2 Simple Things Can Cut a Woman’s Risk of Needing a C-Section

A study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggests that a pregnant woman can reduce her risk of needing a caesarean section, or C-section, by around 10% by doing 2 simple things: eating healthy and staying active. Not terribly surprising, is it?

In 2015, 32% of all deliveries in the United States were C-sections. These procedures may entail less pain, but they are by far riskier than natural childbirth, for both mom and baby. The surgery puts women at risk for:

  • Infection.
  • Heavy blood loss.
  • A blood clot in the legs or lungs.
  • Nausea, vomiting, severe headache after delivery (caused by anesthesia and having an abdominal procedure).
  • Constipation or, worse yet, the bowels stop working completely – a condition called ileus.
  • Injury to the bladder and other organs during surgery.
  • Maternal death (around 2 in 100,000 caesarean births).

Some long-term complications can also occur, such as:

  • Rupturing the uterus during a future pregnancy or vaginal birth.
  • The growth of the placenta low in the uterus, blocking the cervix (Placenta previa).
  • The placenta grows deeper into the uterine wall than usual, causing severe bleeding after childbirth and sometimes requiring a hysterectomy.

What’s more, babies delivered via caesarean section face certain risks of their own, including:

  • Injury during the delivery.
  • Need to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
  • Immature lungs and breathing problems, if the due date was miscalculated or if the infant is born 39 weeks of gestation.

Read: 7 Reasons Expecting Moms Shouldn’t Neglect Exercise

The studies in the analysis included 23 women of any weight at the beginning of the study, 7 involving obese women only, and 6 that included overweight and obese women only. The data of more than 12,000 women were included in the studies.

The researchers found that women of any weight who were given diet and exercise advice during pregnancy reduced the likelihood that they would need a C-section or gain extra weight. These women were additionally less likely to develop diabetes during pregnancy – about 24% less.

Exercise programs included aerobic classes and cycling at the gym.

The combination of healthy eating and exercise significantly reduced the mother’s weight gain by 0.7 kilograms, or 1.5 pounds, compared with the control group. They also cut their risk of needing a caesarean section by 9%. [1] [2]

That translates into 1 fewer woman having a C-section for every 40 mothers who follow a healthy diet and are moderately active. [1]

Study author Shakila Thangaratinam said:

“Our findings are important because it is often thought that pregnant women shouldn’t exercise because it may harm the baby.

But we show that the babies are not affected by physical activity or dieting, and that there are additional benefits including a reduction in maternal weight gain, diabetes in pregnancy, and the risk of requiring a caesarean section.

This should be part of routine advice in pregnancy, given by practitioners as well as midwives.”

Read: Exercise in Pregnancy is Good for Healthy Mom AND the Baby

Thangaratinam added that all women should receive guidance on healthy lifestyle practices during pregnancy, not just obese women.

“Often with interventions like these, certain groups benefit more than others, but we’ve shown that diet and physical activity has a beneficial effect across all groups, irrespective of your body mass index (BMI), age or ethnicity, so these interventions have the potential to benefit a huge number of people.”

It is especially important for overweight and obese women to adopt a healthier lifestyle when pregnant, however. Women who are overweight during pregnancy increase their baby’s risk of having a high birth rate, which can lead to obesity and high blood pressure later on during childhood. Excess weight also puts a woman at risk for preeclampsia during pregnancy. [2]

It should be noted that the majority of women in the study (80%) were white. More research is needed into how a healthy diet and exercise affect women of other ethnicities.

Sources:

[1] The Huffington Post UK

[2] Live Science


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Western Diet Found to Increase Risk of Fatty Liver Disease

Between 30-40% of American adults have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition with no visible signs that rarely causes symptoms. Despite its near-invisibility, NAFLD raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. What’s more, a recent study suggests that people with a high-risk variant of the PNPLA3 gene are much more likely to have NAFLD if they’re obese than if they’re thin. [1]

NAFLD actually refers to several stages of disease. Most people have a form of the disease known as “fatty liver,” in which more than 5% of the liver is made up of fat cells. It is often related to obesity, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle.

A poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are the natural precursors to obesity. And in people with the gene variant, obesity may be a precursor to a fatty liver.

Study co-author Jonathan Cohen, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, explains:

“If you are obese and lack the variant, then there is a good chance that you won’t have excess fat in your liver. But if you are obese and do have the variant—particularly if you have two copies of the variant—you are very likely to have excess fat in your liver.” [1]

Read: 10% of U.S. Teens Have Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Oddly enough, in most people with NAFLD, liver problems like inflammation and scarring aren’t much of a problem. Insulin resistance – which can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease – is much more of a concern.

However, an advanced form of NAFLD, called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, affects 3% to 12% of U.S. adults. Dr. Jaideep Behari, associate professor and founder of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Fatty Liver Clinic, says:

“This form is characterized by inflammation and cell injury. Cells are dying and there’s progressive scarring, which can lead to cirrhosis and even liver cancer.” [1]

Research suggests that people with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and excess fat around their middle are more at risk for NASH; but researchers say it isn’t clear why some people develop the more advanced form of NAFLD, while others never do. Some people actually alternate between the two forms of the disease.

“Sometimes people exercise more and eat a healthier diet while at other times they’re being less healthy. They’re going back and forth with their lifestyle, and the condition of their liver is going back and forth as well.” [1]

Not everyone who has NAFLD is obese, either. According to Behari, doctors are seeing an increase in people with normal body weight presenting with the disease. This is referred to as “lean fatty liver.” Certain ethnic groups with lower BMIs have a greater chance of developing lean fatty liver, too, including people of Asian descent.

Dr. Hobbs, Director of the McDermott Center, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, and a Professor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Genetics, says that all obese people who have NAFLD can benefit from weight loss, but “those who have the risk allele in PNPLA3 are likely to benefit more.” [2]

A “Western-Style” Diet may Increase the Risk of NAFLD

Researchers used participants in the Rotterdam Study to examine the dietary components of NAFLD in elderly adults. They presented their findings in April to the International Liver Congress in Amsterdam.

The team collated data from 3,440 people, of which 30% were considered lean and the remaining 70% were considered overweight. The participants’ diets were assessed using a 389-item food frequency questionnaire.

Using an ultrasound, researchers detected NAFLD in 35% of the participants.

Source: GB Health Watch

Total protein intake was linked to an increased risk of NAFLD, which was primarily driven by animal protein. The link was particularly strong in obese individuals. Even after researchers adjusted for metabolic factors, animal protein – but not total protein – remained a significant risk factor.

Dr. Louise Alferink says:

“The results from this study demonstrate that animal protein is associated with NAFLD in overweight elderly people. This in line with a recently proposed hypothesis that a Western-style diet, rich in animal proteins and refined food items, may cause low-grade disturbances to the body homeostasis, glucose metabolism, and acid-based balance.

Another interesting finding is that, although current guidelines advise against foods containing fructose, such as soda and sugar, our results do not indicate a harmful association with mono- and disaccharides with NAFLD per se. In fact, we even found a slight beneficial association, which was attenuated when adjusted for metabolic factors.” [3]

Glucose is a monosaccharide, and sucrose is a disaccharide. Simply put, they are naturally occurring sugars. [4]

Read: High Fructose Corn Syrup May Promote Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

The authors believe this slight beneficial association might be because of healthy food items in the mono- and disaccharide food groups, such as antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. [3]

So, at the end of the day, the advice for avoiding and/or improving conditions like NAFLD and NASH may end up sounding very familiar: Consume less meat, eat more fruits and vegetables, and stay away from processed food and added sugar.

A vegan or vegetarian diet is one way to accomplish that. A Mediterranean diet – repeatedly shown in studies to be one of the healthiest eating patterns – may also help, for people who don’t want to totally give up meat.

Says Behari:

“For the majority of patients, lifestyle modification is way more effective than any drug. All of these chronic disorders—fatty liver, diabetes, heart disease—share an underlying metabolic component, and the same common-sense healthy living principles apply for all of them.” [1]

Sources:

[1] Time

[2] Science Daily

[3] Medical News Today

[4] Study.com

GB Health Watch


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