Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Mother


Background Child-parent screening for familial hypercholesterolemia has been proposed to identify persons at high risk for inherited premature cardiovascular disease. We assessed the efficacy and feasibility of such screening in primary care practice. Methods We obtained capillary blood samples to measure cholesterol levels and to test for familial hypercholesterolemia mutations in 10,095 children 1 to 2 years of age during routine immunization visits. Children were considered to have positive screening results for familial hypercholesterolemia if their cholesterol level was elevated and they had either a familial hypercholesterolemia mutation or a repeat elevated cholesterol level 3 months later. A parent of each child with a positive screening result for familial hypercholesterolemia was considered to have a positive screening result for familial hypercholesterolemia if he or she had the same mutation as the child or, if no mutations were identified, had the higher cholesterol level of the two parents. Results The use of a prespecified cholesterol cutoff value of 1.53 multiples of the median (MoM, corresponding to a percentile of 99.2) identified 28 children who had positive screening results for familial hypercholesterolemia (0.3% of the 10,095 children; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.2 to 0.4), including 20 with a familial hypercholesterolemia mutation and 8 with a repeat cholesterol level of at least 1.53 MoM. A total of 17 children who had a cholesterol level of less than 1.53 MoM also had a familial hypercholesterolemia mutation. The overall mutation prevalence was 1 in 273 children (37 in 10,095; 95% CI, 1 in 198 to 1 in 388). The use of an initial cholesterol cutoff value of 1.35 MoM (95th percentile) plus a mutation, or two cholesterol values of at least 1.50 MoM (99th percentile), identified 40 children who had positive screening results for familial hypercholesterolemia (0.4% of the 10,095 children, including 32 children who had a familial hypercholesterolemia mutation and 8 who did not have the mutation) and 40 parents who had positive screening results for familial hypercholesterolemia. Conclusions Child-parent screening was feasible in primary care practices at routine child immunization visits. For every 1000 children screened, 8 persons (4 children and 4 parents) were identified as having positive screening results for familial hypercholesterolemia and were consequently at high risk for cardiovascular disease. (Funded by the Medical Research Council.).

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Genetic disorder, Mutation, Atherosclerosis, Median, Mother, Hypercholesterolemia


Observational studies have generated conflicting evidence on the effects of moderate maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy on offspring cognition mainly reflecting problems of confounding. Among mothers who drink during pregnancy fetal alcohol exposure is influenced not only by mother’s intake but also by genetic variants carried by both the mother and the fetus. Associations between children’s cognitive function and both maternal and child genotype at these loci can shed light on the effects of maternal alcohol consumption on offspring cognitive development.

Concepts: Psychology, Pregnancy, Infant, Embryo, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Mother, Fetal alcohol syndrome


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a leading cause of liver-related morbidity and mortality (1). Transmission of HCV is primarily via parenteral blood exposure, and HCV can be transmitted vertically from mother to child. Vertical transmission occurs in 5.8% (95% confidence interval = 4.2%-7.8%) of infants born to women who are infected only with HCV and in up to twice as many infants born to women who are also infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (2) or who have high HCV viral loads (3,4); there is currently no recommended intervention to prevent transmission of infection from mother to child (3). Increased reported incidence of HCV infection among persons aged ≤30 years (5,6) with similar increases among women and men in this age group (6), raises concern about increases in the number of pregnant women with HCV infection, and in the number of infants who could be exposed to HCV at birth. Data from one large commercial laboratory and birth certificate data were used to investigate trends in HCV detection among women of childbearing age,* HCV testing among children aged ≤2 years, and the proportions of infants born to HCV-infected women nationally and in Kentucky, the state with the highest incidence of acute HCV infection during 2011-2014 (6). During 2011-2014, commercial laboratory data indicated that national rates of HCV detection (antibody or RNA positivity(†)) among women of childbearing age increased 22%, and HCV testing (antibody or RNA) among children aged ≤2 years increased 14%; birth certificate data indicated that the proportion of infants born to HCV-infected mothers increased 68%, from 0.19% to 0.32%. During the same time in Kentucky, the HCV detection rate among women of childbearing age increased >200%, HCV testing among children aged ≤2 years increased 151%, and the proportion of infants born to HCV-infected women increased 124%, from 0.71% to 1.59%. Increases in the rate of HCV detection among women of childbearing age suggest a potential risk for vertical transmission of HCV. These findings highlight the importance of following current CDC recommendations to identify, counsel, and test persons at risk for HCV infection (1,7), including pregnant women, as well as consider developing public health policies for routine HCV testing of pregnant women, and expanding current policies for testing and monitoring children born to HCV-infected women. Expansion of HCV reporting and surveillance requirements will enhance case identification and prevention strategies.

Concepts: Immune system, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Fetus, Infection, Hepatitis C, Mother, Hepatitis C virus


INTRODUCTION: Primitively eusocial halictid bees are excellent systems to study the origin of eusociality, because all individuals have retained the ancestral ability to breed independently. In the sweat bee Halictus scabiosae, foundresses overwinter, establish nests and rear a first brood by mass-provisioning each offspring with pollen and nectar. The mothers may thus manipulate the phenotype of their offspring by restricting their food provisions. The first brood females generally help their mother to rear a second brood of males and gynes that become foundresses. However, the first brood females may also reproduce in their maternal or in other nests, or possibly enter early diapause. Here, we examined if the behavioural specialization of the first and second brood females was associated with between-brood differences in body size, energetic reserves and pollen provisions. RESULTS: The patterns of variation in adult body size, weight, fat content and food provisioned to the first and second brood indicate that H. scabiosae has dimorphic females. The first-brood females were significantly smaller, lighter and had lower fat reserves than the second-brood females and foundresses. The first-brood females were also less variable in size and fat content, and developed on homogeneously smaller pollen provisions. Foundresses were larger than gynes of the previous year, suggesting that small females were less likely to survive the winter. CONCLUSIONS: The marked size dimorphism between females produced in the first and second brood and the consistently smaller pollen provisions provided to the first brood suggest that the first brood females are channelled into a helper role during their pre-imaginal development. As a large body size is needed for successful hibernation, the mother may promote helping in her first brood offspring by restricting their food provisions. This pattern supports the hypothesis that parental manipulation may contribute to promote worker behaviour in primitively eusocial halictids.

Concepts: Insect, Mother, Honey, Bee, Ant, Eusociality, Halictidae, Gyne


The propensity for a grizzly bear to develop conflict behaviours might be a result of social learning between mothers and cubs, genetic inheritance, or both learning and inheritance. Using non-invasive genetic sampling, we collected grizzly bear hair samples during 2011-2014 across southwestern Alberta, Canada. We targeted private agricultural lands for hair samples at grizzly bear incident sites, defining an incident as an occurrence in which the grizzly bear caused property damage, obtained anthropogenic food, or killed or attempted to kill livestock or pets. We genotyped 213 unique grizzly bears (118 M, 95 F) at 24 microsatellite loci, plus the amelogenin marker for sex. We used the program COLONY to assign parentage. We evaluated 76 mother-offspring relationships and 119 father-offspring relationships. We compared the frequency of problem and non-problem offspring from problem and non-problem parents, excluding dependent offspring from our analysis. Our results support the social learning hypothesis, but not the genetic inheritance hypothesis. Offspring of problem mothers are more likely to be involved in conflict behaviours, while offspring from non-problem mothers are not likely to be involved in incidents or human-bear conflicts themselves (Barnard’s test, p = 0.05, 62.5% of offspring from problem mothers were problem bears). There was no evidence that offspring are more likely to be involved in conflict behaviour if their fathers had been problem bears (Barnard’s test, p = 0.92, 29.6% of offspring from problem fathers were problem bears). For the mother-offspring relationships evaluated, 30.3% of offspring were identified as problem bears independent of their mother’s conflict status. Similarly, 28.6% of offspring were identified as problem bears independent of their father’s conflict status. Proactive mitigation to prevent female bears from becoming problem individuals likely will help prevent the perpetuation of conflicts through social learning.

Concepts: Psychology, Genetics, Parent, Mother, Montana, Bears, Nature versus nurture, Grizzly Bear


BACKGROUND: Numerous studies have documented a profound reduction in alcohol use among pregnant women, whereas research on expectant fathers has been scarce. The aim of this study was to measure changes in alcohol consumption from before pregnancy to 17 weeks in gestation for mothers and fathers, differentiating between parents with and without any previous children, and to measure how level and change in alcohol consumption into early pregnancy was associated with relationship satisfaction. METHODS: The data collection was conducted as part of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. This cohort now includes 108 000 children, 90 700 mothers and 71 500 fathers recruited from 1999 to 2008. The present study comprises 82 362 couples. Alcohol consumption was assessed using a questionnaire including items about usual drinking frequency, quantities, and number of occasions with heavy episodic drinking (HED). Relationship satisfaction was measured by five items scored on a Likert agreement scale. RESULTS: The findings indicate that both mothers and fathers reduce their drinking significantly during pregnancy. Reduction was apparent for all three measures of alcohol consumption. First-time fathers reduced their alcohol consumption more than experienced fathers, from initially higher levels. The gap between the fathers and their pregnant partner was greater for first-time parents compared to parents with previous children. Drinking pre-pregnancy and relationship satisfaction during pregnancy were weakly related within each partner, whereas no association across partners was observed. CONCLUSIONS: Both expectant mothers and fathers changed their alcohol consumption patterns when expecting a child. Almost all mothers stopped drinking, whereas fathers reduced their drinking to a considerable degree. Relationship satisfaction was only slightly related to their drinking patterns. The findings may have important policy implications, mainly with regard to developing alcohol preventive strategies.

Concepts: Family, Alcohol, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Embryo, Uterus, Parent, Mother


OBJECTIVE: To identify reasons why eligible families are not accessing free ‘Healthy Start’ vitamin supplementation (providing vitamins A, C and D) in England. DESIGN: Qualitative study using in-depth interviews. SETTING: 13 primary care trusts in England. PARTICIPANTS: Purposive sample of 15 Healthy Start coordinators, 50 frontline health and children’s professionals and 107 parents. RESULTS: Vitamin take-up was low across all research sites, reported as below 10% of eligible beneficiaries for free vitamins. Reasons identified by both parents and professionals included (1) poor accessibility of vitamins, (2) low promotion of the scheme by health professionals, (3) a lack of awareness among eligible families, and (4) low motivation among mothers to take vitamins for themselves during pregnancy or for children under 4 years old. CONCLUSIONS: Low uptake rates can be explained by poor accessibility of vitamins and lack of awareness and motivation to take vitamin supplements among eligible families. Universal provision (at least for pregnant women) and better training for health professionals are identified as potential solutions worthy of further research and evaluation.

Concepts: Family, Pregnancy, Nutrition, Vitamin, Dietary supplement, Educational psychology, Folic acid, Mother


BACKGROUND: With the increasing use of probabilistically linked administrative data in health research, it is important to understand whether systematic differences occur between the populations with linked and unlinked records. While probabilistic linkage involves combining records for individuals, population perinatal health research requires a combination of information from both the mother and her infant(s). The aims of this study were to (i) describe probabilistic linkage for perinatal records in New South Wales (NSW) Australia, (ii) determine linkage proportions for these perinatal records, and (iii) assess records with linked mother and infant hospital-birth record, and unlinked records for systematic differences. METHODS: This is a population-based study of probabilistically linked statutory birth and hospital records from New South Wales, Australia, 2001-2008. Linkage groups were created where the birth record had complete linkage with hospital admission records for both the mother and infant(s), partial linkage (the mother only or the infant(s) only) or neither. Unlinked hospital records for mothers and infants were also examined. Rates of linkage as a percentage of birth records and descriptive statistics for maternal and infant characteristics by linkage groups were determined. RESULTS: Complete linkage (mother hospital record - birth record - infant hospital record) was available for 95.9% of birth records, partial linkage for 3.6%, and 0.5% with no linked hospital records (unlinked). Among live born singletons (complete linkage = 96.5%) the mothers without linked infant records (1.6%) had slightly higher proportions of young, non- Australian born, socially disadvantaged women with adverse pregnancy outcomes. The unlinked birth records (0.5%) had slightly higher proportions of nulliparous, older, Australian born women giving birth in private hospitals by caesarean section. Stillbirths had the highest rate of unlinked records (3-4%). CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that probabilistic linkage of perinatal records can achieve high, representative levels of complete linkage. Records for mother’s that did not link to infant records and unlinked records had slightly different characteristics to fully linked records. However, these groups were small and unlikely to bias results and conclusions in a sustentative way. Stillbirths present additional challenges to the linkage process due to lower rates of linkage for lower gestational ages, where most stillbirths occur.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infant, Fetus, Obstetrics, Mother, New South Wales, Mothers


Maternal nutrition plays a crucial role in influencing fertility, fetal development, birth outcomes, and breast milk composition. During the critical window of time from conception through the initiation of complementary feeding, the nutrition of the mother is the nutrition of the offspring-and a mother’s dietary choices can affect both the early health status and lifelong disease risk of the offspring. Most health expert recommendations and government-sponsored dietary guidelines agree that a healthy diet for children and adults (including those who are pregnant and/or lactating) should include an abundance of nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables. These foods should contain a variety of essential nutrients as well as other compounds that are associated with lower disease risk such as fiber and bioactives. However, the number and amounts of nutrients varies considerably among fruits and vegetables, and not all fruit and vegetable options are considered “nutrient-rich”. Avocados are unique among fruits and vegetables in that, by weight, they contain much higher amounts of the key nutrients folate and potassium, which are normally under-consumed in maternal diets. Avocados also contain higher amounts of several non-essential compounds, such as fiber, monounsaturated fats, and lipid-soluble antioxidants, which have all been linked to improvements in maternal health, birth outcomes and/or breast milk quality. The objective of this report is to review the evidence that avocados may be a unique nutrition source for pregnant and lactating women and, thus, should be considered for inclusion in future dietary recommendations for expecting and new mothers.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Health, Nutrition, Milk, Breastfeeding, Lactation, Mother, Breast milk


Pregnancy involves radical hormone surges and biological adaptations. However, the effects of pregnancy on the human brain are virtually unknown. Here we show, using a prospective (‘pre’-‘post’ pregnancy) study involving first-time mothers and fathers and nulliparous control groups, that pregnancy renders substantial changes in brain structure, primarily reductions in gray matter (GM) volume in regions subserving social cognition. The changes were selective for the mothers and highly consistent, correctly classifying all women as having undergone pregnancy or not in-between sessions. Interestingly, the volume reductions showed a substantial overlap with brain regions responding to the women’s babies postpartum. Furthermore, the GM volume changes of pregnancy predicted measures of postpartum maternal attachment, suggestive of an adaptive process serving the transition into motherhood. Another follow-up session showed that the GM reductions endured for at least 2 years post-pregnancy. Our data provide the first evidence that pregnancy confers long-lasting changes in a woman’s brain.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Psychology, Neuroanatomy, Childbirth, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Mother