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Preschools aren't doing enough to support bilingual kids, study finds

When Karla Medina Gomez's two oldest children, Gianna and Nicholas, began pre-K they only knew Spanish. At that time, Medina Gomez only spoke to her children in Spanish while at home in Newark, New Jersey, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the Garden State.


So when Medina Gomez enrolled them in preschool, she worried they may face challenges learning in an English-only environment. But that wasn't the case at Ironbound Early Learning Center—the siblings, now 13 and 12 years old, respectively, received an inclusive and accessible education. Within the first four months, they were able to speak both Spanish and English fluently. According to a study out of the University of Oregon, adding a second language like that helps kids have more control over behavior and attention span.

"All paperwork, all communications, even [items] in the classroom, everything is labeled in three languages," Medina Gomez tells Motherly. "Here, specifically in Newark, the support system is great in the preschool setting."

Medina Gomez's children are among the nearly 1 in 3 kids in the United States raised in families that speak a language other than English at home. In education speak, those kids are considered dual language learners. But the mom of four's situation is more of the exception than the rule. Despite the documented benefits of bilingualism for children, many kids aren't getting the support they need to succeed in multiple language settings.

Research shows that, while most state-funded preschool programs do have some dual language learning policies in place, the majority of those programs are still ill-equipped to meet the needs of bilingual children.

That's because more than half of all 60 public preschool programs across the country fail to report the home language of children, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)'s annual "State of Preschool" report, released this week. And without that information, states can't allocate the proper resources needed to develop and implement effective dual language curriculum and practices, the report's writers say.

"We are continually striving to close achievement gaps, including those between children who speak a language other than English at home and children who speak only English," says Ellen Frede, the institute's senior co-director. "We know the earlier we start with high-quality education programs, the better."

The nationwide survey, which gives a comprehensive look into the current state of the U.S. preschool system, found that only 26 public programs in 24 states—including California, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and Texas, which all have high percentage of dual language learners in their populations—collect data on children's home language. On average, dual language students in those states accounted for 29% of preschoolers enrolled in public programs; nationwide, about 23% of all preschool-aged children are dual language learners, the report found.

What's more: Three of the states that don't report on home language—Arizona, Florida and New York—also have some of the highest number of preschool-aged children living in non-English speaking households, according to the NIEER report. By not soliciting that data, those states have no quantifiable clue as to how many young bilingual students they're serving in their state-funded preschool programs. And that puts those kids at a disadvantage when it comes to development and academic achievement, experts say.

"We know that dual language learners are a group that makes the largest gains from attending high-quality preschool," says NIEER Senior Co-director Steven Barnett. "At the same time, they're at elevated risk of school failure."

Academic outcomes are, in part, driven by language proficiency. Research shows that, on average, dual language learners, start school with lower English literacy skills than their native English speaking counterparts. It takes dual language students four to seven years to become proficient enough in English that they see classroom success, according to the Center for Public Education.

To that end, a 2012 Early Childhood Research Quarterly study found that dual language students who were able to speak English well enough by the end of first grade fared better academically than those who weren't. "For all children, the preschool years are a critical time for language development," Barnett says.

That's why, experts say, it's critical for states to invest in dual language initiatives, starting with collecting data on how many non-native speaking preschoolers are in their state-funded programs. Not only that, but more states, even the ones that do report n home language, need to enact policies supporting dual language learners in and outside of the classroom.

More than 30 states have some type of policy in place related to serving dual language, according to the NIEER report. But only one—Maine—has implemented all nine recommended policy requirements, including providing materials in the language spoken by their parents. And, despite research showing that qualified teachers are vital to providing high-quality education, only six—California, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Texas—mandate that staff have training or qualifications necessary to work with dual language learners and their families, the report found.

And that's a shame, Medina Gomez says. She knows that if it weren't for the dedicated, trained staff at Ironbound, Giana and Nicholas wouldn't be as academically successful as they are today. "How are you going to [ask] a child to jump two steps, make a circle [or] build a block, if you tell them in English and they don't understand you?" she tells Motherly. "How would they know? How could you possibly measure where the child's at?"

Luckily there are things parents can do to help their kids succeed no matter what the situation may be at school. Medina Gomez suggests that parents read, sing, and talk to their children as often as possible, no matter what the language.

She does recognize, though, that some parents may be hesitant because they don't speak a second language well, or at all. But Medina Gomez says that, in the end, that doesn't matter. "Expose them to language," she tells Motherly. "That's what's important right now."

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Between the sleepless nights, endless worries, and persistent temper tantrums, parenting can feel like a fast track to gray hairs and wrinkles.

Now, researchers at Northwestern University have proven what we've suspected all along: having children does, in fact, speed up the aging process. A new study, which was published last month in Scientific Reports, found that each pregnancy can age a mother's cells by up to two years.

Each baby ages a mother’s cells

Researchers studied 821 women in the Philippines between the ages of 20 and 22, with various reproductive histories. They examined two separate markers of cellular aging—telomere length and epigenetic age—to measure the toll pregnancy takes on the body.

"Telomere length and epigenetic age are cellular markers that independently predict mortality, and both appeared 'older' in women who had more pregnancies in their reproductive histories," Calen Ryan, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in biological anthropology at Northwestern, said in a statement. "Even after accounting for other factors that affect cellular aging, the number of pregnancies still came out on top."

The researchers were surprised to find that cellular aging increased between about six months and two years for each additional pregnancy—a figure much higher than what they originally anticipated. Meanwhile, women who were currently pregnant had cells that looked significantly younger than predicted for their biological age."

It's an interesting situation in which pregnancy makes someone look temporarily 'young,' but there appears to be some lasting, cumulative relationship between the number of pregnancies and more accelerated biological age," noted Christopher Kuzawa, PhD, senior author of the study and a professor of anthropology at Northwestern University.

Our telomeres shorten and our epigenetic age increases

Telomeres, which are stretches of DNA at the end of chromosomes, protect our DNA and make it possible for our cells to divide. Longer telomeres are associated with longer lives and better health. As people age and as cells divide and replicate, those telomeres shorten.

Given that there is hyper cell production during pregnancy, it makes sense that those telomeres would shorten and, therefore, appear to age dramatically.

"During pregnancy, more cells need to be produced for carrying and nurturing the fetus, such as in red blood cells, placental cells, and more," said Dr. Kim Langdon, an Ohio-based retired OB-GYN who writes at Parenting Pod. "In addition, the cells in all organs such as the heart and uterus enlarge. This is known as hypertrophy—and when cells hypotrophy, their telomeres shorten."

Meanwhile, the epigenetic age begins to climb. This is an estimate of a person's biological age based on changes in the DNA that are caused by environmental factors, such as toxins and stress.

In other words, pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on the body. "I'm not really surprised," Langdon told Healthline about the findings. "Every OB-GYN knows the extreme stress to the system that pregnancy causes."

Throughout pregnancy, the blood volume increases by 50% as does the cardiac output, which puts strain on the heart. The kidney function increases and the lungs have reduced capacity, which causes breathlessness.

Why, then, did the pregnant women seem so much better off?

It may all come down to the immunological, hormonal, and physiological changes that take place during pregnancy to support development of the baby.

For example, pregnant women experience elevated estrogen levels, which can lower oxidative stress and prevent damage to telomere length and epigenetic age. Once the baby is born, though, those shifts are no longer necessary.

The findings may not be permanent

The study supports previous evidence that women who have had more pregnancies are more susceptible to certain illnesses and have slightly shorter life spans. Earlier this year, researchers from George Mason University found that childbirth could age a woman by as many as 11 years.

While it may be nerve-racking to learn that having children can accelerate the aging process, scientists still don't fully understand why this happens and don't want women to worry.

According to Langdon, we are far away from understanding if these findings could impact family planning or the longevity or long-term health of the mother.

"We don't know if these findings are permanent," Langdon said. "More longitudinal studies need to be done over many years, even decades, to see if this is reversible or if it really can predict when you will die."

The researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Washington have already started they working on a follow-up study that will examine the same group of women 13 years after their cellular measurements were first taken. Eventually, we'll be able to see if the women's cells continue to appear older throughout their life.

Until then, though, you can keep blaming your kids for those fine lines and dark circles.

Originally posted on Healthline.

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First responders do a lot of heroic things on the job. We're used to seeing police officers on TV pulling victims to safety or chasing down the bad guys, but sometimes, heroism looks a lot different. Sometimes, it looks like breastfeeding.

A Facebook photo of a police officer breastfeeding a hungry baby in an Argentinian hospital has now gone viral for very good reason. It's a simple act, but to that hungry baby, Officer Celeste Ayala is certainly a hero.

The photo was posted to Facebook by Marcos Heredia, who says he witnessed the police officer comfort and breastfeed a hungry baby while on duty at the Sister Maria Ludovica Children's Hospital in Buenos Aires.

According to Heredia, who tagged the officer in the Facebook post, Officer Ayala was attending the busy hospital on August 14 when she noticed the baby, a patient, needing care and comfort, and took it upon herself to give it.

"I want to make public this great gesture of love that you had today with that little baby, who without knowing you didn't hesitate, and for a moment you fulfilled [as if] you were their mother," reads a loose translation of Heredia's post.

Multiple Spanish-language websites report the 6-month-old baby Ayala breastfed is the youngest of six siblings who were in the process of being placed into foster care because their mother did not have the resources to feed them. The children were at the hospital for the medical exams they needed before being moved into foster care when Ayala came into contact with the baby, who was desperately hungry while waiting, according to reports.

Metro reports Ayala spoke to local media in Buenos Aires, explaining that she noticed hospital staff were overwhelmed so she, a mother of two, asked if she could comfort and feed the baby. "I noticed that he was hungry, as he was putting his hand into his mouth, so I asked to hug him and breastfeed him. It was a sad moment, it broke my soul seeing him like this, society should be sensitive to the issues affecting children, it cannot keep happening," Ayala reportedly said.

Not only is Ayala a mother and a police officer, but she is also apparently a volunteer firefighter as well. Her fellow firefighters joined in the chorus of people supporting Ayala's simple heroism on social media.

'We want to congratulate the voluntary firefighting cadet Celeste Ayala who yesterday in her job as police officer whilst she was on guard duty at the hospital, breastfed a young child who arrived crying."

Sometimes, first responders pull people from a burning building or save people from a hostage taking. And sometimes they feed babies.


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Experiencing a miscarriage can be devastating, not just for the loss of a pregnancy, but also, in part, because the cause of a miscarriage can be so inexplicable.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 10 to 20% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriages. The number is even higher in chemical pregnancies, where the miscarriage happens after a positive pregnancy test but before they're confirmed on ultrasound. Chemical pregnancies are estimated to account for about 50 to 75% of miscarriages.

While many assume the miscarriage happened because of something going wrong in the pregnancy, most of the time, it's because there was something wrong with the embryo itself.

Now experts want women to know there's testing that can help them get answers. This is good news because steps can then be taken to avoid the potential heartbreak later on.

What causes most miscarriages?

Chromosomal abnormalities are the main cause of miscarriages. In fact, "about 70% of miscarriages are due to fetal chromosome aneuploidies, which means the gain or loss of a chromosome," Mandy Katz-Jaffe, PhD, reproductive geneticist and scientific director at CCRM, reports to Healthline.

The majority of these abnormalities relate to the age of the woman. A woman is born with all the eggs she'll have in her lifetime, and, as she gets older, her eggs do too. With the aging of the eggs, the incidence of abnormal chromosomes goes up, making the embryos nonviable. It's how nature protects us from having an unhealthy baby.

Dr. S. Zev Williams, chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, said doctors will focus very heavily on genetic factors when trying to understand the cause of a miscarriage. "When you're thinking about a miscarriage, it's happened and we're trying to understand the cause. It's basically genetic or everything else," Williams told Healthline.

Testing for chromosomal abnormalities tells doctors what's going on with the chromosomes inside cells, both within the parents as well as in the embryos or miscarried tissue itself.

Having a miscarriage because of an abnormality doesn't mean later pregnancies will end the same way.

One exception to this is what's called a "balanced translocation," in which pieces of the chromosome have swapped spots. "[The] majority of chromosomal abnormalities are related to age of the eggs, but there's the occasional situation that we see on a regular basis where mom or dad are experiencing balanced translocation that induces preprogrammed miscarriages in 60 to 70% of the cases," Dr. Juergen Eisermann, founder and medical director of IVFMD, reports to Healthline.

How can testing help people concerned about miscarriages?

In very complex cases, doctors use whole exome sequencing on the parents. Embryos can be tested this way as well.

As a result, mutations that cause miscarriage may be discovered that haven't been seen before. "We had one couple who had a very sick child who was born, and then they had two other losses all with very unusual anomalies," Williams told Healthline. "All the testing came back normal. We did a whole exome sequencing and discovered a very novel mutation that she and her partner carry, the thirteenth case in the world of it, and now we could screen their embryos to make sure they don't have another affected child."

Besides genetic testing on the parents, it's important to test embryos or products of conception for chromosomal abnormalities as well. "If the miscarriage sample is normal, then it's unlikely that the parents have some abnormality that's causing them to have a chromosomally normal miscarriage," Williams explained.

For women who have miscarriages as a result of abnormal embryos, in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be an option. Although it's an expensive and lengthy process, it does help try to eliminate unhealthy embryos for the best chances of a pregnancy.

The woman or the couple will go through the IVF process to produce embryos, and those embryos are screened to ensure they don't have any abnormalities, such as missing or extra chromosomes. The abnormal embryos are discarded and only the healthy unaffected ones will remain to be put back into the uterus.

"The knowledge about whether a woman carries a genetic mutation that would predispose her to recurrent miscarriages would be powerful," Katz-Jaffe says to Healthline, "and [would] allow her to make informed decisions regarding her reproductive options."

Updates to testing

While this type of testing has been expensive and takes weeks for results to come back. Williams and his team at Columbia University have been working on new technology to get test results faster.

They have helped create a handheld DNA sequencer to make genetic screening of these cells or tissue more accessible, and at a fraction of the cost, something that can be a relief to anxious parents. Instead of waiting weeks for test results to come back, they could have answers that same day.

"It allows us to do very, very rapid DNA sequencing and can be used to pick up chromosomal abnormalities and genetic mutations, and what we sequence depends on the clinical need," Williams reports, "[DNA] can come from embryos where a couple of the cells are plucked off from the embryo, and that's what's used on the sequencer, but the other area where we use it would be miscarriage samples and CCS (comprehensive chromosome screening) samples."

Originally posted on Healthline.

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For many pregnant women, getting induced is a last resort measure. Something doctors suggest when your due date has come and gone but you're still as pregnant as ever. For other mothers, though, an induction is a welcome way to bring baby into the world when mama is ready.

For years, women who've sought inductions without being overdue or having another medical need for one have been told that the doing so would increase their chances of having a C-section, but the authors of a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine say that's not the case.

The results of a clinical trial titled "A Randomized Trial of Induction Versus Expectant Management (ARRIVE)", the study suggests choosing to induce labor does not increase the likelihood of a C-section for healthy moms with low-risk pregnancies, but lowers the frequency of cesarean delivery by about 3% in healthy, low-risk moms at 39 weeks, something that surprised researchers.

More than 6,000 pregnant people were involved in the study, which divided them into two groups. The first had labor induced at 39 weeks and the other waited for labor to begin without interventions, and were only induced if there was a medical reason to do so, like going overdue.

The study is good news for mothers who want to have the option of inducing labor on a day that works for them, but some experts worry the results could be used to persuade pregnant women to opt for medical interventions that wouldn't be their first choice.

A midwife's take

"Welcoming a child into the world touches every aspect of your life. In an effort to increase choice for women and offer truly holistic care, that takes into account the multifaceted reality of parenthood, the recent findings from the ARRIVE trial are welcome—increased knowledge equals increased options—at least it should," says Diana Spalding, a midwife, pediatric nurse and Motherly's Digital Education Edit.or

Spalding says women may consider an elective induction of labor at 39 weeks for a variety of social, emotional, and physical reasons, any of which should be respected as relevant and important.

"It is her provider's responsibility to provide her with information and guidance in accordance with research, and support her as she comes to the best decision for her. This study provides additional information with which to support women," she continues. "However, the ARRIVE study also generates concern, primarily that its findings can potentially be used as a generalized 'pass' on all elective inductions without continuing to consider additional options, evidence, and risk."

For example for women seeking to lower the chances of having a cesarean section, the American College of Nurse-Midwives points out that there are a number of ways to do this beyond the scope of the ARRIVE trial—"a recent Cochrane Database Systematic Review reported that if 14 women have continuous labor support, one cesarean birth can be prevented… The ARRIVE trial reported that 28 women will have to undergo an elective induction to prevent a single cesarean birth."

An option for some, but not all, mothers

For some women, the trade-offs associated with an elective induction are worth it. One of the moms who was induced during the study, Kelli Rojek, opted in because it worked for her family. "It was actually rather convenient for us," she told NPR. "We have a dog at home and we were able to call our families and say, 'Hey, we're going to go in at 11 p.m. on this day, and can you guys come up to take care of the dog and then come up to the hospital afterward?' "

Although Rojek was worried about the risk of having a longer labor after an induction, hers was fairly quick and her son came into the world by 6:30 the next morning.

Critics worry the study's results may not be representative of the general population, as noted by Dr. Michael Greene, an OB-GYN at Massachusetts General Hospital, in an editorial accompanying the study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Despite these concerns, Greene says the study "should reassure women that elective induction of labour at 39 weeks is a reasonable choice."

Spalding cautions that "we cannot start to recommend that all women have routine inductions at 39 weeks based on this study. There is still a lot we need to learn."

In the end, choice is what this is all about, and more information helps mothers make the best choices for themselves, and their babies.

"We must continue to look at the big picture," says Spalding. "This study adds to it, but does not define it. Ultimately, the healthcare will be made better when women are encouraged to trust their bodies and their intuition, and supported in the decisions they arrive at."

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