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Magazine explores new world of having a baby

- By Rosanne Spector


Prepare to be amazed at how much you can learn about babies before they’re even born — and how such knowledge can be used to benefit their health.

The fall issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, produced with the support of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, is a special report on the new world of having a baby.

“What is most dramatically changing is that we have an increasing view of the fetus as a patient,” said Yasser El-Sayed, MD, director of maternal-fetal medicine and obstetrics at Stanford University and obstetrician-in-chief at Packard Children’s.

The report, titled “Life begins,” leads off with an article describing how new imaging technology and blood tests combine to enable births that would have been considered miracles even just a few years ago, and help make pregnancy safer for mothers, as well.

Contrasted with these daily marvels, it’s all the more heartbreaking to realize that lack of access to even basic prenatal care is a stark reality for many Americans.

Yet there’s reason for optimism. Because of the Affordable Care Act, women with incomes of up to 400 percent of the poverty line are eligible for financial assistance in purchasing insurance, and insurers can no longer classify pregnancy as a pre-existing condition to deny women coverage. This doesn’t solve the problem of lack of access for millions of families in need of health care. But it’s a start.

In this issue:

  • A story on the epidemic of placenta accreta and how this potentially fatal condition affected one family.
  • 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.
  • A feature 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.
  • A look at why the U.S. infant mortality rate is so high relative to other industrialized nations.
  • An article explaining the rise of C-sections, and why a decrease in how often the procedure is performed should be around the corner.
  • A Q&A with Marian Wright Edelman, one of the world’s leading defenders of children’s rights.
  • 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.

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.

The magazine is available online at Print copies are being sent to subscribers. Others can request a copy at (650) 723-6911 or by sending an email to

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at

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