The three children (ages 3, 9 and 10) and the unborn baby of Ebony Wilkerson are lucky to be alive, despite the fact that she drove her van into the frigid Atlantic Ocean. Two hours prior to this horrific event, the Daytona Police interviewed her, deemed that she was sane and left. The day before, a local hospital kept her overnight for mental health observation for 24 hours and then sent her home. If I were the sister of Ebony Wilkerson, I’d speed-dial liability attorneys and then immediately request Wilkerson’s medical records because obviously someone dropped the proverbial ball.
Wilkerson’s sister knew something wasn’t right because Wilkerson exhibited paranoia and kept discussing Jesus and demons that she felt were controlling her. She had fled South Carolina because she believed that her ex-husband was attempting to kill her. Eerily, Wilkerson is from the same state where Susan Smith drove her children into the ocean 20 years ago and blamed the crime on an unknown man. Unlike Smith, whose children died; Wilkerson and her three children were gratefully rescued by a heroic group of men who selflessly plunged into the water to save them.
Kudos goes to Wilkerson’s sister who had the wisdom to call law enforcement and report her sister’s bizarre behavior and hide her car keys. Unfortunately Wilkerson had another set of keys. What’s troubling about this case is how Wilkerson was able to sign herself out of the hospital and how she fooled the police to thinking that she was sane which meant that didn’t have to “Baker Act” her or commit her to the hospital . I find it hard to believe that Wilkerson could walk out of a hospital after seeing a psychiatrist which leads me to speculate that perhaps the hospital didn’t have a psychiatrist on duty at the time.
Law enforcement officers are not trained mental health specialists. In the future, when they are called for a suspected mental health issue, a better approach might be to take the individual to the hospital, despite the appearance of a person’s “calm demeanor” and let the experts make or rule out the diagnosis of mental illness.
Mental illness is not a joke, America. It claims innocent lives every day.
If you start prenatal care early enough (in the 1st trimester), you will inevitably have to decide on whether you want to be tested for potential genetic problem such as Down syndrome (aka Trisomy 21) or other life-threatening genetic conditions. Terms such as non-invasive prenatal tests (aka NIPS), Integrative Screens and Alpha-Maternal Serum Testing will be hurled at you along with very specific time tables for getting these tests done. Ideally, you should receive extensive counseling so that you may make an informed decision but quite often this is not the case.
Knowing the difference between screening and diagnostic tests is a great way to begin your decision-making process. A screening test identifies potential problems and requires additional testing. A diagnostic test provides a definite answer. Diagnostic tests in the first trimester include chorionic villi sampling (aka CVS) and amniocentesis is usually done in the second trimester. Both of these tests are invasive and carry a small risk for miscarriages. Risk factors such as advanced maternal age (meaning greater than 35) also affect a pregnant woman’s decision because the risk for Down syndrome increases with age. The risk of having any type of genetic disorder is 1 in 190 for women age 35 and 1 in 65 for women age 40.
NIPS have gained in popularity over the past decade because they have a less than 2% false positive rate for detecting Down syndrome by the 10th week of pregnancy but this rate increases slightly for other lethal genetic problems such as trisomy 13 and 18. They work by measuring the amount of fetal DNA found in the mothers’ blood stream. This test does NOT test for open neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida.
The integrative screening test is also done in the first trimester by measuring four pregnancy hormones in the mother’s blood and requires an early ultrasound to measure the baby’s neck (aka “nuchal test”) to rule out Down syndrome and has a false positive rate of approximately 5%. It also requires a second trimester Maternal Serum Alpha Fetal Protein test to rule out open neural tube defects.
The NIPS tests are not cheap, require insurance coverage and costs between $800 to $2700. They also cannot determine future heart problems, whether you’re having twins or other fetal abnormalities. But again, they are the most accurate test regarding screening for Down syndrome.
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Acetaminophen (the generic brand of Tylenol) is one of the most prescribed drugs for pregnant women around the globe to treat fevers and mild pain. It was thought to be safe but now researchers in Denmark have just disrupted the obstetrical community by suggesting that there is an association between taking acetaminophen during pregnancy and hyperactive children who are diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
This is a profound disappointment to most prenatal care providers whose options are limited in what they can prescribe to pregnant women, especially for a fever. It appears that acetaminophen breaks up hormones and according to the researchers, “abnormal hormonal exposures in pregnancy may influence fetal brain development.”
Although the study reports investigating over 62,000 children, a word of caution must be exercised before making the assumption that acetaminophen is not safe for pregnant women. Remember that in this study:
• There was a stronger association between ADHD and acetaminophen if the mother took it for more than one trimester
• The researchers do not know exactly how many pills the pregnant mothers took
• The risks were greater for pregnant women who took large amounts of acetaminophen throughout their pregnancy
• They do not know if pain is associated with an increased risk of developing ADHD
According to the director of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine program at the Cleveland Clinic, it is important to remember that an association of acetaminophen and ADHD is not the same thing as saying acetaminophen causes ADHD and for that reason, he will continue to provide acetaminophen to his pregnant patients advising them to take it in the manner in which it is prescribed.
The take-home message is that most physicians are not going to change their prescribing patterns based on this study. Please consult with your physician or midwife before taking acetaminophen and only take them as prescribed.
Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen; it takes a smart mother who knows what to do. If you like what you read, please like me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SmartMothersGuide or Twitter, firstname.lastname@example.org
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (aka high-risk obstetricians) have issued a new recommendation that is a game-changer in the manner that obstetrics is practiced: allow low-risk first-time pregnant moms more time in labor. This is assuming that the fetal tracing is normal and the mother does not have a fever, high blood pressure or a condition that could compromise her life or the life of her unborn baby. This recommendation is based on new evidence that demonstrates contradicts the old school Friedman Curve theory that active labor begins at 4 centimeters. It actually begins at 6 centimeters. This would be especially helpful to first-time teenage moms who might be forced to have future cesarean sections based on hospital rules and physician opinions if their first delivery was a cesarean section. The “once a C-section, always a C-Section” culture hits this particular group the hardest.
According to the new recommendations:
• Women should be allowed to push for at least two hours if they’ve given birth before, three hours if they are first-time mothers, and even longer in certain cases, such as when an epidural is used for pain relief.
• Vaginal delivery is the preferred option whenever possible and doctors should use techniques — forceps, for example — to assist with natural birth.
• Women should be advised to avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
A word of caution should be offered about these recommendations: forceps deliveries are becoming a lost art and can cause more damage than good in the hands of an inexperienced provider and the “avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy” is easier said than done for most women.
That being said, these new recommendations gives first-time pregnant women the right to step on the proverbial brakes, the next time someone wants to rush their delivery via a C-section.
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The contradictions of life can be maddening. On one hand, we have the case of Jahi McMath, a 13-yearold girl who is brain dead on a mechanical ventilator that her family fought to maintain and on the other hand, there is Marlise Munoz, a 33 year-old mother of a 15 month old son, who collapsed on her kitchen floor from what appeared to be a blood clot to the lungs back in November. Munoz, according to her husband and family, never wanted to be on life support but the state of Texas ordered it when they discovered that she was 14-weeks pregnant. Should state law override the wishes of a patient because of her pregnancy?
The family of Munoz is concerned and angry about the state of Texas’s decision for a number of reasons. Munoz was without oxygen for over an hour before her husband found her on the floor which meant that the fetus was without oxygen as well. Medical experts believe this could cause serious problems for the unborn baby. Munoz’s father describes his daughter has having “rubbery arms that feel like a mannequin” which makes it difficult for him to visit her in the hospital. Munoz was very early in her second trimester (14 weeks), remote from delivering a baby, yet forced to be, as her father states, “a host for the fetus.” Who will have the ultimate responsibility of raising the child once the physicians intervene and deliver it via C. Section?
When John Peter Smith Hospital was confronted regarding their decision, they emphatically state that they are merely following the rule of law; however some medical ethics experts disagree and state that the hospital is misinterpreting the law. According to the New York Times, at least 31 states have adopted restrictive laws prohibiting physicians for ending life support for “terminally-ill pregnant women regardless of the patient’s wishes or her family’s.”
Should a brain dead pregnant woman lose her rights under the United States Constitution in order for the benefit of her unborn baby? I’d love to know what you think.
Tiona Rodriguez, a 17 year old teen mom was arrested in a New York City Victoria Secrets store on suspicion of shoplifting and accompanied by 17 year-old Francis Estevez, who was also arrested. The security guard looked in the shopping bag and found a foul-smelling dead fetus wrapped in a black plastic bag along with underwear and clothes. Rodriguez informed him that she was 6 months pregnant, had a miscarriage and didn’t know what to do with the baby. She was then taken to Bellevue Hospital, most likely for a psychiatric evaluation. The dead baby was taken to the morgue where it was reported that he weighed 8 ½ pounds and died from suffocation. It is alleged that Rodriguez gave birth at Estevez’s house and from a recent picture on Facebook® where she is wearing camouflage pants and a tee-shirt; it is quite possible that she was concealing the pregnancy. She was allegedly excited about an upcoming interview at a popular restaurant.
There will be those who despise Rodriguez and others who will sympathize with her. Could this tragedy have been prevented? Absolutely and here’s how:
• Rodriguez should have received a long-acting birth control method before leaving the hospital after having her first baby 2 years ago
• All pregnant teens should have at least one home visit during their pregnancy by The Healthy Start Program or the Pregnant Home Visit Program
• Messages about the Safe Haven Infant Protection Law should be plastered in doctors’ offices, prenatal clinics, billboards, text-messages, buses, subways and even on MTV to let families know that they can anonymously leave their baby at a hospital, fire and police departments for three days without getting in trouble
• Adoption IS an option. There are loving parents desperately waiting to adopt newborns and give them a decent home.
A newborn baby took his first breath and then ended up dead in a shopping bag. Who ever thought we’d see this in the 21st century?
I will never forget the patient or the day it happened. Assigned to my residency team, we had watched her vigilantly because she was 39 years old and pregnant with her first baby. Although she spoke no English the love that she had for the miracle growing inside of her could be understood in any language.
She had begun to have premature contractions at 33 weeks and we were trying to prolong her pregnancy for just a little bit longer to allow the lungs to develop. For approximately one week, we monitored her blood, her temperature and fetal movement. One of her tests ultimately indicated that she was developing an infection so we decided to induce her. We would then transfer the baby to the special care nursery where, under the watchful eyes of the neonatologists, he would continue to grow. My team was not on call that night although, in retrospect, I wished the heck that we were. We signed out the patient to the on-call team before we left. We gave them explicit instructions on how often to monitor the patient and discussed her complicated history. She was having, what we, in obstetrics called, a “precious baby” meaning that an older woman was having her first child. When we went home that evening, the baby was alive. When we returned the next morning, it was dead.
“What happened?” I asked as a volcano of anger started to mount. I received a litany of excuses, none of which made sense. Essentially, they missed an opportunity to intervene at the proper time and perform an emergency cesarean. By the time they got their act together, the baby was dead. There was a heated exchange of words between the male chief resident and myself. Another resident had to jump in between the two of us because at that moment, I was ready to swing.
Later that afternoon, the patient demanded to see her baby. We retrieved his body from the morgue in the basement, dressed him in a beautiful blanket and the social worker attempted to console her in her native language. I knew that I could never bring her baby back alive but from that moment on, I vowed to never allow a tragedy of that magnitude happen again.
A few years ago, I read a miraculous story about a stray dog that had saved the life of an abandoned baby in Kenya. The event occurred in May 2005 and it left such an indelible impression on me that I decided to not only include the story in The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy, but a year later, I blogged about it. I was intrigued that a mother abandoned her baby but a dog miraculously saved it. Three years later, the story has resurfaced as a result of a picture that was published on Pinterest and the interest regarding the outcome of both the baby and the dog was humbling. Many readers asked what happened to the dog and someone was kind enough to send a link that answered the question.
For those not familiar with the story, a dog found an abandoned baby in Kenya on top of a garbage heap near a race track wrapped up in an old pair of shorts. The dog had given birth to her puppies and was looking for food. The dog picked up the baby, carried it across a busy street and returned the baby to its compound along with its puppies. Some children who live near the compound heard the baby cry, saw her along with the dog and then told their parents who called the police. Unfortunately, baby abandonment was quite common because of extreme poverty.
The baby girl was 2 days old and they weren’t sure if she was going to make it. She spent 3 weeks in the NICU and was adopted quickly because of her miraculous rescue made by the dog. The biological mother was never found.
The heroic dog’s puppies died but she had a happy ending. She was given the name Mkombozi which means Savior in Swahili and adopted by the Kenyan SPCA. She now occupies a space (including her bed) in their office, functions as the “canine ambassador” and is very good with children who visit from school on field trips.
As I’ve stated before, pregnancy is a time of miracles. Somewhere in Kenya, there’s a 7-year old girl living and breathing because of the humanity of a dog. Perhaps we should all take out our notebooks and take lessons.
For more information on Mkombozi, please click on this link:
Journalist Nicholas Bakalar of the New York Times wrote an article that addressed a profound issue regarding pregnancy: Does Fear Make Labor Longer?
Over 2,000 pregnant women in Norway were given a questionnaire at 32 weeks to determine if they had a fear of labor. These women were then followed to determine how long they were in labor and according to the study, there was a 47 minute difference in the length of labor of 165 women who feared childbirth compared to those who don’t. Why is this important? It’s important because fear is something that we can control.
Three of the most empowering things a pregnant woman can do are request a tour of the labor room before she has a baby, take childbirth classes and request pain meds or an epidural if she experiences pain while in labor. When a pregnant woman is calm, the unborn baby is calm but if she’s writhing in pain, the adrenaline that she’s producing affects the baby and inevitably causes fetal distress. Prolonged fetal distress means emergency c. section.
One of my most memorable deliveries was as an intern during the late ‘80’s. Recording artist Anita Baker was very popular back then. I was astounded when a very “Yuppy” expectant father, pulled out a tape cassette and played Baker’s tape while his wife was in labor. He requested dim lights and held his wife’s hand as they listened to my favorite song, Sweet Love. Although I respected their privacy, I was never far from their room. His wife ultimately had a beautiful, uncomplicated delivery that left an indelible impression.
No, everyone doesn’t have to listen to Anita Baker while they’re in labor but they should do what makes them comfortable including receiving an epidural or pain meds if necessary. You don’t have to be stoic. Here’s a quote from The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy that I’d like to leave you with: “The Force that moves the air within our lungs, the blood within our veins, is the same force that has created the life within your womb. The most important key to a healthy pregnancy is the consciousness that lies within. Your child will be shaped by your thoughts, your dreams, your values, your energy. You are the ship that will carry the baby to the shores of its preordained human experience. Please let the journey be smooth.”
You are smarter, stronger and more brilliant than you could ever imagine. Childbirth should not be feared. It should be celebrated.
Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi’s participation in the Olympics makes me nervous but I can understand her dilemma. It’s not every day that a woman receives the opportunity participate in such a renowned event, especially if she 35-weeks pregnant. At 36 weeks, most healthcare providers would strongly advise against traveling by air because the change in the barometric pressure has the potential of causing premature rupture of membranes, or quite simply, the “water” to break. Certainly no one wants that to happen while flying at 32,000 feet in the sky. Taibi not only has to worry about traveling safely from Malaysia to London and back, but hopefully the noise from the gun shooting during her competition will not produce any undesired effects of her unborn child such as hearing loss.
Taibi represents a new generation of women who have crossed over into unchartered waters based on their performance of untraditional roles. Auto mechanics, airplane pilots and astronauts are just a few of the many new occupational roles that women have assumed. In the case of Taibi, it was her father who put a gun in her hand and introduced her to the firing range at the age of 15. Fourteen years later at the age of 29, she has qualified for the Olympics which is a phenomenal achievement and will represent her country.
Hopefully, Taibi won’t develop preterm labor as a result of the sheer stress of Olympic competition. She is creating history and the medical community needs to do research on her for the next 10 to 20 years to determine if her late-pregnancy Olympic participation has any negative effects on her baby’s future development and health.
We know that the fetal ear develops from 8 weeks gestation to 28 weeks and the most common cause of children’s hearing loss is caused by abnormal development followed by infection and trauma. More than 10% of children aged 6 to 19 years loss suffer noise-induced hearing loss in one or both ears in the U.S. according to medical studies.
Taibi says participating in the Olympics is a chance of a lifetime. If you were 36 weeks pregnant, would you compete on a shooting range in the 2012 Olympics?