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Baby Deaths Mystery Solved

Researchers say they’ve made discoveries into one of the most frightening issues for new parents today: sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). A new study found that babies who died of SIDS had low levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps the brainstem regulate breathing, temperature, sleeping, waking and other automatic functions, according to an autopsy study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Babies normally sense high carbon-dioxide levels automatically and wake up. Babies who don’t respond appropriately, however, may never wake up.

This discovery could be breakthrough information for thousands of parents who suddenly lose their babies. SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants 1 month to 1 year old, and claims the lives of about 2,500 each year in the United States. Up to this point, scientists had not been able to link any definite cause to these deaths. Almost all SIDS deaths occur without any warning or symptoms when the infant is believed to be sleeping.

SIDS seems to happen more often in premature and low-birth-weight babies. It also is seen more often in babies whose mothers were without affordable health insurance and did not receive good medical care during the pregnancy and in babies whose mothers smoke. Educational campaigns have significantly reduced SIDS rates. During which time, parents learn the most important measure to take to try and prevent SIDS. Topping the list is placing the baby to sleep on his or her back rather than on the stomach or side.

It is best to get medical insurance from a company like Blue Cross Blue Shield or United Health Care before becoming pregnant. Some health insurance plans consider pregnancy a pre-existing condition, and may not cover your prenatal cost.

Doctors eventually hope to use their new discovery to screen babies for serotonin problems and find a way to protect them, says co-author David Paterson, also of Harvard and Children’s Hospital. Those developments are still years away, he says.

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