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Travel alert

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] earlier this month issued a travel alert for people traveling to certain parts of Central and South America and the Caribbean where the Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

Zika is a virus spread to people through mosquito bites and is associated with reports of microcephaly – a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected – and other problems in babies whose mothers were infected with the virus during pregnancy.

On Jan. 15, CDC officials cautioned that until more is known, it was recommending special precautions for pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant:

• Pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus is occurring. Pregnant women who must travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or other healthcare provider first and follow steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.

• Women trying to become pregnant should consult with a healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.

At presstime, the CDC was reporting ongoing Zika virus transmission in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Officials said the CDC would update its travel website often, because Zika virus transmission likely would change over time. For up to dateinformation about the virus, visit www.cdc.gov.

Coffee could be the key to sticking to a fitness regimen.

Coffee could be the key to sticking to a fitness regimen.

Mind-altering coffee

The effort required to exercise makes it tough to stick to a fitness regimen, but coffee could help, according to research published in Sports Medicine.

Professor Samuele Marcora, director of research at the University of Kent School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said his research suggests that using caffeine to reduce “perception of effort” during exercise could eliminate one of the main reasons many people give up their New Year’s resolutions to exercise within six months.

The same effect produced by caffeine can be achieved also with other psychoactive drugs, he said. Those drugs are used for smoking cessation and to treat obesity, but the negative perception of doping in sport might prevent people from using stimulants to treat physical inactivity, although it leads to twice as many deaths as obesity.

Conceiving after miscarriage

Attempting to become pregnant within three months after a miscarriage occurring at less than 20 weeks gestation might improve a woman’s pregnancy chances, according to results of a National Institutes of Health study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology. The findings question traditional thinking that women wait at least three months after losing a baby before attempting to again become pregnant.

“Couples often seek counseling on how long they should wait until attempting to conceive again,” said senior study author Enrique Schisterman. “Our data suggest that women who try for a new pregnancy within three months can conceive as quickly, if not quicker, than women who wait for three months or more.”

The study involved more than 1,000 women aged 18-40, more than 99 percent of whom had miscarried at less than 20 weeks. More than three-fourths of the women tried to conceive again within three months, and compared to women who waited longer, they were more likely to become pregnant [69 percent versus 51 percent] and to have a pregnancy resulting in a live birth [53 percent versus 36 percent].

No increase in the risk of pregnancy complications was found among the women who tried to conceive within three months of losing a pregnancy.

Older moms

Women in the U.S. are having their babies at increasingly older ages, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].

The mean age of first-time mothers increased from 24.9 in 2000 to 26.3 in 2014, with the greatest increase in age taking place from 2009 [25.2] to 2014.

The biggest reason for the increase in the average age of first births was a decline in the number of first births to teenage mothers, which dropped 42 percent from 2000-2014 – from about one in four births to one in seven. During that same period, the proportion of first births to mothers aged 30-34 increased 28 percent.

Pre-pregnancy potatoes

Eating potatoes prior to becoming pregnant may affect a woman’s chances of developing gestational diabetes.

A study by National Institutes of Health [NIH] and Harvard University researchers looked at 10 years of data on more than 15,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II, which included information on potato consumption.

Results revealed that women who ate more potatoes had a higher risk of gestational diabetes than those who ate fewer potatoes. Types of potatoes included baked, boiled, mashed, fries and chips.

Researchers estimated women could reduce their risk of gestational diabetes by 9-12 percent simply by substituting two servings of potatoes per week with other vegetables, legumes and whole grain foods, but more research is needed.

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