Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Pregnancy, virility and the Italian economy...

There's an interesting article in the Independent about pregnancy and the dangers that older women face by artificially prolonging fertility.
Professor De Swiet, who specialises in treating complications during pregnancy, said: "I have had 90 women in my clinic in the last year over the age of 40 and I do have concerns. There are worries about miscarriage, chromosomal disorders like Down's, high blood pressure and diabetes.
"At the moment, doctors are not telling women about the risks, and even when they do, the women often don't take it in. What you have to remember is that some of these women who become pregnant with IVF techniques are fundamentally unwell - they are not good breeders and they are at high risk of both morbidity and mortality."
It was not simply life-threatening conditions that affected older expectant mothers, Professor De Swiet said. "They seem to be more at risk from what I call the misery factor during pregnancy," he explained. "They tend to suffer more from breathlessness, heart palpitations and fainting. Often by 35 weeks, they have had enough and come in demanding a Caesarean."
He said that women should ideally have their children between 25 and 35, be aware that between 35 and 45 they were "safe enough" but that over that age, they should be made fully aware of the dangers.
BTW, I think it takes a particular type of medical personality to talk about 'good breeders'.
The article continues in a slighty unusual vein:
When Cherie Blair gave birth to her fourth child at the age of 45, the Prime Minister was widely admired for his virility and uniqueness at becoming a father while in office.
But it may be that the conception of Leo, now five, was down to Mrs Blair's genes rather than her husband's potency. Scientists have identified a certain type of genetic make-up in women who have continued to be able to become pregnant naturally over the age of 45.
Researchers from the Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem studied 250 Ashkenazi Jewish women, all of whom had children in their late forties and all of whom did not use contraception. Eighty per cent of the women in the study had at least six children, as well as a low miscarriage rate.
The researchers tested eight of the women and studied their genetic make up compared to a control group of non-Ashkenazi women. They found the Ashkenazi women had a pattern of gene expression which appeared to protect against DNA damage and cell death in the ovaries.
Dr Neri Laufer, who led the research, said his team had proved that the "pregnancy" genes were not unique to these particular Jewish women because they had also been found in Bedouin women.
There's also a piece about Italy's economic woes. Berlusconi sounds particularly desperate as he tries to project a positive image of the country:
The idea of Italy as sick, he said, was "profoundly at odds with the reality we live. Italy has thousands of monuments, historical palaces, archaeological sites, we have the greatest per capita ownership of cars and houses and the largest number of mobile phones." Not only that, but Italians knew how to make good use of them. "As they are playboys, our lads send at least 10 SMS messages to their girlfriends every day!"
One typically well-informed character incredibly manages to blame the church for the country's economic woes:
"We don't know what model of society we are working towards. So what are we trying to achieve? Nothing works properly. This is a country where the Church is trying to drag us back to the Middle Ages. You can feel the pressure from the Church, for example during the recent referendum on IVF treatment.
"Twenty years ago we had the idea that we were working for a society more equal, more just. We were trying to understand how to develop this country in the best possible way. Today the logic of the big fish which eats the smaller fish has won out. And what this country really lacks is a sense of community. Everyone thinks about his own little problems. The problem is one of values, of what to tell one's children, when the people in power are so corrupt.'

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