The Pregnancy Brain and COVID-19

Note: The Pregistry website includes expert reports on more than 2000 medications, 300 diseases, and 150 common exposures during pregnancy and lactation. For the topic Coronavirus (COVID-19), go here. These expert reports are free of charge and can be saved and shared. __________________________________ Of the various organs of the body that may pop into your brain when you think about pregnancy, or about the COVID-19 pandemic, the brain is probably not one of them. But morning sickness, fatigue, changes in your mood, lactation (production of milk in your breasts) after you deliver, and certain hormonal changes all relate directly to processes occurring in your The post The Pregnancy Brain and COVID-19 appeared first on The Pulse.

The Pregnancy Brain and COVID-19

Note: The Pregistry website includes expert reports on more than 2000 medications, 300 diseases, and 150 common exposures during pregnancy and lactation. For the topic Coronavirus (COVID-19), go here. These expert reports are free of charge and can be saved and shared.

__________________________________

Of the various organs of the body that may pop into your brain when you think about pregnancy, or about the COVID-19 pandemic, the brain is probably not one of them. But morning sickness, fatigue, changes in your mood, lactation (production of milk in your breasts) after you deliver, and certain hormonal changes all relate directly to processes occurring in your brain. Additionally, while the life-threatening complications of COVID-19 manifest most notoriously in the respiratory system, a number of patients have suffered neurological effects, including in the brain, caused by infection with SARS-CoV2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

Within the brain, beneath a brain structure called the thalamus, there is a command center for the body’s neuroendocrine system. This command center consists of a brain region called the hypothalamus and a pea-sized gland called the pituitary, which are connected by a complex of nerve fibers (long extensions of nerve cells that transmit electrical signals) and special blood vessels. Concentrations of cells called nuclei within the hypothalamus send nervous signals directly to the pituitary and also control the release of various hypothalamic hormones that travel through the special blood vessels to the pituitary. There, the hormones arriving from the hypothalamus are either stored or control the release of still other hormones that are made in the pituitary itself. Changes in this system over the course of pregnancy include an increase in the release of various pituitary hormones that circulate in the blood, including adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), whose job is to stimulate the adrenal glands (located above the kidneys) to release the stress hormone cortisol (whose concentration thus rises), and prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production in the breasts.

Another hormone releasing structure in the brain is the pineal gland, which receives information from the eyes. Release of the hormone melatonin from the pineal makes you sleepy and melatonin levels in the blood normally rise and fall based on the 24 hour light dark cycle, but this cycle is often disrupted during pregnancy and following delivery, when you are getting up throughout the night to breastfeed.

Studies with a brain imaging procedure called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have revealed that certain areas of gray matter (concentrations of the cell bodies of nerve cells, as opposed to the long extensions of the cells that form structures called tracts that transmit signals between distant sites within the brain and spinal cord) shrink during pregnancy. Rather than being a bad thing, scientists believe that this shrinking is the result of a pruning process through which the brain streamlines its structure to produce more efficient function similar to the process that occurs when you learn something new.

Since early spring, doctors have reported an increasing number of symptoms and signs resulting from SARS-CoV2 affecting the central nervous system (which consists of the brain and spinal cord). Many such complications have been very severe, appearing as strokes in young people with without severe respiratory complications of COVID-19, or as encephalitis (brain inflammation), even with death of the affected brain tissues. Additionally, affecting nerves rather than the central nervous system, there have been reports related to COVID-19 of what neurologists call Guillain–Barré syndrome in which a person suffers paralysis, or severe muscle weakness, due to the immune system attacking the affected nerves.

Researchers believe that such effects result from any of four possible mechanisms or a combination of any of these four.  One such mechanism is that the SARS-CoV2 virus infects the central nervous system, where it directly damages nervous tissue. This is the same mechanism that sometimes leads to inflammation of the brain as a complication of infection with certain other viruses, notably herpes simplex viruses (HSV).

Another mechanism that may be at play is what immunologists call the cytokine storm. Cytokines are various immune system proteins that play important roles in the defending the body, but a cytokine storm is an excessive release of such proteins. Also called cytokine release syndrome, this out of whack immune response is thought to be such an important factor underlying the life-threatening respiratory effects of COVID-19 that patients showing signs of it are treated with special medications that block key cytokines from doing their job.

The condition called Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) that we mentioned above is an example of something caused by a third possible mechanism of damage due to the virus. In contrast with a direct assault by the virus on the nervous system, but also in contrast with a cytokine storm consisting of various proteins with no particular target, the process causing GBS and similar conditions is thought to involve the immune system identifying something on the nerves as foreign and consequently making antibodies customized to latch onto that something.

Finally, the brain and other parts of the nervous system can be damaged by disease processes happening throughout the body. If inadequate amounts of oxygen are reaching the blood from the lungs, for example, or if blood is not circulating adequately to the brain due to blood clots, or if body fluids, electrolytes, or acid-base balance are disrupted, there can be neurological effects.

The post The Pregnancy Brain and COVID-19 appeared first on The Pulse.

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Maintaining Good Nutrition for Your Child During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Note: The Pregistry website includes expert reports on more than 2000 medications, 300 diseases, and 150 common exposures during pregnancy and lactation. For the topic Coronavirus (COVID-19), go here. These expert reports are free of charge and can be saved and shared. __________________________________ As we begin to come out of hibernation, many of us are—for now at least—beginning to breathe a little easier about life during the pandemic. We have a sense of what we should and should not be doing to ease coronavirus transmission, and several things that were seemingly a concern, such as food safety, have been addressed to the point that The post Maintaining Good Nutrition for Your Child During the COVID-19 Pandemic appeared first on The Pulse.

Maintaining Good Nutrition for Your Child During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Note: The Pregistry website includes expert reports on more than 2000 medications, 300 diseases, and 150 common exposures during pregnancy and lactation. For the topic Coronavirus (COVID-19), go here. These expert reports are free of charge and can be saved and shared.

__________________________________

As we begin to come out of hibernation, many of us are—for now at least—beginning to breathe a little easier about life during the pandemic. We have a sense of what we should and should not be doing to ease coronavirus transmission, and several things that were seemingly a concern, such as food safety, have been addressed to the point that we’re comfortable leaving home again.

Life, however, is far from normal. And when you’re pregnant and/or have an infant or young child, the challenges of living differently seem to be multiplied. There are new ways of doing everything: doctor appointments, labor and delivery procedures, and enlisting caregivers (or even a friend to give you a break!) are just a few things that we’ve had to think more carefully about. Many of these issues have been addressed in the blogs you’ve read on these pages. This time we’ll ponder something that’s front and center in every parent’s mind: keeping your little one’s nutritional status solid.

The Problems

Naturally, providing food for all of use has been considered an essential service in these times. That doesn’t mean it’s a slam-dunk, however, to get whatever we want. First off, shortages still do happen, and not just in the paper products aisle. My local chain market has been fairly well stocked, but at one time or another, they’ve been low on meat, eggs, pasta, and (recently) flour.

Even as all those staples return, other challenges abound. Families newly out of work may have budgetary concerns when they shop. Some may be concerned about taking an infant or small child to a market, particularly since masks are not recommended in those age groups (under 2 years of age). School and day-care lunches aren’t as automatic as they were in the past, and some farmer’s markets are closed. Finally, with everyone working and schooling at home, meal planning and preparation may be more difficult.

…and, the Good Things

As we’ve seen, COVID-19 has presented many challenges as far as kid nutrition goes. But there are several advantages as well. Whether you’re working or not, breastfeeding may be easier to accomplish at home. If you have an older infant, it may be easier to make your own food for her; that way, you know exactly what’s in it and may even save a little money while you’re at it.

If your child is older still, think of the possibilities. It’s a great time to put into practice regular mealtimes, where family members sit down together. Kids who are old enough can help with the cooking and might even be interested in a small garden to grow a couple of edibles! You can turn your time at home into a “teachable moment” where food and nutrition are concerned.

What You Can Do

However you are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a lot that you can do where good infant and child nutrition is concerned:

  • Plan for an extra meal when you shop, in case one or more ingredients for your meals aren’t available. Also, realize that one section—in my experience, anyway—that doesn’t seem to have any holes: the produce section! Take this opportunity to learn and appreciate the variety of good-for-you stuff that’s there.
  • Cook and freeze. That could mean less trips to the store, and you’ll save money to boot.
  • If the crisis is causing financial challenges and you are pregnant or have an infant or young child, see if you qualify for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which provides free or low-cost food.
  • Check the resources at your young one’s daycare or school. If they’re not running, they may still be providing nutritious meals. If they are in session, make sure they have policies in place to control the spread of infection.
  • Although it’s unlikely that COVID-19 is transmitted through food, now’s a great time to reinforce good handwashing as well as proper washing of anything used to prepare meals. Don’t forget surfaces like countertops and tables! It’s also a good time to warn against sharing food and utensils directly: what’s on the plate when served belongs to that eater.

At this writing, we can only guess what direction the COVID-19 crisis will take. We do know, however, that good nutrition is a building block for good health. Most of us are still holed up a little more than we used to be. Make the most of that time by instilling good habits in our hibernating youngest. If they learn to eat well now, those lessons will pay off when we’re again out and about!

The post Maintaining Good Nutrition for Your Child During the COVID-19 Pandemic appeared first on The Pulse.

Source : Pregistry More   

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