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Concept: Childbirth


In early 2015, an outbreak of Zika virus, a flavivirus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, was identified in northeast Brazil, an area where dengue virus was also circulating. By September, reports of an increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly in Zika virus-affected areas began to emerge, and Zika virus RNA was identified in the amniotic fluid of two women whose fetuses had been found to have microcephaly by prenatal ultrasound. The Brazil Ministry of Health (MoH) established a task force to investigate the possible association of microcephaly with Zika virus infection during pregnancy and a registry for incident microcephaly cases (head circumference ≥2 standard deviations [SD] below the mean for sex and gestational age at birth) and pregnancy outcomes among women suspected to have had Zika virus infection during pregnancy. Among a cohort of 35 infants with microcephaly born during August-October 2015 in eight of Brazil’s 26 states and reported to the registry, the mothers of all 35 had lived in or visited Zika virus-affected areas during pregnancy, 25 (71%) infants had severe microcephaly (head circumference >3 SD below the mean for sex and gestational age), 17 (49%) had at least one neurologic abnormality, and among 27 infants who had neuroimaging studies, all had abnormalities. Tests for other congenital infections were negative. All infants had a lumbar puncture as part of the evaluation and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples were sent to a reference laboratory in Brazil for Zika virus testing; results are not yet available. Further studies are needed to confirm the association of microcephaly with Zika virus infection during pregnancy and to understand any other adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with Zika virus infection. Pregnant women in Zika virus-affected areas should protect themselves from mosquito bites by using air conditioning, screens, or nets when indoors, wearing long sleeves and pants, using permethrin-treated clothing and gear, and using insect repellents when outdoors. Pregnant and lactating women can use all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents according to the product label.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Embryo, Fetus, Mosquito, Obstetrics, Dengue fever, Gestational age


Preterm birth (PTB) rates (11.4% in 2013) in the United States (US) remain high and are a substantial cause of morbidity. Studies of prenatal exposure have associated particulate matter <2.5microns in diameter (PM2.5) and other ambient air pollutants with adverse birth outcomes, yet, to our knowledge, burden and costs of PM 2.5-attributable PTB have not been estimated in the US.

Concepts: Childbirth, United States, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Volcano, Dust, Humid subtropical climate


An infant born to a woman with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection began receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) 30 hours after birth owing to high-risk exposure. ART was continued when detection of HIV-1 DNA and RNA on repeat testing met the standard diagnostic criteria for infection. After therapy was discontinued (when the child was 18 months of age), levels of plasma HIV-1 RNA, proviral DNA in peripheral-blood mononuclear cells, and HIV-1 antibodies, as assessed by means of clinical assays, remained undetectable in the child through 30 months of age. This case suggests that very early ART in infants may alter the establishment and long-term persistence of HIV-1 infection.

Concepts: HIV, AIDS, Immune system, Protein, Gene, Childbirth, Bacteria, Virus


In collaboration with state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments, CDC established the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry (USZPR) in early 2016 to monitor pregnant women with laboratory evidence of possible recent Zika virus infection and their infants.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infant, Fetus, Breastfeeding, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Preterm birth is the most common single cause of perinatal and infant mortality, affecting 15 million infants worldwide each year with global rates increasing. Understanding of risk factors remains poor, and preventive interventions have only limited benefit. Large differences exist in preterm birth rates across high income countries. We hypothesized that understanding the basis for these wide variations could lead to interventions that reduce preterm birth incidence in countries with high rates. We thus sought to assess the contributions of known risk factors for both spontaneous and provider-initiated preterm birth in selected high income countries, estimating also the potential impact of successful interventions due to advances in research, policy and public health, or clinical practice.

Concepts: Childbirth, Infant, Epidemiology, Medical statistics, Infant mortality, Preterm birth, Perinatal mortality, Human Development Index


Reduction of preterm births (<37 completed weeks of gestation) would substantially reduce neonatal and infant mortality, and deleterious health effects in survivors. Maternal fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure has been identified as a possible risk factor contributing to preterm birth. The aim of this study was to produce the first estimates of ambient PM2.5-associated preterm births for 183 individual countries and globally. To do this, national, population-weighted, annual average ambient PM2.5 concentration, preterm birth rate and number of livebirths were combined to calculate the number of PM2.5-associated preterm births in 2010 for 183 countries. Uncertainty was quantified using Monte-Carlo simulations, and analyses were undertaken to investigate the sensitivity of PM2.5-associated preterm birth estimates to assumptions about the shape of the concentration-response function at low and high PM2.5 exposures, inclusion of provider-initiated preterm births, and exposure to indoor air pollution. Globally, in 2010, the number of PM2.5-associated preterm births was estimated as 2.7 million (1.8-3.5 million, 18% (12-24%) of total preterm births globally) with a low concentration cut-off (LCC) set at 10μgm(-3), and 3.4 million (2.4-4.2 million, 23% (16-28%)) with a LCC of 4.3μgm(-3). South and East Asia, North Africa/Middle East and West sub-Saharan Africa had the largest contribution to the global total, and the largest percentage of preterm births associated with PM2.5. Sensitivity analyses showed that PM2.5-associated preterm birth estimates were 24% lower when provider-initiated preterm births were excluded, 38-51% lower when risk was confined to the PM2.5 exposure range in the studies used to derive the effect estimate, and 56% lower when mothers who live in households that cook with solid fuels (and whose personal PM2.5 exposure is likely dominated by indoor air pollution) were excluded. The concentration-response function applied here derives from a meta-analysis of studies, most of which were conducted in the US and Europe, and its application to the areas of the world where we estimate the greatest effects on preterm births remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the substantial percentage of preterm births estimated to be associated with anthropogenic PM2.5 (18% (13%-24%) of total preterm births globally) indicates that reduction of maternal PM2.5 exposure through emission reduction strategies should be considered alongside mitigation of other risk factors associated with preterm births.

Concepts: Childbirth, Infant, Mathematics, Risk, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Dust


Newborn telomere length sets telomere length for later life. At birth, telomere length is highly variable among newborns and the environmental factors during in utero life for this observation remain largely unidentified. Obesity during pregnancy might reflect an adverse nutritional status affecting pregnancy and offspring outcomes, but the association of maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) with newborn telomere length, as a mechanism of maternal obesity, on the next generation has not been addressed.

Concepts: Childbirth, Infant, Nutrition, Obesity, Mass, Breastfeeding, Body mass index, Star Trek: The Next Generation


Maternal vitamin D status has been associated with bone mass of offspring in many, but not all, observational studies. However, maternal vitamin D repletion during pregnancy has not yet been proven to improve offspring bone mass in a randomised controlled trial. We aimed to assess whether neonates born to mothers supplemented with vitamin D during pregnancy have greater whole-body bone mineral content (BMC) at birth than those of mothers who had not received supplementation.

Concepts: Vitamin D, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Fetus, Randomized controlled trial, Breastfeeding


The strikingly high incidence of obstructed labor due to the disproportion of fetal size and the mother’s pelvic dimensions has puzzled evolutionary scientists for decades. Here we propose that these high rates are a direct consequence of the distinct characteristics of human obstetric selection. Neonatal size relative to the birth-relevant maternal dimensions is highly variable and positively associated with reproductive success until it reaches a critical value, beyond which natural delivery becomes impossible. As a consequence, the symmetric phenotype distribution cannot match the highly asymmetric, cliff-edged fitness distribution well: The optimal phenotype distribution that maximizes population mean fitness entails a fraction of individuals falling beyond the “fitness edge” (i.e., those with fetopelvic disproportion). Using a simple mathematical model, we show that weak directional selection for a large neonate, a narrow pelvic canal, or both is sufficient to account for the considerable incidence of fetopelvic disproportion. Based on this model, we predict that the regular use of Caesarean sections throughout the last decades has led to an evolutionary increase of fetopelvic disproportion rates by 10 to 20%.

Concepts: Gene, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Natural selection, Evolution, Evolutionary biology, Caesarean section, Fitness


Emerging evidence suggests that the in utero environment is not sterile as once presumed. Work in the mouse demonstrated transmission of commensal bacteria from mother to fetus during gestation, though it is unclear what modulates this process. We have previously shown in the nonhuman primate that, independent of obesity, a maternal high-fat diet during gestation and lactation persistently shapes the juvenile gut microbiome. We therefore sought to interrogate in a population-based human longitudinal cohort whether a maternal high-fat diet similarly alters the neonatal and infant gut microbiome in early life.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infant, Human, Gut flora, Breastfeeding, Maternal bond, Mammal