Babies who spend too much time lying on their backs can develop deformational plagiocephaly, or flat-head syndrome, a flattening of the back of an infant's skull. A study in the journal Pediatrics found that 25 percent of babies with flat-head syndrome had less-developed motor skills, but pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears explains that the delays were mild and temporary.
"It's important to know that it's not the flat head compressing the brain and causing the delays," Dr. Jim says. "It's simply the fact that the babies are probably a little less stimulated because they're lying there ... in the same direction all the time."
Dr. Jim assures that the shape of a baby's skull will even out once he or she is able to sit up unassisted and can sleep in varrying positions. To prevent flat-head syndrome, Dr. Jim recommends shifting a baby's position in a car seat frequently, especially if he or she tends to sleep on one side. You can place a baby on his or her belly if he or she is awake and under adult supervision.
"You don't want the young babies to sleep on their bellies, because then you increase the risk of [sudden infant death syndrome]," Dr. Jim says.
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Nicotine and Birth Control
Smoking can cause cancer on its own, but your risk of death increases dramatically if you take certain medications.
Eight years ago, Amy was 28 and a smoker. She also took birth control pills as a form of contraception, not realizing the two could be a deadly combination. One day, she began feeling sick. "It started out feeling very much like a chest cold or bronchitis coming on," she recounts. "I had been working a lot of hours and [was] tired, so I really didn't think much of it, but then it quickly escalated into a lot of pressure in my chest and the sensation that I couldn't breathe very well. All of a sudden, my arms felt like lead; it felt like I couldn't use them, lift them, move them."
She went to the emergency room and was diagnosed as having a heart attack. The combination of taking birth control pills and smoking significantly increases the risk of blood clots and can elevate blood pressure to dangerous levels, in turn, raising a woman's risk of heart attack and stroke.
"Birth control pills are just like every other drug," OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson says. "They have reactions with other medications or things you're doing or taking."
If you are a smoker, there are other forms of contraception available, such as an intrauterine device (IUD), that will not pose the same risks as the pill.
Cancer Caused by Chemotherapy
In 2006, Justin, then 8 years old, was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. He underwent chemotherapy, surgery to remove a tumor and a stem cell transplant using his own stem cells. He beat the cancer, but in December 2009, doctors found that Justin had acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a type of leukemia that can develop after undergoing chemotherapy for another cancer. One percent of chemotherapy patients develop a secondary cancer after treatment with the powerful drugs.
"Unfortunately, as chemotherapy is killing the cancer cells, it also has the same kind of impact on some types of normal cells," says oncologist Dr. Lawrence Piro, president and CEO of The Angeles Clinic and Research Institute. "Often, chemotherapy interferes with the DNA, and that's how it kills the cancer cells. When it interferes with the DNA of some normal cells, especially ones that are dividing a lot, like our blood cells, it can give rise to leukemia."
As a result of the disease, Justin needed a bone-marrow transplant. Dr. Piro explains that there is a 1 to 2 percent chance that a parent is a match for a transplant, and Justin's father was a strong match.