Moms with higher prenatal levels of plastics chemicals known as phthalates may face a slightly increased risk of postpartum depression, according to a new study. Postpartum depression affects up to 20% of new mothers, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. That makes it the most common post-delivery pregnancy complication. The NIH’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program set out to examine how chemicals commonly found in plastics and personal care products, including phenols, phthalates and parabens, might play a role in postpartum depression. Exposure to these chemicals can affect hormone levels, and exposure is common through diet, absorbing them through the skin and inhalation. Researchers found that all study participants had parabens in their system and nearly all had phthalates in their urine samples. “Finding new ways to prevent postpartum depression is crucial because most of the known risk factors, like genetics and stressful life events, can’t be altered,” researcher Melanie Jacobson, of New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, said in an NIH news release. “Therefore, focusing on prenatal exposure to these types of chemicals represents a novel interventional target.” To study this, researchers measured the concentrations of these chemicals in urine samples of more than 2,100 pregnant women at five ECHO study sites. The participants also completed depression assessments between two weeks and 12 months after delivery. The researchers…  read on >  read on >

Sweltering temperatures appear to fuel drug-related hospital visits, a problem that could be worsening with climate change, a new study suggests. “We saw that during periods of higher temperatures, there was a corresponding increase in hospital visits related to alcohol and substance use, which also brings attention to some less obvious potential consequences of climate change,” said first study author Robbie Parks. He is an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in New York City. The study noted an increasing trend of heavy episodic drinking and alcohol-related deaths and disease in the United States, especially in middle-aged and older adults, in recent decades. Meanwhile, drug overdose deaths have grown by more than five times in the past two decades. For this study, the investigators looked at the relationship between temperature and hospital visits related to alcohol and other drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, opioids and sedatives. They used data from more than 670,000 alcohol- and more than 720,000 substance-related disorder hospital visits over 20 years in New York. They also included a comprehensive record of daily temperatures and relative humidity, and used a statistical model which compared days with high temperatures with nearby days with lower temperatures. The higher the temperatures, the more hospital visits for alcohol-related disorders happened. This may potentially be driven by more time outdoors…  read on >  read on >

Most parents want to help their kids do well in school, and for dads the answer may be found in something simple and fun. A new study from the United Kingdom finds that kids do better in elementary school when their fathers regularly spend time interacting with them through reading, playing, telling stories, drawing or singing. Researchers at Leeds University Business School found that when dads regularly interacted with their 3-year-old children in these ways, the kids did better in school at age 5. When they were involved with their kids at age 5, those children had improved scores in key assessments at age 7. While dads had an impact on educational achievement, moms had more impact on kids’ emotional and social behaviors, the study found. Even just 10 minutes of time each day makes a difference, according to the study, which looked at thousands of two-parent households. Dr. Michael Yogman, a pediatrician at Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts, chalked up the benefits to the double-dose of parenting in having two parents interacting with the children, the trusted relationship and something specific to dads themselves. Yogman, who was not involved in this research, was lead author of an American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report called the Power of Play. “I think fathers also provide complementary and non-redundant play experience with children, so that their interactions…  read on >  read on >

“Talk therapy” may help people with fibromyalgia manage their chronic pain — and alter the brain’s pain-processing circuitry along the way, a new study shows. Researchers found that after eight sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), patients with fibromyalgia felt less burdened by their pain and other symptoms in daily life. And that was related, in part, to changes in areas of the brain related to self-awareness and pain processing. Experts stressed that the findings do not mean that people’s fibromyalgia symptoms are “all in their head.” But they are, at their root, in the brain. “All pain is in the brain, and CBT can help your brain feel less pain,” said Robert Edwards, a senior researcher on the study and a clinical psychologist at Mass General Brigham in Boston. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body, as well as other problems like fatigue, trouble sleeping and “brain fog.” “It’s not just pain. It’s a panoply of symptoms,” said Dr. Lenore Brancato, a rheumatologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City. Because of that, she said, people with fibromyalgia typically need multiple therapies, including medications to relieve pain and improve sleep, physical therapy, and “mind-body” practices like tai chi and mindfulness meditation. CBT, Brancato said, is another important tool. “People can become so consumed by their pain that…  read on >  read on >

Weight-loss surgery can deliver a host of health benefits, but new research reveals an unexpected one: Getting the surgery was associated with a 40% lower risk of blood cancers. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for several types of cancer, and women with obesity have a higher risk of cancer than men do. In the study, researchers used data from the Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) study at the University of Gothenburg and the Cancer Registry at the National Board of Health and Welfare to study more than 2,000 people who had bariatric (weight-loss) surgery and then compare them to more than 2,000 other people who were also obese but didn’t have the surgery. During the follow-up period, 34 of the patients in the surgery group developed blood cancer and also had significant weight loss. In the control group, 51 people developed blood cancer but remained obese. Most of the blood cancers seen in the study were lymphomas. When these were studied separately, there was a 55% reduction in the risk of lymphoma in the group that had undergone bariatric surgery. Women with high blood sugar (“glucose”) at the start of the study seemed to benefit the most from bariatric surgery, the investigators found. The findings were published online recently in The Lancet Healthy Longevity. “The benefit of the surgery is linked to baseline…  read on >  read on >

Having safer neighborhoods, where families feel less stress, can help prevent child abuse, according to new research that supports this long-suspected theory. When parents feel higher levels of stress or hopelessness about their surroundings, they may have a harder time caring for their children, the study confirms. “To get the best outcomes for kids and to elicit the best parenting, families need a safe, stable, stimulating environment, both at home and in the surrounding community,” said study co-author Katherine Marcal, an assistant professor of social work at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. “But if you live in a neighborhood where you can’t go outside, can’t go to a park or can’t walk down the sidewalk because there are drug dealers or trash, then families are cooped up in stressful conditions,” she said in a university news release. “This stress can make maltreatment more likely to occur.” For the study, the researchers used data from a study that included information about children born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000. The investigators compared neighborhood conditions when children were age 3 and maltreatment at age 5. Mothers reported on how often they encountered drug activity, gang violence and other dangers in their community. Outsiders recorded physical qualities, including vacant buildings, abandoned cars, trash and signs of physical deterioration. Perceptions of neighborhood disorder from both groups…  read on >  read on >