Posts Tagged "mothers"


Kelowna, Kamloops get depots for lactating mothers to donate their milk

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Andrea Chong and Nathan Fretz at B.C. Women’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Their twin boys were born prematurely, at 32 weeks, on Oct. 4.

Jason Payne / PNG

It’s referred to as the milk of human kindness and now there are two depots in the Interior for donors to drop off their supply.

“There are so many reasons why people might want donor milk,” said new mom Andrea Chong.

Some moms don’t produce milk right away, or they produce milk but not enough.

In Chong’s case, her twin sons were born prematurely, weighing in at three pounds 10 ounces, and three pounds four ounces. For the first two days after their Oct. 4 birth, the boys received a mix of her milk and a donor’s, until the East Van mom could get up to speed.

“I’ll need about a litre of milk a day for the two of them,” Chong said.

The boys are in incubators inside the B.C. Women’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, milk dripping into their tummies every two hours.

“They lost weight at first, as expected, and they’re not back to their birth weight yet, but they’ve started to grow, they’ve turned that corner,” Chong said.

Chong and her husband, Nathan Fretz, feel grateful such services exist.

Until now, donors in Kelowna and Kamloops would freeze their milk and organize milk runs two or three times a year to deliver the supply to B.C. Women’s to be processed.

The new depots — which join 26 others in the Lower Mainland, the Island and one in Prince George — save donors a lot of time and energy, said Stephanie Gillespie, an international board-certified lactation consultant at B.C. Women’s.

“This could mean more donors and it makes it easier for donors to get their milk to us,” she said. “One barrier in the past was if you lived in the Okanagan, how did you get your milk to us.”

Donors are screened by B.C. Women’s and the depots offer a spot to drop off raw, frozen milk. Once it’s delivered to B.C. Women’s, it’s pasteurized and made available to the most fragile babies throughout the province.

According to research, mother’s milk has several health-promoting properties including antibodies to fight infection and disease, Gillespie said. Mom’s milk is best for all babies, and especially important for sick and premature babies, such as Chong’s and Fretz’s sons, who look so tiny and helpless and adorable.

“It’s a special place to work and see these little miracles all the time,” Gillespie said. “We’re so appreciative to all the donors for the time and energy it takes.”

The B.C. Women’s Provincial Milk Bank has been operating for 45 years and has helped tens of thousands of babies and children, according to B.C. Women’s, and has screened more than 6,500 donors and processed 60,000 litres of milk.

The Kamloops depot is at the Health Unit at 519 Columbia St. In Kelowna, it’s at the Community Health Centre at 505 Doyle Ave.

Donors must complete the Provincial Milk Bank’s pre-screening process before they can donate. Screening involves a phone interview to confirm the volunteer is healthy, not taking certain medications or supplements, and be willing to have blood testing done.

Many past recipients of donated mother’s milk become donors themselves, Gillespie said.

“It’s a real act of kindness. We sometimes refer to it as the milk of human kindness.

“I can’t say enough about our donors.”

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Young teen and adult mothers who are HIV-positive have higher birth rates: B.C. study

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Prescribed pills to treat HIV.

Jenelle Schneider Jenelle Schneider / PROVINCE

HIV-positive mothers with at least one child give birth to more babies than HIV-negative mothers, a new B.C. study spanning the years from 1997 to 2015 shows.

The analysis of live births published in a medical journal called PLOS One shows that among women who have already given birth, HIV-positive mothers have on average more children than a control group of HIV-negative mothers. The trend applies across all ages.

In the study span, there were a total of 669 live births among 270 HIV-positive women aged 15 to 49 and 1,577 births to 871 HIV-negative controls. The birth rate for HIV-positive women aged 15 to 24 was 1.88 live births per woman, while in the HIV-negative control group it was 1.52 per woman.

In the 25 to 34-year-old age group, the birthrate among women living with HIV was 2.62, compared to 1.76 in a HIV-negative control group. And in the 35 to 49-year-old category, the birthrate among HIV-positive mothers was 2.58, versus 2.11 in the HIV negative group.


The majority of HIV-positive women across Canada are in their reproductive years, and previous research has shown that motherhood is important to them.

There was an average of about 42,700 births annually to all women in the province during the study’s 1997 to 2015 time period. Babies born to HIV-positive women represented 0.05 per cent of all the births over the term of the study.

A study published in 2017 and based on a large group of Canadian women with HIV, showed that nearly a quarter of them between 2013 and 2016 got pregnant, but 60 per cent of such pregnancies were unintended. The new study did not look at whether pregnancies were planned.

There are about 1,200 women and 6,100 men living with HIV in B.C.

The Oak Tree Clinic at B.C. Women’s Hospital specializes in care for women and children with HIV, but the study’s authors say females with HIV need access to comprehensive reproductive health care, whether they live in urban areas like Vancouver or rural and remote areas.

Hélène Cote, a co-author, and researcher at the Women’s Health Research Institute at B.C. Women’s Hospital, said in an interview that the vast majority (over 80 per cent) of women living with HIV in Canada are receiving treatment, and most are attaining viral suppression success on such treatment. She said there has never been a baby born in B.C. to a woman aware of her HIV status and on such treatment during her pregnancy.

Cote said the fact that young women with HIV are having more babies would suggest they are conceiving at younger ages because of socio-cultural factors, in addition to feeling secure knowing that while on treatment, their risk of transmitting HIV to their baby is “almost zero.”

“Primary care physicians in communities across B.C. must not assume young woman are not having unprotected sex. And when they have HIV-positive patients, they must counsel them  about sexual and reproductive health, including contraception, pregnancy plans, desires, and risks, among many other things. When a 17-year-old with HIV goes to a doctor and says, ‘I want to get pregnant,’ appropriate health care is required to ensure a safe pregnancy,” she said.

Live birth rates over time by HIV status (Women Living With HIV vs. HIV negative) and age group. Credit: Plos One


Women account for 18 per cent of all HIV cases in B.C., and since many have been on anti-retroviral treatment for a long time, researchers were keen to learn whether birth rates were going up over time for women in various age groups. Cote said for those aged 25 to 49, they found that as time went on, they did, suggesting women with HIV are “increasingly likely to feel confident about bearing children later in life.”

“The results of this study are an important step toward further understanding the reproductive health trends of women living with HIV, especially now that (they) can have pregnancies with little or no risk of … transmitting HIV to their child if engaged in care and appropriately treated,” says the study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Previous research showed associations between HIV infection and lower childbirth rates in low- and middle-income countries, while the latest study is among the few done on women in high-income jurisdictions.

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Twitter: @MedicineMatters


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Bear cub, rescued near mother’s body, dies in B.C. wildlife refuge

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An orphaned black bear cub rescued near Tofino, B.C. is shown in a handout photo. The cub died after apparently getting tangled in a rope enrichment device at its enclosure.

A British Columbia wildlife refuge says staff are upset and shocked after a bear cub that was rescued near his mother’s dead body this spring died unexpectedly in his enclosure.

The bear named Malcolm was asphyxiated after getting his head stuck in a small rope handle attached to a plastic buoy, the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre said in a statement on Monday.

“In the morning of his death, he was routinely observed on the cameras playing contentedly on the large tree stumps that had been provided in his cage. In the mid-afternoon, animal care staff were at the pre-release building and opened the food hatch to check on Malcolm’s activities,” the centre said.

“At that time the cub was seen to be immobile and on the ground beside one of the tree stumps. Staff immediately entered the enclosure recognizing that there was a serious problem. … There were no signs of a struggle and we suspect he got his head through the loop and then very quickly asphyxiated.”

There has been a buoy suspended by a chain from a tree stump in Malcolm’s enclosure since he was first introduced, it said. The buoys have been a common source of enrichment for bears and there have never been any hints of injuries or mishaps, it added.

“We feel that it represents a very unfortunate accident involving an extremely rare set of circumstances. Caring for these special animals is an emotionally intense experience and we feel this loss profoundly. However, we will learn from this and be better at what we do,” the centre said.

Founder and operations manager Robin Campbell said in an interview that the centre has now removed the ropes attached to the buoys from all enclosures. He said in 20 years there had never been an incident like this.

“It’s just a terrible, terrible thing,” he said.

The cub was about eight to 12 weeks old and extremely malnourished when it was discovered in May lying on its mother’s carcass in Tofino, B.C.

“There was a lot of drama in saving it,” Campbell said. “Every little step of the way was like a little miracle. So when he finally turned into this wild bear and he was in his home stretch, all he had to do was go into hibernation and then next summer he would have been released.”

The centre’s statement said despite some initial health problems associated with emaciation and hypoglycemia, the bear had shown good physical and behavioural progress while in care. He was sedated and examined on Oct. 18 and found to be healthy and in very good body condition, so he was moved to a pre-release enclosure.

The enclosure affords lots of space and enrichment and less contact with people, but allows for good CCTV monitoring from several angles, the centre said.

Jennifer Steven and her husband John Forde, co-owners of the Whale Centre in Tofino, spotted the tiny cub in Ross Pass in May and rescued it by scooping it into a dog kennel.

Steven said Monday she was “devastated” by the bear’s death but she hoped people would not blame the wildlife refuge.

“It’s sad because so much was put into the effort to save the bear. Accidents happen in life and there’s definitely no hard feelings against the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. They did so much to save that cub,” she said.

She and her husband visited the cub a few times at the wildlife refuge and he appeared to be doing great, she said. The refuge also sent them videos showing his growth into a “very large” bear, she said.

There are many animals that would die without the centre, Steven said, and she urged people to support it.

“They did the best that they could and accidents happen. We always learn from accidents like this, and if they can be prevented, great,” she said.

“I hope everyone can make a small donation to them because he’s not the only bear there, he’s not the only animal there, and they do such a good job.”

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