Pregnancy

An HCG pregnancy test checks human chorionic gonadotropin levels in the blood or urine. This measurement means that an HCG test can test whether a woman is pregnant, as well as whether their body is producing the right level of pregnancy hormones.

Typically, HCG levels increase steadily during the first trimester, peak, then decline as the pregnancy progresses in the second and third trimesters.

Doctors may order several HCG blood tests over a number of days in order to monitor how the HCG levels change. This HCG trend can help doctors determine how a pregnancy is developing.

In this article, we take a look at human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) levels and how they relate to pregnancy. We also examine the potential results and accuracy of an HCG pregnancy test.

What is HCG?

Cells that become the placenta produce the hormone HCG. The HCG levels in the body quickly rise during the first few weeks of pregnancy.

HCG levels not only signal pregnancy but are also a way to measure whether a pregnancy is developing correctly.

Very low HCG levels may point to a problem with the pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy, or warn that a miscarriage could happen. Rapidly rising HCG levels can signal a molar pregnancy when a uterine tumor grows.

Doctors require multiple HCG measurements in order to track the development of a pregnancy.

HCG levels stop rising late in the first trimester. This leveling out may be why many women experience relief from pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue, around this time.

How HCG works as a pregnancy test

Many women have very low levels of HCG in their blood and urine when they are not pregnant. HCG tests detect elevated levels.

Tests may not detect pregnancy until HCG has risen to a certain level. This requirement means tests that detect lower levels of HCG may diagnose pregnancy earlier.

Blood tests are typically more sensitive than urine tests. However, many home urine tests are highly sensitive. A 2014 analysisTrusted Source found that four types of home pregnancy tests were able to detect HCG levels up to 4 days before the expected period, or about 10 days after ovulation for many women.

How to read the results

People must read the urine test instructions and follow them carefully. Most tests use lines to show when a test is positive. The test line does not have to be as dark as the control line to be positive. Any line at all indicates the test is positive.

Test strips can change color as they dry. Some people notice an evaporation line after several minutes. This is a very faint line that may look like a shadow.

An individual must check the test within the time frame the instructions indicate, usually 3 minutes. Tests read after 10 minutes may be inaccurate or show evaporation lines.

Accuracy

HCG tests are more likely to produce false negatives than false positives. The longer after implantation a person waits to do the test, the more accurate it will be. HCG levels begin rising when an embryo implants in the uterus.

Implantation usually happens a week or so after ovulation. It can take several days for HCG levels to rise high enough for a test to detect the hormone.

Due to how long it takes for HCG levels to rise, it is possible for a woman to be pregnant and still get a negative test. A positive result usually appears after retesting a few days later.

False-positive results are rareTrusted Source. However, because home pregnancy tests are increasingly sensitive, some can detect very early pregnancies with low HCG levels.

This sensitivity means it is possible to have a positive test that a very early miscarriage then follows. A woman who delayed testing or who used a less sensitive test might not have known about the miscarriage.

In rare cases, a woman can have abnormally high levels of HCG even though they are not pregnant. The most common reasons for this include:

  • a recent miscarriage
  • using certain fertility drugs
  • molar pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that implants but fails to grow, and which instead becomes a mass inside the uterus

Less common causes include:

  • cancer, including tumors that secrete HCG
  • endocrine disorders, especially pituitary gland issues
  • unusual antibodies in the blood

Factors that could affect results

In addition to testing too early, the following factors can cause a false negative with a urine HCG test:

  • drinking lots of water so that the urine is very diluted
  • getting too much or too little urine on the test strip
  • testing with urine late in the day when it may be weaker

Tests that have passed their expiry date may produce false positives or negatives. Reused tests are not accurate.

Risks

HCG tests are very safe. The urine test is risk-free. The blood test can cause brief pain and occasional bruising at the puncture site.

Urine HCG tests often return false-negative results, particularly very early in pregnancy. This can be stressful and demoralizing to people struggling to become pregnant. Blood tests are typically more accurate, though even these may fail to pick up low levels of HCG in early pregnancy.

It is also possible to get an early positive result. Some women get positive tests very early in pregnancy and then have a miscarriage a few days later.

If they had not had an early HCG test, they might not have known they were pregnant. This can be a stressful and alarming experience, with some people experiencing intense grief over the lost pregnancy.

Summary

Most people first learn about a pregnancy through a home HCG pregnancy test, and many confirm that the pregnancy is healthy with blood HCG testing. Though imperfect, the test is typically reliable, particularly as a pregnancy progresses.

The information that a single HCG test provides cannot differentiate between ectopic pregnancies, molar pregnancies, or other pregnancy complications. Doctors will need further information to identify these pregnancy issues and may request further blood HCG tests to observe a person’s HCG trend.

Although abnormally high or low HCG levels can indicate a problem with the pregnancy, this is not always the case.

People who have concerns about the development of the embryo or the pregnancy should ask a healthcare provider about additional testing options.

Depression is a widespread mental health condition. Pregnant women have a higher risk of depression due to increased stress, physical health changes, chemical changes in the body, and other factors.

While estimates vary, a 2016 analysisTrusted Source suggests that between 7% and upwards of 20% of pregnant women around the world have depression. The actual rate could be higher, since some women may be reluctant to seek help.

Depression during pregnancy can have emotional, health, relationship, and financial effects. Some people know this condition as prenatal depression. However, the American Psychiatric Association no longer use this term. Instead, they use the term major depressive disorder with peripartum onset.

Depression during pregnancy is treatable.

In this article, learn more about the symptoms of depression during pregnancy, as well as the treatment options and when to see a doctor.

Signs and symptoms

It is normal to feel a mix of emotions during pregnancy and about being pregnant.

While a person with depression may feel sad, sadness is just one of many depression symptoms.

Some other signs include:

  • new or worsening feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
  • not enjoying activities that were once fun or meaningful
  • withdrawing from friends, family, school, work, or hobbies
  • new physical health symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches
  • trouble feeling excited about the pregnancy or bonding with the baby after childbirth
  • feelings of isolation and low self-esteem
  • trouble sleeping
  • sleeping too much
  • changes in eating habits, such as eating more or less than usual
  • thoughts of death or suicide
  • frequent crying
  • unexplained anger
  • relationship stress
  • difficulty following prenatal health recommendations because of feelings of helplessness or hopelessness

Suicide prevention

  • If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
  • Listen to the person without judgment.

Risk factors

Anyone can become depressed during pregnancy, though some people are more vulnerable.

The authors of a 2017 analysisTrusted Source reviewed 5 years of previous studies on the topic and identified the following risk factors:

  • previous history of depression
  • little or no exercise
  • not having a partner
  • a history of abuse or trauma
  • abuse by a partner
  • feeling out of control
  • smoking
  • using certain drugs, such as opioids
  • sleep problems
  • immune system problems
  • having an unintended pregnancy
  • not having a job

Effects on pregnancy

Many women who experience depression during pregnancy have healthy pregnancies. Depression does not mean the baby will be unhealthy or make any particular pregnancy outcome inevitable.

However, research suggestsTrusted Source that depression during pregnancy may raise the risk of:

  • postpartum depression
  • depression in the baby’s father
  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • behavior problems or a difficult temperament in the baby
  • changes in the baby’s brain development

2011 studyTrusted Source emphasizes that untreated depression increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Prompt treatment can improve the outcomes for both the pregnant woman and the developing fetus.

Treatments

Many people find that they must try several treatments or a combination of treatments to get relief from depression symptoms.

Some treatment options that may work include:

  • antidepressants to manage the chemical changes in the brain that depression causes
  • therapy to help the pregnant woman talk through emotions, identify coping skills, and getting support for the challenges of pregnancy
  • support from friends and family
  • family or relationship counseling to help expectant people talk about their emotions and manage the challenges of parenting
  • lifestyle changes, such as doing more exercise, as long as it is safe during pregnancy
  • support groups for expectant parents
  • treatment for any underlying medical conditions

Are antidepressants safe during pregnancy?

handful of studiesTrusted Source link antidepressant use during pregnancy to an increased risk of congenital disabilities. Some studies have also found an increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

However, many studies fail to control for other factors that might explain these outcomes, such as worse health in women with depression or the effects of depression itself on the pregnancy. Additionally, some of the research is contradictory and inconclusive. The side effects are not consistent across studiesTrusted Source.

The risks of untreated depression may outweigh any potential risks of antidepressants. Research has found that 60–70%Trusted Source of women who stop using antidepressants during pregnancy experience a return of depression symptoms.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advise that the risk of side effects from antidepressants during pregnancy is low. The risk, they add, is highest in very early pregnancy—during the 3rd to 8th weeks.

Antidepressants are not the only treatment for depression during pregnancy, however. Therapy, lifestyle changes, support from friends and family, and sometimes family or couples counseling are also good options. Most people use a combination of treatments.

Some pregnant women prefer to try other treatments before choosing antidepressants. This strategy may work for some people, but not others.

When to see a doctor

Anyone who is pregnant and suspects they have depression should see their doctor as soon as possible. Most obstetricians and midwives have basic training in detecting depression in pregnant women.

They can also help a person decide on the right treatments and answer any questions they have about potential risks to the baby.

To get quality, comprehensive treatment, most people need additional support from a mental health professional.

A psychiatrist can help with deciding on the right medication, assessing the risk of side effects, and switching medications if necessary. A therapist, psychologist, or clinical social worker can also offer therapy and may recommend lifestyle or other changes to improve symptoms.

Summary

Depression during pregnancy can be an isolating experience. Friends and family may have unfair expectations that pregnant women always feel happy and fail to recognize the many challenges associated with pregnancy and parenthood.

Some women feel guilty or ashamed of their emotions or worry that depression means they are unfit for parenthood.

Depression is no one’s fault. It is a treatable medical condition. The hopelessness that comes with depression may convince a person that treatment will not work, or that they will feel miserable forever. These feelings are symptoms of depression, not a reasonable assessment.

Prompt treatment is vital to relieve symptoms and to help a woman have a healthy and content pregnancy.

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are common, and women can often experience them during pregnancy. Left untreated, a UTI can pose a serious health risk to a pregnant woman and a developing fetus.

This article outlines the possible causes of a UTI in pregnancy, as well as the potential risks. We also provide information on how to prevent and treat UTIs.

Is it common?

A UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary system, including the bladder and kidneys. Research suggests it is commonTrusted Source for pregnant women to get UTIs.

According to one study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8%Trusted Source of pregnant women experience a UTI.

Causes

During pregnancy, the uterus expands for the growing fetus. This expansion puts pressure on the bladder and the ureters. The ureters are the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

The urine is also less acidic and contains more proteins, sugars, and hormones during pregnancy. This combination of factors increases the risk of a UTI occurring.

Women are also susceptible to UTIs during and after giving birth. During labor, there is an increased risk of bacteria entering the urinary tract. After giving birth, a woman may experience bladder sensitivity and swelling, which can make a UTI more likelyTrusted Source.

Symptoms

A person who has a UTI may experience the following symptoms:

  • urgent or frequent need to urinate
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • cloudy or strong smelling urine
  • blood in the urine
  • pain in the lower back, abdomen, and sides

People should tell their doctor straight away if they have blood in their urine, as this can be a sign of another condition.

In some cases, the bacterial infection causing a UTI can spread to the kidneys. A person who has a kidney infection may experience the following symptoms:

  • back pain
  • fever
  • chills
  • nausea and vomiting

If people have these symptoms, they should see their doctor immediately. Kidney infections can be serious and require immediate medical treatment.

Treatments

Pregnant women should see their doctor if they have any symptoms of a UTI. Without treatment, a UTI can cause serious complications.

3-dayTrusted Source course of antibiotics may be necessary to treat a UTI during pregnancy. A doctor may prescribe one of the followingTrusted Source antibiotics:

  • amoxicillin
  • ampicillin
  • cephalosporins
  • nitrofurantoin
  • trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advise that pregnant women avoid nitrofurantoin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazoleTrusted Source during the first trimester. These antibiotics can cause birth abnormalities if a person takes them at this stage of their pregnancy.

According to a 2015 reviewTrusted Source, studies show that both nitrofurantoin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole are generally safe during the second and third trimesters. However, taking either antibiotic in the final weekTrusted Source before delivery may increase the risk of jaundice in newborns.

If pregnant women develop a kidney infection during pregnancy, they will need treatment in the hospital. This treatment will involve antibiotics and intravenous fluids.

A short course of antibiotics is unlikelyTrusted Source to cause any harm to a developing fetus. Research suggests that the benefits of taking antibiotics to treat a UTI far outweighTrusted Source the risks of leaving a UTI without treatment.

Home remedies

Women who are pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI should see a doctor. As well as medical treatment, they may also wish to try the following at home to help speed up recovery:

  • Drinking plenty of water: Water dilutes urine and helps flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.
  • Drinking cranberry juice: According to a 2012 reviewTrusted Source, cranberries contain compounds that may help to stop bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract. This action helps to prevent and eliminate infection.
  • Urinating when the urge arises: This helps bacteria pass out of the urinary tract more quickly.
  • Taking certain supplements: A 2016 studyTrusted Source found that a combination of vitamin C, cranberries, and probiotics may help to treat recurrent UTIs in women.

Some women may choose the above treatments as an alternative to antibiotics. However, they should always consult their doctor before doing so. A doctor will monitor a pregnancy regularly to check the effectiveness of natural treatments and ensure a UTI does not worsen.

Complications

Without treatment, UTIs can cause serious complications during pregnancy. Complications may include:

  • kidney infection
  • premature birth
  • sepsis

A baby born to a woman with an untreated UTI may also have a low birth weight at delivery.

If a UTI spreads to the kidneys, this can cause further complications, such as:

  • anaemia
  • high blood pressure, or hypertension
  • preeclampsia
  • breakdown of red blood cells, or hemolysis
  • low blood platelet count, or thrombocytopenia
  • bacteria in the bloodstream, or bacteremia
  • acute respiratory distress syndrome

In some cases, an infection may pass on to the newborn baby, causing a rare but severe complication. Attending screenings for UTIs during pregnancy and getting prompt treatment when one occurs can help prevent these complications.

Prevention

The following tips may help to reduce a person’s likelihood of getting a UTI:

  • drink plenty of water
  • drink unsweetened cranberry juice or take cranberry pills
  • wash carefully around the genitals and anus
  • pass urine whenever the urge arises, and at least every 2–3 hours
  • urinate before and after having sex

Pregnant women will usually attend a screening to check for UTIs in their early pregnancy. These checks are an important step in helping to prevent UTI infections or detecting them early.

Summary

UTIs are common, and some women may experience them during pregnancy.

Women who have symptoms of a UTI during pregnancy should see their doctor immediately. Without treatment, UTIs can cause serious complications for a pregnant woman and the developing fetus. Prompt intervention can help to prevent these complications.

Routine pregnancy checks help detect the early signs of a UTI.

The majority of people can donate blood. However, those who use nicotine products, cannabis products, or both may wonder whether or not they can donate blood.

Hospitals and health clinics use donated blood to treat various medical conditions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of blood donations collected around the world per year exceeds 117.4 millionTrusted Source.

Blood donations can help with:

  • serious injuries
  • surgery
  • anemia
  • cancer
  • chronic illnesses

Read on to learn more about how different ways of using cigarettes, cannabis, and other drugs can affect a person’s ability to donate blood.

Nicotine

If a person smokes cigarettes or vapes, it does not disqualify them from donating blood.

However, both tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) contain harmful chemicals that may affect a person’s blood.

The American Lung Association claim that a burning cigarette produces more than 7,000 chemicals, including carbon monoxide, ammonia, and arsenic. Several of these chemicals are toxic, and 69 of them can cause cancer.

In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes may contain the following harmful substances:

  • propylene glycol, which is present in paint solvents, antifreeze, and some foods (as an additive)
  • acetaldehyde, which is a toxic product of ethanol alcohol
  • formaldehyde, which is a chemical preservative present in disinfectants, glue, and plywood
  • diacetyl, which is a flavoring agent that tastes like butter
  • heavy metals, including nickel and lead
  • benzene, which is a chemical compound present in car exhaust

Currently, minimal information exists regarding the exact effects of vaping on blood donations. One thing to keep in mind is the fact that both vaping and smoking cigarettes can increase blood pressure.

According to American Red Cross guidelines, people can donate blood as long as their blood pressure is between 90/50 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and 80/100 mm Hg.

In one 2018 studyTrusted Source, researchers compared blood donations from people who smoke with donations from people who do not smoke. They concluded that smoking cigarettes does not affect the overall quality of the donated blood.

However, the researchers did note that the donations from the people who smoke had higher concentrations of carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) in the red blood cells. COHb forms when red blood cells come into contact with carbon monoxide, significantly reducing the amount of oxygen that red blood cells can carry.

Based on these findings, the researchers recommend that people avoid smoking for 12 hoursTrusted Source before donating blood.

Cannabis

Like smoking cigarettes and vaping, smoking cannabis does not disqualify a person from donating blood.

Current scientific researchTrusted Source suggests that cannabis use can negatively impact the cardiovascular system by:

  • increasing blood pressure and heart rate
  • narrowing the blood vessels
  • causing inflammation in the vessel walls
  • promoting blood clots

However, these potential adverse health effects should not impact the quality of any donated blood.

That being said, Vitalant — a nonprofit blood service provider — explain that people must not be under the influence of recreational drugs or alcohol at the time of donation.

Other drugs

According to the American Red Cross, people with a history of recreational intravenous drug use are not eligible to donate blood. This requirement helps prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis.

It is important to note that this is not the case for people who have used drugs in other ways, such as by smoking them or taking them orally. The American Red Cross and other blood donation companies do not specify drug use as an excluding factor.

However, a person does need to make sure that substances such as nicotine and cannabis are not in their system when donating blood.

Excluding factors

To donate blood, the general requirement is that a person should be at least 17 years old. A person can be 16 years old, but they must have a legal guardian’s consent.

Other factors that may disqualify a person from giving blood include:

  • feeling sick or having cold or flu symptoms
  • using intravenous drugs not prescribed by a licensed doctor
  • having an active infection
  • having HIV or testing positive for hepatitis B or C
  • having uncontrolled diabetes
  • having a blood clotting disorder
  • having ever had the Ebola virus
  • having blood cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma
  • having received a blood transfusion within the past 12 months
  • having a heart rate below 50 beats per minute (BPM) or above 100 BPM
  • having recently traveled to a foreign country
  • being pregnant, or having given birth within the past 6 weeks

Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of donating blood here.

Summary

Although smoking cigarettes, vaping, and using cannabis will not disqualify a person from donating blood, they should refrain from smoking for at least 2 hoursTrusted Source before and after donating blood.

A person may feel lightheaded or weak after giving blood, and smoking can exacerbate these symptoms. It is a good idea to avoid smoking until these symptoms go away.

Female hair loss can happen for a variety of reasons, such as genetics, changing hormone levels, or as part of the natural aging process.

There are various treatment options for female hair loss, including topical medications, such as Rogaine. Other options include light therapy, hormone therapy, or in some cases, hair transplants.

Eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help keep hair healthy.

1. Minoxidil

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves Minoxidil to treat hair loss. Sold under the name Rogaine, as well as other generic brands, people can purchase topical Minoxidil over-the-counter (OTC). Minoxidil is safe for both males and females, and people report a high satisfaction rate after using it.

Minoxidil stimulates growth in the hairs and may increase their growth cycle. It can cause hairs to thicken and reduce the appearance of patchiness or a widening hair parting.

Minoxidil treatments are available in two concentrations: the 2% solution requires twice daily application for the best results, while the 5%Trusted Source solution or foam requires daily use.

While the instinct may be to choose the stronger solution, this is not necessary. Studies posted to the International Journal of Women’s DermatologyTrusted Source and the Journal of the American Academy of DermatologyTrusted Source found that 2% minoxidil was effective for females with androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness.

If a person finds success with minoxidil, they should continue using it indefinitely. When a person stops using minoxidil, the hairs that depended on the drug to grow will likely fall out within 6 monthsTrusted Source.

Side effects from minoxidil are uncommonTrusted Source and generally mild. Some females may experience irritation or an allergic reaction to ingredients in the product, such as alcohol or propylene glycol. Switching formulas or trying different brands may alleviate symptoms.

Some females may also experience increased hair loss at first when using minoxidil. This typically stops after the first few months of treatment as the hair gets stronger.

Additionally, misapplying minoxidil or applying it to the forehead or too much of the neck may cause hair growth in these areas. Only apply minoxidil to the scalp to avoid these side effects.

2. Light therapy

Low-level light therapy may not be sufficient treatment for hair loss on its own, but it may act to amplify the effects of other hair loss treatments, such as minoxidil.

A trial posted to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology found that compared to control groups, adding low light therapy to regular 5% minoxidil treatment for androgenetic alopecia helped improve the recovery of the hairs and the participants’ overall satisfaction with their treatment.

Researchers will need to carry out further research to help strengthen these results.

3. Ketoconazole

The drug ketoconazole may help treat hair loss in some cases, such as androgenetic alopecia, where inflammationTrusted Source of the hair follicles often contributes to hair loss.

One review posted to the International Journal of Women’s DermatologyTrusted Source noted that topical ketoconazole might help reduce inflammation and improve the strength and look of the hair.

Ketoconazole is available as a shampoo. Nizoral is the best known brand and is available for purchase over the counter and online. Nizoral contains a low concentration of ketoconazole, but stronger concentrations will require a prescription from a doctor.

4. Corticosteroids

Some females may also respond to corticosteroid injections. Doctors use this treatment only when necessary, for conditions such as alopecia areata. Alopecia areata results in a person’s hair falling out in random patches.

According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, injecting corticosteroids directly into the hairless patch may encourage new hair growth. However, this not may prevent other hair from falling out. Topical corticosteroids, which are available as creams, lotions, and other preparations, may also reduce hair loss.

5. Platelet-rich plasma

Early evidence suggests that injections of platelet-rich plasma may also help reduce hair loss. A plasma-rich injection involves a doctor drawing the person’s blood, separating the platelet-rich plasma from the blood, and injecting it back into the scalp at the affected areas. This helps speed up tissue repair.

A recent review posted to Aesthetic Plastic SurgeryTrusted Source noted that most studies suggest that this therapy reduces hair loss, increases hair density, and increases the diameter of each hair.

However, because most studies up until now have been very small, the review calls for more research using platelet-rich plasma for androgenic alopecia.

6. Hormone therapy

If hormone imbalances due to menopause, for example, cause hair loss, doctors may recommend some form of hormone therapy to correct them.

Some possible treatments include birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy for either estrogen or progesterone.

Other possibilities include antiandrogen medications, such as spironolactoneTrusted Source. Androgens are hormones that can speed up hair loss in some women, particularly those with polycystic ovary syndrome, who typically produce more androgens.

Antiandrogens can stop the production of androgens and prevent hair loss. These medications may cause side effects, so always talk to the doctor about what to expect and whether antiandrogens are suitable.

7. Hair transplant

In some cases where the person does not respond well to treatments, doctors may recommend hair transplantationTrusted Source. This involves taking small pieces of the scalp and adding them to the areas of baldness to increase the hair in the area naturally. Hair transplant therapy can be more costly than other treatments and is not suitable for everybody.

8. Use hair loss shampoos

Some minor hair loss may happen due to clogged pores on the scalp. Using medicated shampoos designed to clear the pores from dead skin cells may help promote healthy hair. This may help clear minor signs of hair loss.

9. Eat a nutritious diet

Eating a healthful diet may support normal hair growth, as well. Typically, a healthful diet will contain a wide variety of foods, including many different vegetables and fruits. These provide many essential nutrients and compounds that help keep skin and hair healthy.

Iron levelsTrusted Source may also play a role in hair health. Females with hair loss can see their doctor for a blood test to check if they have an iron deficiency. A doctor may advise consuming an iron-rich diet or taking an iron supplement.

10. Scalp massage

Massaging the scalp may increase circulation in the area and help clean away dandruff. This helps keep the scalp and hair follicles healthy.

Causes

The most common cause of hair loss in females is androgenetic alopecia, which has strong links to genetics and can run in families.

According to the International Journal of Women’s DermatologyTrusted Source, hair loss from androgenetic alopecia may start at a young age. Some females may begin losing their hair in their late teens or early twenties, though most females may not begin to lose their hair until their 40s or older.

Both males and females can develop androgenetic alopecia, but they experience it in different ways. Males tend to experience a receding hairline or bald spot on top of their head, while females tend to present different symptoms.

In females, the parting at the center of the hair often becomes more defined or wider. Females may also experience thinning hairs, and hair may appear more thin or patchy overall.

These symptoms are due to a thinning of each hair strand. The hairs also have a shorter life cycle, and hairs only stay on the head for a shorter period.

Female pattern hair loss is a progressive condition. Females may only notice a slightly wider parting in their hair at first, but as symptoms progress, this can become more noticeable.

Other forms of alopecia, such as alopecia areata, may cause one or more patches of complete baldness.

Other factors may play a role in hair loss, such as inflammatory conditions that affect the scalp and hormone imbalances. Doctors may want to investigate these possible causes if the person does not respond to typical treatments.

Coping with hair loss

While losing hair at a young age may be concerning, hair loss is a reality for many people as they age. One study posted to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology noted that up to 75% of females would experience hair loss from androgenetic alopecia by the time they are 65 years old.

While many females look for ways to treat hair loss while they are young, at some point, most people accept hair loss as a natural part of the aging process.

Some people may choose to wear head garments or wigs as a workaround to hair loss. Others work with their aging hair by wearing a shorter haircut that may make thin hair less apparent.

Summary

Hair loss can affect both males and females. Hair loss in females may have a range of causes, though the most common is androgenetic alopecia.

There are a variety of treatments for hair loss for females, including OTC hair loss treatments, which are generally effective. Anyone experiencing hair loss should visit their doctor who can diagnose any underlying factors.

If a doctor suspects there is another underlying cause or the person does not respond well to OTC treatments, they will look into other treatment options.

A recent study has identified an association between consuming two soft drinks per day and an increased risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women. Because the study authors cannot prove causation, however, they call for more research.

Osteoarthritis, which is characterized by progressively weak and brittle bones, predominantly affects older adults.

As Western populations age, therefore, the incidence of osteoporosis rises in step.

The condition affects around 200 million peopleTrusted Source worldwide. As a person’s bone mineral density becomes reduced, the risk of fractures increases.

In fact, according to the authors of the most recent study paper, globally, an osteoporotic fracture occurs every 3 seconds.

Although some of the primary risk factors for osteoporosis are unalterable, such as age and sex, some lifestyle habits also play a part.

For instance, alcohol consumption and tobacco use both increase the risk. Nutrition may also play a role, with researchers particularly interested in calcium intake.

One recent study in the journal Menopause focused on the impact of consuming soft drinks.

Why soda?

A number of older studies have observed a link between consuming soft drinks and reduced bone mineral density in teenage girlsTrusted Source and young womenTrusted Source.

However, other studies that specifically looked for an association between soda and osteoporosis have not identifiedTrusted Source a significant relationship. One study found linksTrusted Source between cola intake and osteoporosis but did not see the same effect in relation to other sodas.

Because of these discrepancies, the authors of the latest paper set out to study the links between soft drinks and bone mineral density in the spine and hip. They also looked for a relationship between soda intake and the risk of hip fracture over a 16 year follow-up period.

To investigate, the scientists took data from the Women’s Health Initiative. This is an ongoing national study that involves 161,808 postmenopausal women. For the new analysis, the researchers used data from 72,342 of these participants.

As part of the study, the participants provided detailed health information and questionnaire data outlining lifestyle factors, including diet. Importantly, the diet questionnaire included questions about their intakes of caffeinated and caffeine-free soft drinks.

What did they find?

During their analysis, the scientists accounted for a range of variables with the potential to impact the results, including age, ethnicity, education level, family income, body mass index (BMI), use of hormonal therapy and oral contraceptives, coffee intake, and history of falls.

As expected, they did observe a relationship between soda consumption and osteoporosis-related injury. The authors write:

“For total soda consumption, both minimally and fully adjusted survival models showed a 26% increased risk of hip fracture among women who drank on average 14 servings per week or more compared with no servings.”

The researchers explain that the association was only statistically significant for caffeine-free sodas, which produced a 32% increase in risk. Although the pattern was similar for caffeinated sodas, it did not reach statistical significance.

For clarity, the percentages above display relative risk, not absolute risk.

The study authors reiterate that the significant link was only present when comparing the women who drank the most soda — at least two drinks per day — with those who drank none. This, they explain, suggests “a threshold effect rather than a dose-response relationship.”

It is also worth noting that the scientists found no links between soda consumption and bone mineral density.

Limitations and theories

As mentioned above, earlier research looking for connections between soda and osteoporosis produced conflicting results. Although this study benefits from a large sample size, detailed information, and a long follow-up period, we cannot consider its results definitive; there is too much conflicting information.

There are also certain limitations to the study. For instance, as the researchers note, the participants only reported soda consumption early in the study. People’s dietary habits can change significantly over time, and the team could not account for this.

Also, although the researchers controlled for a wide range of factors, there is always the chance that an unmeasured factor played a part in this association.

That said, when we look at studies involving other age groups, as well as studies using both men and women, it does seem that soda consumption overall might influence bone health in some way.

The study authors believe that this might be because added sugars have a “negative impact on mineral homeostasis and calcium balance.”

Another theory the authors outline concerns carbonation, which is the process of dissolving carbon dioxide in water. “It results in the formation of carbonic acid that might alter gastric acidity and, consequently, nutrient absorption.”

However, they are quick to explain that “[w]hether this factor plays a role in these findings is yet to be explored.”

Because osteoporosis is becoming more prevalent, research into nutritional risk factors is more critical than ever. The authors call for more work.

Experts have emphasised on the need for Nigerians to embrace family planning fully as part of measures to curb maternal and infant mortality in the country.

They lamented that despite the drop in the fertility rate from 5.5 percent in 2013 to 5.3 percent in 2018, according to the Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS), with a two-percent increase in the total contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) from 15 percent to 17 percent, the acceptance rate of family planning in some communities still remain low due to several barriers such as religion, culture and fear of the unknown among others. The implications, they said, remain multiple pregnancies and births, population explosion that puts pressure of the nation resources, as well as unsafe abortions, which increases the risk of maternal and infant mortality in Nigeria.

Speaking at a two-day media workshop on sexual reproductive health and rights, organised by Marie Stopes International Organisation Nigeria (MSION) in Ibadan, Oyo Sate, the Director Programme Operation, Emmanuel Ajah lamented that religion, sociocultural inhibitions and stigma, especially in rural communities, are discouraging women to demand for reproductive health care services. He said these pose great danger to the women and the society, as maternal mortality would be very high, especially with the belief held against birth control and population explosion regarded as a blessing by the communities.

Ajah said most of the women, in a bid to reduce childbearing, eventually engage in unsafe abortion, which end up costing their lives, as they fail to embrace contraceptive/family-planning commodities. “Unsafe abortions is the third leading cause of maternal deaths in Nigeria, and an overwhelming health problem in the country, yet it has not generated enough policy attention. Women who die from unsafe abortion are all pregnancy related, as millions of women have unmet need for family planning

“Other reasons for seeking abortion are too many frequent pregnancies, lack of awareness on fertility management, contraception failure, lack of access to quality family planning information and/or services,” he said.

Also speaking, the Head, Marketing and Strategic Communication, Ogechi Onuoha said Nigeria as country is very complex with different religious and ethnic backgrounds, which require massive awareness and sensitisation movement in certain states that are yet to accept family planning as a means of reducing maternal mortality. She said all stakeholders including the government must work together to address the socio-cultural norms such as, religious tenets, and women’s lack of decision-making power related to sexual and reproductive health to improve maternal survival in the country.

Onuoha said there must also be improvement in the family planning programmes in communities, as well as the availability of and access to services and commodities to slow the rate of population growth, which would put the country on a path to a healthier future for women and families.

“The focus is on dispelling myths and misconceptions about family planning, expanding the provision of family planning services and supplies to the last mile, and enabling an environment in which women and girls make informed choices on their health,” she added.

A recent review and meta-analysis focus on the role of legumes in heart health. Taking data from multiple studies and earlier analyses, the authors conclude that legumes might benefit heart health but that the evidence is not overwhelming.

It is a no-brainer that nutrition plays a pivotal role in health. At one end of the spectrum, it is common knowledge that eating a diet that is high in sugar, salt, and fat increases the risk of poorer health outcomes.

At the other end, eating a balanced diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is likely to reduce the risk of certain conditions.

However, drilling down to the effect of individual foods on specific conditions is notoriously difficult.

The authors of a recent review in Advances In Nutrition have taken up that gauntlet. They wanted to understand how legumes, which include beans, peas, and lentils, affect heart health.

In particular, they focused on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and CVD mortality. CVD includes coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, and stroke. They also investigated legume consumption in relation to diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Study co-author Dr. Hana Kahleova, from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC, explains why investigating heart health is such a pressing matter, stating that “[c]ardiovascular disease is the world’s leading — and most expensive — cause of death, costing the United States nearly 1 billion dollars a day.”

Why legumes?

Legumes are rich in fiber, protein, and micronutrients but contain very little fat and sugar. Due to this, as the authors of the current study explain:

“The American Heart Association, Canadian Cardiovascular Society, and European Society for Cardiology encourage dietary patterns that emphasize intake of legumes” to reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and manage diabetes.

Recently, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes commissioned a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Using the results of these studies, they hope to update current recommendations on the role of legumes in preventing and treating cardiometabolic diseases.

In the current review, the authors compared data on people with the lowest and highest intake of legumes. They found that “dietary pulses with or without other legumes were associated with an 8%, 10%, 9%, and 13% decrease in CVD, [coronary heart disease], hypertension, and obesity incidence, respectively.”

However, they found that there was no association between legume intake and the incidence of myocardial infarction, diabetes, or stroke. Similarly, they identified no relationship between legumes and mortality from CVD, coronary heart disease, or stroke.

Although the team identified a positive relationship between consuming higher quantities of legumes and a reduced risk of certain cardiovascular parameters, the authors’ conclusions are still relatively muted. They write:

“The overall certainty of the evidence was graded as ‘low’ for CVD incidence and ‘very low’ for all other outcomes.”

They continue, “Current evidence shows that dietary pulses with or without other legumes are associated with reduced CVD incidence with low certainty and reduced [coronary heart disease], hypertension, and obesity incidence with very low certainty.”

Nutritional difficulties

One of the primary issues that scientists face when investigating nutrition and health is residual confounding. For instance, if someone eats more legumes than average, they might also eat more vegetables in general. Conversely, someone who eats few legumes might eat less fruit and vegetables overall.

If this is the case, it is difficult to pin any measured benefits on the legumes, specifically. They might simply be due to the increase in plant food overall.

Similarly, someone who eats particularly healthfully might also be more likely to exercise. Understanding whether the legume, the overall dietary patterns, or the entire lifestyle influences any given health outcome is verging on impossible.

Another problem centers around self-reporting food intake. Human memory, as impressive as it is, can make mistakes. One paperTrusted Source on this topic states that self-reports of food intake “are so poor that they are wholly unacceptable for scientific research.”

Studies attempt to minimize the influence of these factors as much as possible, but it can be challenging. As the authors explain, “Despite the inclusion of several large, high quality cohorts, the inability to rule out residual confounding is a limitation inherent in all observational studies.”

Despite the difficulties, overall, the authors believe that increasing legume intake could improve the heart health of the population of the United States.

“Americans eat less than one serving of legumes per day, on average. Simply adding more beans to our plates could be a powerful tool in fighting heart disease and bringing down blood pressure.”

Co-author Dr. Hana Kahleova

Although those studying nutrition and disease face many challenges, it is important to continue this line of investigation. Currently, in the U.S., 1 in 4 deathsTrusted Source relate to cardiovascular disease. If a simple change in diet could reduce the risk even a small amount, it might make a significant difference at the population level.

Following the news on October 20, 2018 when a 67-year-old woman gave birth to her first child through the In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) process, Dr. Taofeek Ogunfunmilayo of Atoke Medical Centre, Abeokuta, Ogun State, has urged women not to give up in their quest for children as age does not matter.

He said though the success rate of IVF declines with increase in age, as well as the complications following pregnancy, it is worth trying rather than give up on having children.

Ogunfunmilayo, who spoke with The Guardian at his medical facility, explained that there are possibilities of a successful IVF treatment and delivery at the age of 60, which could not be possible for natural conception, adding that there are risks involved during the pregnancy stage, which is being managed by the medical experts.

“It is a risk; there were some complications. She was admitted twice during the pregnancy stage on the basis of medical issues, which I cannot disclose, but thank God we were able to manage her throughout that period till she got well and then went home, till Saturday, October 20, which was the delivery date and we sectioned her, that is caesarian section for the delivery of her baby boy,” he said.

He said that age was no longer a barrier to getting pregnant when it comes to the issue of Assisted Reproductive Technique (ART), urging couples that are desirous of having children to go for IVF.

“No official age limit, a woman of 72 years delivered through IVF in India. Mama is 67 and she is probably the second oldest mum in the whole world, the first in Ogun State, the first in Nigeria and the first in the whole continent of Africa. There is a probability of repeating itself in Nigeria if people persist in their quest for having children through IVF.

“Anybody with infertility, instead of staying in one place, can make a trial and they may just be lucky to get pregnant and we are here to continue to manage them as soon as they get pregnant till delivery,” he said.

breastfeeding
breastfeeding

Efforts to checkmate the rising cases of infant and child malnutrition across Nigeria are yet to achieve the goal.

Indicators reveal that although gradual progress is being made towards the goal, much remains to be done as indicators show that many Nigerian mothers are yet to understand the primary role of exclusive breastfeeding within the first six months of life in the bid to break the vicious cycle of malnutrition and poverty in the country.

According to the 2016- 2017 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2016/17, MICS, Nigeria’s breastfeeding rate remains low overall with only 23.7 per cent of babies born in the country being breastfed exclusively.

It would be recalled that the World Health Organisation, WHO, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, recommend that infants should be breastfed within one hour of birth.

WHO and UNICEF also say infants should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life and be breastfed continuously for up to two years of age and beyond.

Based on the 2016/17 MICS, women in Northern Nigeria rank lowest in breastfeeding their children exclusively while women in the South-West zone lead in exclusive breastfeeding.

Health watchers are of the view that although the percentage of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their babies aged under six months, increased from 15.1 per cent to 23.7 per cent, it remains a major crack in the country’s efforts to stop malnutrition in children.

South-West leads

A further breakdown of the MICS showed that the South-West has the highest number of exclusively breastfed children with 43.9 per cent and 70.5 per cent predominantly breastfed while the North-West zone has the lowest number of children breastfed exclusively with only 18.5 per cent. About 56.6 per cent were predominantly breastfed.

The South-South zone followed with 27.2 per cent and 52.5 per cent exclusively and predominantly breastfed; South-East, 25.3 per cent and 47.8 per cent exclusively/predominantly breastfed; North-Central, 24.9 per cent and 45.8 per cent; North-East, 21.3 per cent and 50.4 per cent respectively.

The survey also found that out of the 60 per cent child deaths attributed directly and indirectly to undernutrition, two thirds of child deaths have been attributed to improper feeding during the first year of existence.

A comparative analysis of data from the MICS, conducted in 2007, 2011 and 2016/17, revealed that exclusive breastfeeding under six months has gradually improved consistently over the years in all states in the South- West zone and Edo State.

In a presentation entitled: The Situation of Children & Women in South-West States based on MICS data in the last 10 years (2007 – 2017), UNICEF’s Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation, Specialist, Mr Niyi Olaleye, observed that exclusive breastfeeding is positively related with mother’s education, wealth status and is now practised more in urban areas.

According to Olaleye, data from the MICS showed that in the South- West zone, Ogun and Ondo states recorded the lowest rates over the years while Osun recorded the most improvement rising from 12.5 per cent in 2007, 40.7 per cent (2011) to 55.3 per cent (2016/17).

In the South-West zone, according to the 2016/17 MICS, the average rate of infants under six months old who are exclusively breastfed is 43.9 per cent, with the highest rate occurring in Lagos at 51.8 per cent, and lowest in Ondo at 23.5 per cent.

From the 2007 and 2011 MICS, average rates of infants under six months old exclusively breastfed were 17.1 per cent, and 27.0 per cent, respectively. Rates for Lagos were 20.0 per cent (2007) and 28.1 per cent (2011), while corresponding rates for Ondo were 14.3 per cent, (2007) and 8.6 per cent (2011).

Quoting the MICS, Olaleye said more women with a live birth in the last two years across the South- West zone are putting their last newborn to the breast within one hour of birth, especially in Ogun. He said early initiation of breastfeeding is practised more in Edo and improved consistently in Ondo.

WHO recommendation

According to the WHO, breastfeeding is vital to a child’s lifelong health and reduces costs for health facilities, families, and governments. Breastfeeding within the first hour of birth protects newborn babies from infections and saves lives.

WHO maintains that infants are at greater risk of death due to diarrhoea and other infections when they are only partially breastfed or not breastfed at all.

Breastfeeding also improves IQ, school readiness and attendance, and is associated with higher income in adult life. It also reduces the risk of breast cancer in the mother.

The world health body also found that breastfeeding all babies for the first two years would save the lives of more than 820,000 children under age five annually.

In the views of UNICEF Evaluation expert, Maureen Zubie-Okolo, during a media dialogue on MICS 5 2017 and Data- Driven Reporting, education is one of the most important tool in encouraging and promoting the campaign for 100 per cent attainment of exclusive breastfeeding by all mothers in Nigeria.

She said a key finding in the survey showed that 41.0 per cent of children under five in the country were exclusively breastfed by mothers who had attained one form of higher education or the other.

Zubie-Okolo said the survey found that 30.6 per centof the children were exclusively breastfed by mothers who completed their secondary school education, 20.8 per cent was attributed to mothers who only attended primary school, 16.9 per cent of the children were born to women who had non-formal education and 19.6 per cent were breastfed by mothers who had no access to any form of education.

She noted that a mother’s education has a great impact on the nutritional status of the child, as children born by mothers who were either unable to attain any form of education or only had access to lower education, were the ones mostly faced with issues of malnutrition.

“The survey proves that with more number of educated mothers in the country, the higher the chances of an increased percentage of children exclusively breastfed as a result of access to adequate information and a better understanding of the benefits of feeding a child with only breast milk within the first six months after birth.

She said exclusive breastfeeding is key to fighting child malnutrition as it is more resilient in fighting malnutrition.

What breastfeeding is

UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Mrs. Ada Ezeogu said breastfeeding simply means feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk rather than using infant formula or any other milk from baby bottle while exclusive breastfeeding means giving the baby only breast milk for the first six months of his life without water or any form of liquid.

Ezeogu regretted that achieving exclusive breastfeeding has remained a challenge in the country because of the practice of adding water to breastfeeding. “Most parents see breast like any other food that you eat and drink water at the end but the breast milk has enough water to meet the needs of the child. It contains all the nutrients that a child needs to grow and survive and, in fact, over 88 per cent of the breast milk is water. So you don’t need to add any water for the baby, otherwise, you will be taking the space of the nutrients from the milk in the baby’s stomach.”

She encouraged mothers to ensure that babies that are less than six months do not take water, adding that, “if you give water, the baby will not be able to get sufficient milk and nutrient requirements and he will be malnourished.

“In addition to water, breast milk contains nutrients such as protein, vitamins, iron, minerals and fats, etc. What stands breast milk out? Of the eight major preventive interventions for child development and survival, analysis showed that exclusive breastfeeding has the most impact.

Ezeogu who noted that breastfeeding alone could contribute 13 per cent reduction in child mortality, added that breastfeeding is at the very top of interventions for child survival.

“Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives have lower risk of respiratory infection, urinary tract infections, ear infections (acute otitis media), fewer bouts of diarrhoea and sudden infant death syndrome. Sudden infant death is unexplainable death of children.

“Breastfeeding also protects the baby from chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes mellitus. Also, the breast milk contains antibodies that are transferred to the baby. The benefits are not only pronounced in childhood but also in adulthood. It has been proven that children that are exclusively breastfed has higher IQ than those not breastfed. The longer you breastfeed the child, the less chances of his suffering from depression and attention issues when he becomes an adult.”