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Wednesday 26 February 2020

Baby Brain (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #14)

Around eight weeks of pregnancy, I started forgetting the names of things.

Some know it as tip-of-tongue syndrome, and it’s definitely not new to pregnancy for me – it’s just worse.

Scissors via Wikipedia Commons.
No wonder I struggled with vocabulary in languages: looking for a pair of scissors, I will do the “scissor gesture” with my fingers and ask “Where are the …?” … “You know, the …?” It sounds odd coming from a writer, but it’s honestly true. I forget words easily. Nouns. These are obviously the least well-coded information at my disposal: after all, I can gesture or describe what I mean – even draw, if I need to, so this was the most easily lost content. Or that’s what I think was happening.

Other women have reported losing track of conversations, being absent-minded, and struggling with tasks such as reading comprehension.

The literature disagrees when it comes to the phenomenon known as “baby brain”. Is it real, or just a figment of women’s imaginations?

Wednesday 12 February 2020


What are POPs?

There’s increasing concern about the growing mass of our discarded plastics – yet not because of their direct effects on wildlife (e.g. entanglement), but because plastics could be a crucial vector for the transport of key environmental contaminants: persistent organic pollutants, or POPs.

There are many thousands of POP chemicals, originating from agriculture, combustion processes, industrial syntheses, and products such as flame retardants, plasticisers and antimicrobials. In fact, our understanding and classification of them is ever evolving. They’re named not because of their chemical groups, but because of their behaviour. As the name “persistent organic pollutants” suggests, they’re long-lived and harmful.

Plastic debris on a beach. By (Flickr).

What chemicals are we talking about?

Mosquito – By Alvesgaspar via Wikipedia Commons.
Typical culprits include DDT, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), halogenated flame retardants, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Although DDT is now banned in most countries, it’s still permitted in some places with a high incidence of malaria to fight off mosquitoes[1].

POPs are polluting and persistent because of certain properties, such as their solubility, reactivity and volatility.

Thursday 6 February 2020

Vitamins and Supplements (Things We Don’t Know about Pregnancy Series #13)

Is it a safe and good idea to take vitamins whilst pregnant? One thing’s for certain – it’s the norm.

Bacteria. Public Domain.
Whilst scientists have shown that taking certain specific vitamin supplements can protect you against diseases to which you are at risk, taking high, regular doses of multivitamins is actually proven to increase your risk of heart disease or cancer[1]. We don’t know why – it could be because of the fibre, or the various digestive pathways food goes through in your body – but swallowing a broccoli vitamins tablet just doesn’t do the same as eating a broccoli. It may also mean you are missing out on foods rich in other stuff your body needs, perhaps things we haven’t even discovered yet. Then there’s your microbiome: we still understand relatively little about this, but we know you can alter the microbial constitution of your gut through diet and use of supplements.

Overall, a varied diet is recommended as the most healthy one – supplementing where necessary.