new guidelines represent an effort to curb the spread of HIV in this population, rather than in male-to-female transmission.

Newborn circumcision continues to stir up an emotional debate. Perhaps looking at the evidence, rather than feelings, will help us become aware of the best and safest practices for all.

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The Dangers of Preeclampsia and Eclampsia: How Medical Science Copes With Pre-term Births

It is a fact that experiencing new motherhood is a supreme bliss. Every mother would like to welcome her offspring into the world safely, with utmost care and protection. A high-risk pregnancy due to hypertensive diseases like preeclampsia, eclampsia, toxemia, PIH (pregnancy-induced hypertension) highly endangers the life of the new mother and her baby.

The repercussions are varied and dangerous: pre-term delivery/premature births, under-nourishment for the baby due to Intra-uterine Growth Restriction (reduced blood flow to the placenta), devastating infant deaths as well as maternal deaths. For the past few decades, preeclampsia and eclampsia have occurred in a number of pregnant women globally, affecting both the pregnancy and the post-partum period, resulting either in maternal deaths or in high-risk pre-term deliveries.

Alarming Ratio of Maternal Mortality and High-risk Pre-term deliveries

A close study into the debilitating disorders of preeclampsia and eclampsia brings out some startling facts and statistics related to the diseases. Among recent findings, the rising ratio of maternal mortality due to the severe medical conditions of preeclampsia and eclampsia is the most alarming.

  • Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure induced by pregnancy, affects 7 to 10 percent of pregnancies in the United States and is the second-leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. It is the leading cause of pre-term delivery and contributes significantly to stillbirths and death in newborns.
  • Eclampsia conditions in the third trimester of pregnancy have been found out to be responsible for about 80% of eclampsia seizures occurring intrapartum (while giving birth) or within the first 48 hours following delivery.
  • According to a recent data recorded by Preeclampsia.org, (a foundation and support center for mothers suffering from preeclampsia and for mothers who have outlived the trauma and loss caused by preeclampsia), preeclampsia, eclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of illness and mortality in mothers and infants. Only by conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.
  • Research over the years has linked the increased risk of preeclampsia with increased maternal age, a genetic tendency towards high blood pressure, diabetes as well as high body fat.
  • Research also shows that more women die from preeclampsia than eclampsia.
  • Members of Preeclampsia.org have reported the loss of at least one baby or miscarriage in as many as 20% of their members globally. Additionally, these mothers having high-risk pre-term deliveries have also had the risk of having learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, blindness and deafness.

The Difference Between the Symptoms of Preeclampsia and Eclampsia

Preeclampsia and eclampsia are in reality, two different forms of the same disorder in pregnancy, with eclampsia being the more fatal and serious form of the disorder. Both entail a drastic increase in the mother’s blood pressure which results in abnormal swelling in different body parts of the mother.

While preeclampsia emerges in a mother-to-be, putting her at risk of pre-term labor, C-section delivery and a number of other medical interventions during childbirth, the proper diagnosis of preeclampsia is vital to prevent the more serious and fatal condition of eclampsia.

Various studies in the recent years involving preeclampsia and eclampsia are trying to understand the nature of these two severe medical conditions as they have been proved to be fatal to quite a number of mothers and babies. Surprisingly, no research has been able to prevent these two high risk ailments.

Expert gynecologists around the world agree upon a single remedy in case of preeclampsia, which is an early detection of the condition. Despite extensive research in all these years, no reliable test or symptom so far has been able to predict and also prevent the condition of eclampsia, the more severe form, leaving mothers and pre-term newborns in high risk zones of mortality.

To add to the complications, studies have indicated that there is no evidence of a single symptom profile that is unique to preeclampsia, and that the symptoms largely vary from person to person. Experts over the years have said that there are only certain factors that can change the way preeclampsia shows itself. Those include, but are not restricted to: the patient’s medical history, pregnancy history, diet and overall activity level.

The best and the only available remedy for babies born to preeclamptic mothers who are not diagnosed of the disease at an early stage: early delivery of the baby. This, naturally results in strict vigilance of the both the mother’s and the premature infant’s health in NICU facilities. In case of early diagnosis of preeclampsia, effective screening measures and an extremely efficient prenatal care, prompt treatment and consultation can save the lives of the mother and the baby.

The Standard Treatment Used in Preeclampsia Patients

Over all these years, doctors have prescribed a simple, life-saving salt named magnesium sulfate for mothers diagnosed with preeclampsia with quite satisfactory results, a significantly lower risk of eclampsia seizures, lower risk of maternal deaths, lower risk of the baby developing pneumonia and staying in intensive care. Nevertheless, this drug needs to be administered with utmost care and efficiency.

The fact remains that more research in this sphere is needed to provide a proper insight into the causes and also find a permanent remedy to these high-risk pregnancy conditions. Although in developed countries like the United States, incidences of these deaths are apparently low, it is not so when you look into maternal and infant deaths due to preeclampsia, eclampsia and pre-term births internationally. That surely is not to be taken lightly.

Banking Umbilical Cord Blood: Description and Composition of Umbilical Cord Blood

Umbilical cord blood contains stem cells that can be used to treat blood related disorders later in the child’s life.

The pregnancy is coming to an end and there are a plethora of decisions to be made about the labor and delivery. An option that is available to moms today that was not available to previous generations is banking of the umbilical cord blood.

Umbilical Cord Blood Composition

Umbilical cord blood of a newborn is full of stem cells which are cells in the body that can be used to produce all parts of the blood. Stem cells can produce platelets, white blood cells and red blood cells. Stem cells are found in bone marrow as well as blood. Research has shown that stem cells can be used to treat certain genetic disorders. Proponents of cord blood banking promote the fact that new uses for stem cells are being developed in laboratories every year.

Stem Cell Treatments

Because stem cells can reproduce into any kind of blood cell in the body, they can be used to treat blood disorders. Stem cells can be injected into the body’s bloodstream to treat leukemia, sickle cell anemia and lymphoma. Patients who have bone marrow that has been damaged from cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation may also be able to benefit from the injection of stem cells. Once the stem cells are in the patient’s bloodstream, it is believed that they will create new, healthy cells that can ultimately cure the patient’s blood related disorder. Studies have shown that frozen cord blood can be viable for up to 15 years.

Banking Cord Blood

In order to bank an infant’s cord blood, parents must contact a cord blood bank early in the third trimester of the pregnancy. There are several private umbilical cord blood banking services available that all charge similar fees for their service. There is generally a collection fee as well as an annual fee. When the baby is delivered, the doctor or nursing staff will ensure that the umbilical cord blood is collected for storage at the umbilical cord blood bank.

Choosing to bank a baby’s umbilical cord blood is a personal decision. The storage fees over time can be very expensive but can also prove to be priceless if the investment later treats an illness in the child that saves his life. Parents should discuss the option with the obstetrician as well as the pediatrician to decide the best route for their individual situation.

How to Bank Umbilical Cord Blood: Steps to Take to Ensure Safe Storage

Parents of newborns can choose to store the umbilical cord blood of the newborn for possible future medical use for the child.

The stem cells from umbilical cord blood can be used to treat a variety of genetic and blood related disorders. The umbilical cord blood is full of stem cells that are capable of reproducing healthy components of the blood.

Talk to the Doctor about Medical History and Cord Blood Banks

Choosing to bank your infant’s umbilical cord blood is a personal decision that requires research into the medical history of both families as well as the available storage options. Parents should consult the obstetrician to discuss medical history that could indicate a future need for the stem cells found in cord blood and get recommendations about private cord blood banking services. If the obstetrician is unfamiliar with cord blood banking, ask for a referral to another physician for discussion or consider contacting your child’s pediatrician for guidance. The obstetrician as well as the hospital will need to be aware of the decision to bank the umbilical cord blood in order for proper collection procedures to be followed after the delivery.

Research Umbilical Cord Banks

There are a number of both private and public banks that provide storage of umbilical cord blood. If the decision has been made to reserve the infant’s umbilical cord blood for possible future use for that child, private cord blood banks should be explored. Private cord blood banks charge collection fees as well as annual storage fees. If the decision is made to donate the umbilical cord blood, a public umbilical cord blood bank should be contacted. This option is available free of charge. Both services will provide a collection packet that should be taken to the hospital on the day of delivery.

When researching umbilical cord banks, it is important to do business with a reputable business that has a stable financial history. Check with the Better Business Bureau for any past complaints that could indicate an issue with the agency. The blood bank should provide a contract that will spell out all terms associated with the storage of the umbilical cord blood. Be sure the contract details what happens to the stored cord blood if the bank should go out of business. In addition, ensure that all fees are clearly spelled out so there will be no surprises once the umbilical cord blood has been stored.

Prepare for Collection of Umbilical Cord Blood

Once an umbilical cord blood banking service has been chosen, the agency should provide a collection kit. Take this kit to the hospital when admitted for the delivery of the baby. Inform all medical staff, including the obstetrician and nurses, of the decision to bank the baby’s umbilical cord blood. After collection is complete, the umbilical cord blood can be securely shipped to the agency to be preserved for storage. Current research shows that umbilical cord blood is suitable for use for 15 years after storage. While the blood may be viable after this point, there is not research to support this theory.

The decision to bank the umbilical cord blood should be made early in the third trimester. It is important to make the decision as early as possible to ensure the collection kit is received before the arrival of the baby.

What are the Differences Between Colds and Flu? Symptoms of the Common Cold and the Influenza Virus

Colds and flu are contagious viruses that are transmitted from person to person. Symptoms of the common cold and influenza are similar, but flu symptoms are more severe.

The terms ‘cold’ and ‘flu’ are often used interchangeably, but they are different illnesses resulting from different viruses. A virus which leads to a cold will cause a person to feel unwell, but still able to get on with most day-to-day activities. The flu virus is more debilitating than the common cold, and genuine flu sufferers will find it difficult to do anything except lie down and rest.

What are Colds and Flu?

Once a cold or flu virus enters the body, it attacks the body’s cells and reproduces rapidly, spreading in just a few hours. Cold and flu viruses affect the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat, sinuses, trachea, larynx and bronchial tubes), and symptoms of colds and flu are caused by the immune system’s reaction to the invasion of such viruses.

Colds and flu are self-limiting infections, meaning that they go away on their own. Taking lots of rest, drinking plenty of fluids and using over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and cough remedies, usually manage the symptoms of colds and flu.

Symptoms of the Common Cold

The common cold is so called simply because it is a very common infection among humans, with adults and children usually suffering from several colds each year. It is thought that more than 200 different cold viruses are responsible for causing colds. Symptoms of colds include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Coughing
  • Headaches
  • Blocked nose
  • Blocked ears
  • Earache
  • Tiredness
  • Mild temperature
  • Feeling shivery

Symptoms of a cold will usually develop within one to two days of contracting the virus, and will be at their worst within three days. After that, symptoms will begin to ease, and will take a week or two to completely disappear.

Symptoms of the Flu Virus

Contrary to popular belief, the flu is not the same as a very bad cold. Flu is caused by three different influenza viruses of which there are different strains. Flu symptoms are similar to cold symptoms, but are more severe and appear more quickly. Other symptoms of flu include:

  • Notably higher fever
  • Sweating
  • Exhaustion
  • Aching muscles
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Flu symptoms usually appear within a few hours of a person coming into contact with the flu virus. As with a cold, flu sufferers will usually start to feel better within a week, but tiredness may linger for some time.

Some people are at risk of serious secondary infections such as acute bronchitis and pneumonia if they contract the flu virus, and a flu vaccination may be recommended. At risk groups include people aged over 65, and those with:

  • Diabetes
  • A weakened immune system
  • Asthma
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Cardiovascular disease

The common cold and the flu are caused by different viruses, with symptoms of the flu presenting more quickly and with more severity than those of a cold. However, as both illnesses share many of the same symptoms, distinguishing between a severe cold and the flu can sometimes be difficult.

Spanish Flu Different from Swine Flu Pandemic: Experts Suggest H1N1 Flu Virus No Cause for Panic

Many reporters and scientist cite the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 when discussing the H1N1 virus (Swine Flu). Yet key differences exist between the two pandemics.

Whenever talk of an influenza pandemic arises, invariably the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak is mentioned. The current H1N1 flu pandemic or Swine Flu virus is actually a strain or offshoot of the 1918 Spanish Flu virus, which increases the concern among health care workers about the virus’ ability to spread, infect, and kill people. Swine flu or H1N1 is a mix of four viral strains into a new, unique type. Yet there are critical differences between the 1918 outbreak and the 2009 outbreak.

The 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic

The 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic killed approximately 100 million people worldwide. It lasted from March 1918 to June 1920. Unlike other influenza epidemics, this particular strain caused 10-20% mortality as compared to less than .1% mortality and appeared to kill healthy young adults more so than infants and the elderly, the typical victims of flu. Researchers estimate that one third of the entire world’s population contracted Spanish Flu.

Critical Differences Between H1N1 and the 1918 Spanish Flu Outbreak

Scientists have long feared a second influenza pandemic. The last significant pandemic was the 1968 Hong Kong flu. Many critical differences between the 1918 outbreak and the H1N1 strain should put people’s fears to rest.

According to one of the biology reference sites, these differences include the following:

  • Spanish Flu was so deadly because it caused a cytokine storm. A cytokine storm is when the virus hijacks the body’s immune system and overwhelms it, thus negating the body’s natural defense.
  • Spanish Flu targeted the young and healthy. The Swine flu virus affects a mixed group of people.
  • Secondary infections such as bacterial pneumonia accounted for a huge number of deaths from Spanish Flu. Today, antibiotics combat bacteria pneumonia. Antibiotic medications did not exist in 1918.
  • Antiviral medications such as Tamiflu can be used to shorten the severity and duration of Swine Flu. These medications did not exist in 1918.
  • Breathing difficulties due to congestion and bleeding in the lungs also caused deaths from the Spanish Flu. Today, medical equipment such as ventilators (breathing machines) can assist breathing in severely ill patients.

World War I and Its Effects Upon the Spread of Spanish Flu

Another important consideration is the effects of World War I on the spread of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. During times of war, several factors coalesce to create the “perfect storm” for a pandemic.

  • Men are housed in close quarters such as barracks, creating an ideal environment for infection to spread.
  • Medical supplies during World War I may have been harder to obtain, with many supplies going to the war effort. What was available was primitive compared with modern medications and treatments.
  • Food shortages, rationing and poor quality food weakened the population of countries at war.

The only factor affecting today’s Swine flu outbreak is when people live in close quarters. Outbreaks of Swine flu reported in September 2009 on college campuses, especially in dormitories. But most Swine flu victims are ill for only about three days before feeling better. If complications arise, they can be treated in the hospital.

H1N1 Flu Pandemic No Cause for Panic

Dr. Jorge Parada, associate professor of medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine says that H1N1 is no cause for panic. “It was the pre-antibiotic age. If you had post-influenza pneumonia, the likelihood of doing poorly and dying were much higher,” Parada said. “We’re in the antibiotic age now and we do a much better job of treating and preventing post-influenza pneumonia.”

Parada also points out that antiviral medications such as Tamiflu and Relenza, if used in the early stages of infection, shorten the severity and duration.

“The earlier treatment is started, the more effective it is,” Parada said. “If treatment is started after 72 hours of symptoms, it has very limited effect. It has a greater effect if it’s started after 48 hours and an even better effect if it’s started within 24 hours of symptoms.”

Other weapons to fight H1N1 include flu vaccines and simple hygienic practices such as frequent hand washing or using hand sanitizers, staying at home if feeling ill, and avoiding crowds during known outbreaks. For those who do not wish to receive a flu vaccine, following natural and alternative methods to boost immune system response, such as avoiding sugar and increasing intake of fruits, vegetables and healthy foods, using herbs and homeopathic remedies might help.

Parada and other scientists caution that while H1N1flu pandemic is no laughing matter, it’s not time to panic yet. The world is a long way from the millions of deaths experienced during the 1918 pandemic. Hopefully, H1N1 will be a typical influenza virus and will disappear as quickly as it appeared.

Morgellons Disease – A Rare Medical Condition: Learn the Symptoms and Treatment

A rare new medical condition is currently under study investigations by the CDC because of the many unusual symptoms it has shown to produce.

The CDC has begun study investigation on a rare new medical condition that produces many unusual symptoms. This rare condition is called Morgellons Disease. There have been many reported cases of this disease where the patients report to experience moving fibers growing from within skin lesions on the body. These rare symptoms often lead doctors to improperly diagnose a patient with a psychiatric disorder instead of an actual medical condition.

The CDC began their investigation after the numbers of reported cases of Morgellons Disease began to rise. This disease has become so wide spread that all 50 states of the United States now report cases of Morgellons Disease. Florida and Texas have reported the most cases. Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have began reporting similar cases of Morgellons Disease. The only evidence that has come for the studies is the conclusion that the patients family members are likely to be affected by the condition as well.

Symptoms

Morgellons Disease produces very rare and very odd symptoms. These symptoms are so unique that patients are often disregarded as having a psychiatric condition. A common symptom of this condition is painful skin lesions that cause an intense and painful itching. Inside the skin lesions, patients report seeing white, blue, red, and black moving fibers. There have been many reports of odd sensations underneath the skin as if bugs were crawling in their skin or insects have been stinging them. Extreme fatigue has been associated with this disease as well as lack of concentration. Some patients have experienced vision disturbances and memory loss. The joints and muscles of the bodies can become painful. Behavioral changes and gastrointestinal disturbances have been reported. The skin on the body can begin to change texture and even color.

Treatment

Since Morgellons Disease is a relatively new condition, there is no known cure. So little is known about this condition that it is not even known if it is infectious. The cause of this rare disease remains unknown as well. Doctors can only recommend treatments to cope with this condition. The most important step for a patient to follow is to get frequent check ups by a trusting and understanding doctor. Alternative treatments may benefit the treatment of this disease so it is important to keep an open mind. Conventional medications have not shown to have any positive impact of treating Morgellons Disease.