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Autism Apple Series

Autism Prevention and babyQ

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Central to the idea of babyQ is that mothers have a great deal of control over which genes are turned on in their babies during pregnancy.  This concept of gene control is called epigenetics.  At babyQ we want to help pregnant moms turn on their child’s best genes.  Now in a scientific report we see evidence that this really works and may help autism prevention.

Autism is spreading like wild fire in America.  While it was barely heard of back in the 70’s and 80’s, it is now estimated that autism or autism spectrum disorders like Asperger’s, affects 1 in 65 children born in the United States.  How did this happen?  Are genes involved?  How could so many mutations happen in 30 years to go from a rare disorder to one so common?

In the March 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the San Diego California School of Medicine revealed photos of brain tissue analysis.  These photos demonstrate the disruption of proper brain formation in autistic children.

AutismPostmortem analysis of autistic brain tissue revealed patch-like areas of disorganized neurons. Arrows show a patch of decreased or absent expression of genetic markers across multiple layers of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.  Credit: Rich Stoner, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego

The study’s lead author,  Eric Courchesne, PhD found that in the brains of children with autism, key genetic markers were absent in brain cells in multiple layers. “This defect,” Courchesne said, “indicates that the crucial early developmental step of creating six distinct layers with specific types of brain cells — something that begins in prenatal life — had been disrupted.”

It is important that we note that Doctor Courchesne states that something happened during prenatal life while the child was still in the womb.  That is precisely what happens when bad genes get turned on and good genes turned off.   What factors could do this?

The first things doctors think about when the baby’s development is abnormal are environmental exposures like alcohol, recreational drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, tobacco and even prescription medications.  Impaired brain development can also occur if the mother is not eating the right foods or taking her prenatal vitamins and getting enough essential nutrients like vitamin D and DHA fish oil.  When we conceived of babyQ 4 years ago we knew this type of evidence, validating our approach to a healthy pregnancy was coming.  That was one of our motivations; to design a simple system for pregnant moms and help them deliver a healthy baby and reduce the tide of autism afflicting America.  Pregnant mothers can use babyQ to stay on the right path to a healthy pregnancy, baby and childhood.

N Engl J Med 2014; 370:1209-1219

Photo Credit: BigStock Photo

Prenatal Yoga: What You Need to Know

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What are the benefits of prenatal yoga?

Advocates of prenatal yoga are adamant that the benefits of participating in this form of exercise are vast. First off, there are many yoga poses, such as Pigeon Pose or Cat-Cow Stretch, that can help you open up your hips to make more room for your child to descend through. Additionally, since yoga is a form of exercise, it helps build your endurance and can make the childbirth process easier for you.

But more than its physical benefits, prenatal yoga can help you with your mood and your mind control as you go through the pregnancy process. How does it do this? The endorphins that are released as you participate in the poses actually help to balance out the crazy hormones rushing through your body when you are pregnant, making it easier to stay in a pleasant mood. More than that, a large part of completing yoga successfully is proper breathing techniques and mind control. Both of these skills will be priceless throughout the birthing process.

What are the risks of prenatal yoga?

While it may seem that you can’t go wrong building up your stamina and improving your mood, there are some risks of pregnant yoga that you need to be aware of. Just like any form of exercise, you need to be cautious about any twists or deep bending poses that may compromise your abdomen. There are also some breathing techniques that are not recommend while you are pregnant, like the Breath of Fire, because they don’t allow for enough oxygen to get to your growing baby.

Something else to be aware of when performing prenatal yoga is the risk of overextending yourself. Since your body is full of the hormone relaxin, your muscles are much more flexible than usual. It is very easy to be doing a yoga pose and injure yourself by accidentally over stretching.

Is prenatal yoga right for me?

If, after hearing the pros and cons of pregnant yoga, you decide that it seems like a good idea for you, you will want to make sure to get clearance from your doctor before proceeding. After that, pair up with an experienced prenatal yoga instructor who will be able to guide you through the poses while keeping you safe. Above all, listen to your body. It will let you know if you are pushing yourself too hard are attempting something that is not ideal for your pregnant state.


What Environmental Dangers Should Pregnant Women Watch Out For?

Posted by | Because You Asked | No Comments

Does Air Pollution in the Environment Affect My Baby’s Development In Utero?

Being pregnant can be a wonderful time of contentment as your fetus develops and grows–mixed with excited anticipation thinking of the day you’ll finally “meet” your newborn next generation. Pregnancy can also bring worries about whether you’re doing all you can to help your baby become healthy, strong and ready to greet the world. Happily, statistics are on your side, with excellent odds that you’ll have a healthy baby, undamaged by environmental factors.

What Are the Chances of Birth Defects from Environmental Causes? What About Household Chemical Exposure?

Although potential “dangers” may seem to lurk everywhere, many are sensationalized in the press and magnified by your concern for having a healthy child. Only 4 percent (or less) of infants are born with birth defects, and of these, only a tiny percentage is due to known environmental causes, according to recent studies from the March of Dimes and National Institute of Environmental Health Science. Most of these environmental risks involve poor nutrition, smoking, drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs. Yes, you should reduce your exposure to household cleaning chemicals and solvents, however, as long as you are following your physician’s advice during pre-natal checkups, don’t let worry overtake you.

How Do I Protect Myself From Environmental Dangers, Illness and Bacteria?

Proper diet is crucial and can work wonders, even if your hometown or city doesn’t have the best air quality. Eating well seems to lessen the negative impact of polluted air, strengthening your body overall and shoring up the immune system. Eating abundant fresh fruits and veggies will improve your health and help ensure the best pregnancy outcome. (But don’t beat yourself up for giving in to pregnancy cravings now and then.) Follow your doctor’s advice about healthy weight gain and vitamins or supplements. These basics can help maintain your health during pregnancy–even in the face of environmental challenges.

Airborne Pollen is Causing My Allergies to Flare Up. Will This Affect My Pregnancy or Infant’s Health?

You may want to avoid outdoor exercise and stay mostly indoors during smog alerts or high pollen counts, but don’t avoid important appointments. Check with your doctor before taking any medications, including those for allergies. Indoor air quality is actually more important, so keep your home clean, control excess humidity and avoid commonly known dangers like second-hand smoke.

What is the Best Climate and Environment for Pregnancy Health? Is Dry Air or Ocean Air Better?

There’s really no “best” climate. Humidity can be a negative factor, but mostly because it can lead to mold growth in the home.

Should I Relocate or Change Jobs for the Health of My Fetus, Newborn Baby and Myself? What if I Can’t Afford to Do Either?

Provided that you’re not exposed to organic solvents, spray paint and lacquer, dry-cleaning chemicals, peeling lead paint, mercury and/or pesticides regularly, there’s little to worry about. Avoid painting walls or refinishing furniture while pregnant. Be sure to talk about any environmental rumors or fears with your physician when you have a concern to avoid unnecessary anxiety.

Limit stress by learning what to expect during each phase of pregnancy. You can get expert tips and exchange ideas with other women—here on

[Image Courtesy of BigStock Photo]