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December 29, 2015

Recently the team at Maternova had an opportunity to chat with a wonderful RN right here in our home state. Conversation ranged from our local maternal health outcomes, to how far behind the USA is falling behind in improving care for expectant Moms.

One topic in the conversation that resonated deeply with us, was also one that until that moment, we hadn’t given much thought to. We’ll be interested in your thoughts on this topic, so email us anytime.

One of the most overlooked diseases that can gravely impact pregnancy is Sickle Cell Anemia. This devastating abnormality which drastically reduces both RBC and blood oxygen, isn’t a typical antenatal screening point. Surprisingly enough, popular opinion believes the SCD exists largely only in Africa. But that isn’t the entire truth. While the majority of those battling this crippling disease, the Latin population is also predisposed to its grip. Here in the USA, it’s guessed that up to 100,000 people are actively living with the disease. Some of them are women who are pregnant, or may have just given birth.

It was with utter shock horror that I listened to our advisor friend explain to us that the normal treatment protocol for sickle cell ‘flare ups’ (which are excruciating ) has been Hydroxyurea, a prescription medicine designed to increase oxygen/hemoglobin levels and reduce pain. There is only one small caveat. Hydroxyurea is not intended for use during pregnancy, as it can cause multiple problems for...

japonicum, schistosomiasis, prematurity, #worldprematurityday
November 15, 2015

In this short blog post we draw attention to schistosomiasis and its links to premature birth, in recognition of World Prematurity Day.

Researchers at Brown University in the United States are looking at schistosomiasis and its effects on pregnant women in Leyte, a community in the Philippines. As a quick reminder for those who have not been following our growing interest in this insidious fluke, schistosomiasis is a water-borne parasite that wreaks havoc on internal organs, depending upon its strain.

Schisto-h affects the reproductive organs, while schisto-j affects the liver and is perhaps the most insidious. Though the effects of schistosomiasis have been studied for years, intense examination of its health effects on mother and fetus during pregnancy have somehow been neglected in much research until recently.

Friedman and Kurtis and their team are finding a link between schisto-j, placental inflammation and adverse birth outcomes, including prematurity in the population in Leyte, Philippines. Mothers who have schistosomiasis-j have higher levels of endotoxemia (1.3 times in maternal blood, 2.4 times higher in the placenta). Endotoxins are in turn, associated with prematurity. The Brown team has found that in pregnancy, schisto-j eggs also have proinflammatory response, also associated with prematurity and other adverse pregnancy events including intrauterine growth...

October 30, 2015

The United Nations recently concluded its Sustainable Development Summit of 2015. At this summit, new [Sustainable Development Goals] ( were approved- 17 strong! If you don't know the history and the origins of these goals in the 1990 Millennium Development goals, at first glance these 17 new long term focus areas appear to be stand alone development plans. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a plan to eliminate poverty.

The Sustainable Development Goals are, however, an interlinked global policy agenda that will drive financing and priority setting at global and national levels. We like the way the Campaign Group Beyond 2015 summed them up:

The Campaign strongly welcomes the new approach that the 17 universal, indivisible and interlinked Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) take to ending poverty and “leaving no-one behind”. The new goals are inclusive and comprehensive and will require the “participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people”.

Of the 17 goals listed, there are several that resonate strongly with our work at Maternova, particularly the gender-related goals. Good health, clean water and sustainable energy are like a...

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October 12, 2015

What is this treatment that can be taught to parents? What is the cost? What expertise is needed?

Remarkably, a new study proves that with this treatment a child’s autism is over 30% improved; the treatment is a daily speciallized 15-minute massage.

Massage as effective treatment of autism

Recently published research in Oregon quantified and verified what Dr. Louisa M. T. Silva has seen in practice for years. Autism first presents itself with social delay and the first social interaction a child has is characterized by touch. Newborns bond with their mothers through everyday interactions including holding and nursing. Much study has been given to the area of maternal touch, but what happens when a child is autistic? Touch elicits different responses in children with autism than is seen in the general population. What is felt as a positive, pleasurable touch is not and what most children would feel as pain may not register that way. These differences are what Dr. Silva has been focusing on and developing methods to help the children achieve different responses to the same stimuli.

Autism is typically diagnosed in the preschool years and in that time these tactile abnormalities can be severe and universal. Dr. Silva’s study shows that these young children respond well to treatment with a daily massage protocol directed at tactile abnormalities (QST massage for autism). Qigong Sensory Treatment is a specific...

thermospot, hypothermia,
September 23, 2015

The Hospital for Sick Kids in Canada, in partnership with Aga Khan University, are using an effective human resource and a set of proven, simple interventions to save brains in Pakistan. The secret sauce? Equipping Lady Health Workers, a unique an powerful home visiting cadre in Pakistan, with a kit of newborn interventions.

The intervention takes place in Rahim Yar Khan district, 700 kilometers northeast of Karachi and will determine whether this set of innovations can reduce infant mortality in this region by 30-40 percent. The kit includes the Maternova mylar blanket, the ThermoSpot thermoindicator, a warming mattress, sunflower emollient and the very powerful but low cost chlorhexidine (for the umbilical stump).

We know from studies in South Asia that sunflower oil as an emollient can prevent infections that enter newborns through the skin. Studies have shown dramatic effects of chlorhexidine applied to the umbilical stump. We also know that hypothermia (being too cold) can affect the health and neurological development of a newborn. Maternova researched and source mylar hooded blankets for newborns and rebranded the ThermoSpot, a stick-on hypothermia indicator that lets non-literate, non-numerate mothers know when the baby is too cold. Special heating mattresses can then help the infant regain healthy core body temperature. Put these interventions all together and you have the newborn kit funded by Baby Hero.

The study will train almost...

August 19, 2015

Malaria is the most destructive parasitic illness, by many accounts, but the second most is much less well-known.

Schistosomiasis [shis-tuh-soh-mahy-uh-sis] infects over 250 million people.

It is a common in areas with stagnant water where the where the parasitic flat-worms can enter even unbroken skin and take up residence in a host. The flat worms then produce thousands of eggs per day that can overwhelm the host’s organs. The disease itself is effectively treated with praziquantel but reinfection can occur quickly. This is a disease desperate for a vaccine.

Schistosomiasis is of interest to Maternova because it is particularly harmful to pregnant women and young children as these populations have less developed or compromised immune systems. Repeated infection with schistosomiasis causes anemia and stunted growth. For girls, a specific strain we nickname SCHISTO-H is a threat to the reproductive organs. Furthermore, the scarring and wear and tear caused by SCHISTO-H can also leave girls and women more vulnerable to HIV.

How do you treat schisto? The drug, praziquantel, has been the sole recommended treatment to combat Schistosomiasis and has been around for over 30 years. A concern though, is that this common, effective (and cheap) treatment has not determined to be safe in pregnancy or dosed appropriately for very young children who seem to be much more susceptible to the disease. The...

MUAC | manutrition | pregnancy | low birth weight
August 02, 2015

Simple color coded devices for triage always come first on our list at Maternova. In humanitarian settings a quick, lightweight band to wrap around an arm and make a referral decision is a lifesaver.

MUAC tapes used to screen pregnant women

As mentioned in a prior blog post, MUAC tapes are used to assess the malnutrition status of pregnant women. The mid upper arm circumference has been shown to correlate well with Body Mass Index (BMI) and the MUAC does not change much over the course of a pregnancy. Overall the measure indicate protein reserves. Though there is not a firm consensus on the cutoff value, studies have used a range from 21 cm to 23.5 cm for pregnant women in a humanitarian setting.

MUAC tapes can predict low birth weight babies

Beyond their role in assessing the nutrition status of pregnant mothers, the MUAC tape can
also be used to assess women at risk of low birth weight babies.

A [study from this year indicates that there is no consensus on a cutoff but that a cutoff of 23 cm would be a way to identify more women at risk of delivering low birth weight babies (...