Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beta-Endorphins and Their Affects on Pain Perception in Labor

I have come across the most fascinating graph dealing with beta-endorphin levels at different times in a woman's life. I want to share it with you.

This made me think back to the "Is Labor About How Tough You Are?" post I wrote several weeks ago. Interestingly, we all agreed that labor is NOT about how tough you are.

I have previously mentioned that the body produces endorphins in labor -- when drugs do not interfere with the natural process -- to help a laboring woman "deal with" the intensity of labor. When an epidural is introduced, those endorphins are squelched. It used to be advised that women let the epidural wear off when it's time to push, but most women found this too difficult. (I was one of them with my epidural birth.) A big part of the problem is that her body is not producing those endorphins at an increasing rate to coincide with her labor. Being flat on her back is a pain-inducing position to a woman about to push her baby out, so it is a double-whammy!

Beta-Endorphin Changes During Pregnancy and Labor:

Non-pregnant: 58
First trimester: 58
Second trimester: 33 +/- 1.9
Third trimester: 49 +/- 2.7
Early labor (cx < 4 cm.): 202 +/- 32
Advanced labor (cx > 4 cm.): 389 +/- 78
Postpartum: 177 +/- 22
Awaiting cesarean birth (not in labor): 151 +/- 23


This, to me, is proof that our body knows what to do. "Pain tolerance" is a moot point when looking at these numbers.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Milk Study: Using Breast Milk to Screen for Breast Cancer and Assess Breast-Cancer Risk

A friend of mine just sent me a very interesting link that I wanted to put up here for those interested. There is a study done through Army of Women to test breast milk to weigh the odds of a woman developing breast cancer. Check it out.

According to their website, here is a brief summary of the study:

The purpose of this study is to determine if breast cancer and breast cancer risk can be accurately assessed from a breast milk sample. Currently, there is no accurate way to give women information about their personal risk of developing breast cancer. We will use the cells naturally present in breast milk to examine changes in DNA that occur in association with benign and cancerous breast lesions. Learning about the genetic changes associated with both breast cancer and non-cancerous breast lesions will help us develop a way to provide women with information about their breast cancer risk. Using breast milk to screen for breast cancer will reduce unnecessary biopsies among nursing women.

Who can participate? Women who are currently breastfeeding a baby, or women who are either going to have a breast biopsy in the near future or you have had a breast biopsy in the past.

This is what is involved in participation:

You will be shipped a milk collection container, informed consent form, and questionnaire. You will be asked to complete the consent form and questionnaire and to donate about 2.5 ounces of fresh breast milk from each breast. You will put the consent form, questionnaire, and breast milk in a box that will be picked up by Fed-Ex. You will be asked to provide a copy of the biopsy report. Approximately 1 year after sending your breast milk sample, the researcher will contact you to ask about any breast problems you have had in the last year.

As with all testing, I'm sure there is a false-positive, as well as false-negative, rate that will have to be considered. Women should continue with self-exams, regular check-ups, and mammograms. Science is amazing. I hope this will be a helpful tool in the cure for breast cancer and early detection.