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From womb to world: Stanford Medicine Magazine explores new work on having a baby

coverIt's a hard knock life for a fetus - and sometimes the mom. Research and technologies have allowed us to see inside the womb, learn about developing health risks and make informed decisions about care for the littlest of patients. But some medical problems associated with pregnancy and birth - such as placenta accreta, when the placenta attaches to the uterus - still pose great risks to mother and child.

The new issue of Stanford Medicine, produced with the support of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, tells the age-old story of childbirth in modern medicine's terms, exploring some of what recent research has unveiled, and which problems still capture the attention of medical researchers and technologists. In her story on placenta accreta, Erin Digitale writes:

Before her third son was born in 2010, Maya Adam [MD] had to face a possibility modern medicine has made almost obsolete: She could bleed to death before or during delivery. A rare defect in her placenta left both Adam and her fetus vulnerable to sudden, fatal hemorrhage.

“We made a video for our two older boys in case they needed it as their final memory,” Adam says, recalling the compilation of family photos and video that she and her husband, Lawrence Seeff, assembled for sons Kiran, then 5, and Misha, then 2, near the end of her pregnancy.

The rest of Adam's story, and more on the condition, is featured in the magazine along with:

  • "Changing expectations": A piece on what makes successful births possible despite what most would consider hopeless circumstances, with the focus on the birth of a child with a severe heart defect.
  • "Gone too soon": A look at why the U.S. infant mortality rate is so high relative to other industrialized nations.
  • "Labor Day": An article explaining the rise of C-sections, and why a decrease in how often the procedure is performed should be around the corner.
  • "The children's defender": A Q&A with Marian Wright Edelman, one of the world’s leading defenders of children’s rights.
  • "Hello in there": A report on advances in prenatal testing, which can now reveal abundant details about a developing baby’s biology - all based on a few drops of mom’s blood.
  • "Web extra": An interactive simulation on the magazine’s website that allows you to observe and control the development of the placenta - and see what can go wrong. Producer David Sarno built this “journey through the placenta” using the tools of modern video game design.

In addition to the “Life begins” package, this issue of the magazine includes a feature on the creation of a computer made of biological molecules that can run inside our cells, and a report on a search for hope in one of the hardest places in America to stay healthy — the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Previously: Touchable journalism technology helps to teach medicine, Factoring in the environment: A report from Stanford Medicine magazineNew issue of Stanford Medicine magazine asks, What do we know about blood?, The money crunch: Stanford Medicine magazine’s new special report and Program focuses on the treatment of placental disorders

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