Media Reflection


During the process when I went back to the article I first picked out and began to try and rewrite it, I found it challenging as to what would be the best way to try to summarize such an important study but still not exclude all of the parts that weren’t exactly statistics.  In looking at how a journalist approached this article, I was somewhat disappointed that they didn’t go beyond just gathering the information needed and putting it together neatly.  It was shocking to me that the journalist lacked any information on tools or other resources that could be used for more financially unstable Quebec women, or any other reasons why a fetus could have birth defects besides antidepressants.  The most important part of the study that I wanted to include in the new version of the article was that unhealthy habits and a poor diet lacking in essential nutrients can just be as detrimental to a mother’s health and her unborn child just as much taking antidepressants could.  I didn’t find it appropriate to completely try and rewrite the article since most of the important statistics and basic facts of the cohort were already stated in a manner that was easy to understand.  I also decided to edit the ending because it left an uncomfortable cliffhanger for someone who could have been reading the article and took away a negative theme from it, as it just simply stated that there are resources if you have the money for it.  I assumed that there could be such a thing as support groups and therapy for underprivileged Quebec women, so I stated that there are plenty of free websites and other tools that can be accessed with the internet.  Overall, the writing process for trying to edit this article was admittedly a bit tricky but I found it entertaining that I was able to add more information to make it more helpful to the general public.

Media Project

In a study done by the University of Montreal, 6 to 10% of the women that were recorded and participated in the study who were diagnosed with depression and prescribed antidepressants for the previous 6 months, were at a higher risk for giving birth to infants with birth defects.  

“In pregnancy, you’re treating the mother but you’re worried about the unborn child, and the benefit needs to outweigh the risk,” said the study’s senior author, Anick Bérard, a professor at UdeM’s Faculty of Pharmacy and researcher at its affiliated children’s hospital, CHU Sainte-Justine.

A well-known expert in pregnancy and depression, Bérard has previously established links between antidepressants and low birth weight, gestational hypertension, miscarriages, and autism. Her new study is among the first to examine the link to birth defects among depressed women due to the usage of antidepressants during pregnancy.   

Every year, about 135,000 Quebec women get pregnant, and of those, about 7 % of these women shows signs of depressive symptoms or already have diagnosed depression prior to becoming pregnant and their pregnancy has magnified their symptoms.  Less than 1% of this population have severe depression.

In her study, Bérard looked at 18,487 depressed women in the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort, a longitudinal, population-based grouping of 289,688 pregnancies recorded between 1998 to 2009. Of the women studied, 3,640 — about 20 percent — took antidepressants in the first three months of their pregnancy.

“We only looked at the first trimester, because this is where all the organ systems are developing,” said Bérard. “At 12 weeks of gestation, the baby is formed.”

Antidepressant use during this critical time window has the potential to interfere with serotonin intake by the fetus, which can result in malformations.  It is also important information to note, that these pregnant women diagnosed with depression may try to use unhealthy habits or coping mechanisms, such as smoking, drinking, and poor diet, which also has a major role in fetal development.  

For example, when Celexa (the brand name for citalopram) was taken in the first trimester, the risk of major birth defects jumped from 5 per cent to 8 per cent, Bérard found. In all, 88 cases of malformations were linked to use of the drug.

Similarly, use of Paxil (paroxetine) was associated with an increased risk of heart defects; venlafaxine (Effexor), with lung defects; and tricyclic antidepressants (such as Elavil), with an increased documentation of eye, ear, face and neck defects.  It seems like the different classes of SSRI’s had different effects on the development of certain organs in the fetus and it wasn’t just one single SSRI that affected all organs.  

Depression is on the rise across the globe and is a leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organization. Depression is particularly serious during pregnancy, and doctors — especially psychiatrists, obstetricians and other specialists — are prescribing more antidepressants than ever to expectant mothers.  This is only one way to treat an issue that is so ill-timed when a woman is carrying a child and doesn’t want the child to be exposed to the medication she is taking.  Other resources that should be available in place of antidepressants, or alongside if passed by a healthcare official, should be therapy sessions and support groups for women who are also experiencing depressive symptoms whether they are currently pregnant, have postpartum depression, or have depression and want to conceive a child.  

Over the decade or so that Bérard studied her cohort, the proportion of expectant mothers on antidepressants in Quebec doubled, from 21 users per 1,000 pregnancies in 1998 to 43 per 1,000 in 2009.

The women in this study that are prescribed these drugs and are taking them are usually older women who tend to live alone and don’t have much in the way of family or financial support or stability.  In some cases, it seems like an easier route for them just to take medication instead of seeking non-medicative treatment out of fear that they won’t be able to afford therapist visits or they’ll face stigma and ridicule from their family or peers.

If a pregnant woman in the Quebec area has been experiencing depressive symptoms or has been diagnosed with mild to moderate depression before conceiving a child and is looking for treatment, there are plenty of websites online and even mental health facilities that can help them on their journey to treating their symptoms and having a safe and enjoyable pregnancy, even if the woman is lacking in sufficient funds, she will still be able to reach out to a program or other people who are just like her.  

Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Experiment

From what I saw of the video in the class of third graders, I found it amazing that in the span of fifteen minutes a class of sweet kids all turned on each other and felt that they had authority over someone else, just because brown eyes were considered a negative trait to have.  The children with brown eyes were ostracized from their blue-eyed friends, considered to be less intelligent, were picked on, and avoided doing anything to do better in school because all they would be were simple brown eyed kids.  On the other hand, blue-eyed children were lead to believe that they were smarter, more desirable to be around, and had better self-esteem than their brown-eyed classmates.  When Jane Elliot switched the importance of the eye colors around (now the brown-eyed kids had the upper hand), it would make sense for them to have compassion towards the people who oppressed them, since they wouldn’t want to make people feel the way they did.  Sadly, both eye colors wanted power and authority and not reconciliation.  Growing up in a private Christian school during my elementary years was especially hard for me since I wasn’t like every other kid.  My parents were divorced, I was a tomboy, and I was painfully shy and never really participated in class.  Of course, the children didn’t have a problem with me and I had made lasting friendships over the years, but the parents were concerned about having their children hanging around someone who was a child of divorce which made me and my mother look inferior to other families.  Even the teachers didn’t think highly of me because how poorly I did in math, and they assumed I wasn’t smart because of one subject I didn’t like to study.  Like in the experiment where the children in the video when they were given the negative trait had less belief in themselves because of what other people say and believe about them, based on factors that are out of that child’s control such as their ethnicity or economic background.  What I would like to be see done in the education system, public or private, is to have different styles of teaching for children who struggle with the traditional visual and verbal methods.  This would have children more confident in their abilities and have a higher self-esteem, despite their appearance or what people would say about them.  As Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

My Perspective On Video Games

I know it’s not certainly helpful to give a single experience from someone who played violent video games or has watched horror movies from a young age, but I personally didn’t have any behavioral issues from playing mature video games, mostly because I wasn’t allowed much time playing them at all.  I wouldn’t put this result on any kind of child since they all differ in experiences and how they handle said experiences.  The main issue I see with young children, around the age of about 6 or 8, is that they’ll start to form habits that will eventually stick with them, especially if they play it again and again on a video game.  Not there’s anything wrong with shooter games and most can be without blood and gore, but a lot of children could develop a certain attitude that comes along with playing multiple violent video games.  Maybe they could start using more vulgar language, not focus on their schoolwork as much, act out without thinking about the consequences and become desensitized over time to accidents and environments that are similar to the video game’s environment.  I would rather my child be sticking to entertainment that would help develop problem-solving skills and dealing with emotions in a more healthy manner, rather than sitting in dark room mashing controller buttons all day.  I don’t want to put the blame fully on the video game industry since the parents can influence their child’s tastes, so it would be a good idea for parents to monitor what kind of games their child plays and how often they play them, and then observe if there are any slight mood changes.

Autism As A Magical World: Sensation & Perceptions

After watching the NOVA video on how our brains respond to magic tricks and how magic tricks work, I found it fascinating that even with the slightest movement to cause a distraction, our brains automatically follow it even though I kept telling myself to try and watch the other hand.  For me personally, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it even after a couple of times!  I could only imagine what the difficulties would be for someone on the autism spectrum must have when it comes to multiple stimuli in everyday lives that we have become so accustomed to sorting through and dealing with.  Just like at the end of the magic trick when the outcome is revealed (such as a dove flying out of a bouquet of flowers), a person on the autism spectrum is in this magical realm of surprise and impaired predictions for all of their life which leads them to be in a constant state of being overstimulated and shut off from the rest of the normally wired people.  I often wonder what kind of experiments would aid in the discovery of how autistic brains truly work, but unfortunately, this article from the LA Times just lead me to more questions about my own brain and how I would possibly differ from someone who has autism.  Perhaps someone on the autism spectrum doesn’t have the primal flight of fight instincts like I do, and can’t sense danger because of their “magical realm”?  Questions lead on to more questions!

The Talk On Marijuana

It’s good news to see that a lot of states have decided to legalize cannabis for medical purposes.  Looking at the current medicines used now for various illnesses such as Parkinson’s Disease, cancer, and Multiple Sclerosis, a lot of the already used medications are not as effective and medical cannabis and take a long time to provide immediate pain relief especially to those who might be going through chemotherapy. Since marijuana is also non-habit forming, it would be a safe option for people to self-medicate.  My stance on recreational marijuana is really not that much different since they’re are many people in our population today that suffer from minor ailments that could be eased with marijuana.  Of course, I’m not entirely replacing the advice of a certified doctor, but there are many doctors that are clearly ignoring the massive movement of legalizing marijuana.  Personally coming from someone that suffers frequent cluster headaches and other cognitive issues, cannabis is something that needs to be legalized and explained to the public that it’s safe to use.

The Fragility Of Memory

While watching this TED talk, I actually had a feeling of such sadness and remorse not only for those that were falsely accused of crimes they didn’t commit but how simple it seemed to be for one’s memory to be molded so easily.  It would be beneficial to give someone a pleasant yet false memory to yield positive outcomes (like enjoying vegetables) but I’m not sure of the final results of erasing part of someone’s memories would be like.  In more extreme cases, especially people with stress disorders relating to traumatic events, it could potentially save them from committing suicide later on down the road and improving their quality of life like nothing had ever happened.  For a more specific example, take for instance a young child that was sexually abused by a close family friend or even a family member.  In most cases that were presented on TV and in articles, the child usually develops unhealthy habits such as drug abuse, unhealthy sexual/romantic relationships, and other risky behaviors that affect their life forever.  In this sense, it would be most beneficial for this individual to have their memory partially erased in order to preserve their life.  I personally believe that tampering with memory should be reserved for the most special of situations that could potentially save someone’s life by helping them to forget an event that made such a negative impact on their life, and for them to avoid making dangerous choices that could also harm society.

Exploring The Mind Of A Killer

The reason why I was so immediately drawn to this talk, was the explanation in broad detail that talked about three main components that can generate a psychopathic killer’s brain.  Another reason why I was interested in this TED talk is because of a curious case of one of my family members that also a suffered from a violent path that was caused by brain damage.  In summary, Fallon spoke about how these psychotic genes can skip and develop in a few generations, and that a lot of the public can possess one of the genes that could potentially be considered to be high risk.  In utero, the baby’s brain is so used to being “bathed” in serotonin that later on in life that there would be no feeling of calmness or relaxation that someone with a neurotypical brain would feel.  I found the presenter to be trustworthy, as he said he’s been a neurologist who has been studying such things for the past 35 years, which means that persistence and dedication to his field make him someone who is a reputable figure.  If I could, I’d conduct a research method based on case studies where I would go and interview a particular psychopathic killer and ask him questions about his childhood experiences, family relationships, sports involved in, jobs and work prior to his sentencing and other factors that play into the development of such an individual.

First Impression: Parenting Style

Between all three parenting options provided, the parenting style that I have been exposed to over my youth, and the one that I’m most familiar with, is helicopter parenting.  Looking at all the main types of parenting, there is not just one that is the perfect model for every family to follow.  Being a helicopter parent towards a naturally defiant child will probably cause more harm than good, rather than a child who is more laid back and quiet.  At times, parents can shift their options into any given parenting mode due to the current situation at hand.  If a child is doing poorly in school or has a lack of interest in extracurricular activities, the “tiger mom” would be the most likely stylistic approach to a child that’s lacking in his or her performance at school.  Or, if a child seems to be weary when an adult is in the room while they are on the computer, the “helicopter parent” approach would be taken very quickly, and all for good reasons to protect and observe their child’s online history and activities.  The “jellyfish dad” is the all too familiar stereotype that dads are the fun ones and are the ones to go to if you needed something, which I think is unfair to hardworking and more strict fathers.  From my personal experience, I find that the helicopter approach, when done in a healthy way, helps a child navigate through their adolescent years safely and allows them to approach things with knowledge and caution.   

Refinement Post: Is It Safe to Drive in Heels?

While watching the Mythbusters short clip on, “Is It Dangerous to Drive in Heels?”, I found a few things to be quite problematic with the setup of the experiment and how it was conducted.  There were one or two positive things, such as the different types of shoes provided, but everything else regarding where and how they drove only one type of car was a different experiment all together!  How they measured their experiment, which was by stopwatch, wasn’t accurate in telling how safely someone could drive in a more realistic setting.  The variable that they kept controlled was the type of car used, which would have been fine if it were a car that was used for everyday commuting and not for racing.  Their driving course was put together in a way where there were enough quick turns and stops, but it wouldn’t prepare a woman going into work in early morning traffic while trying to maneuver around other drivers, or even considered driver experience, or the time of day.  Even though more than one pair of shoes were used in the experiment, I found it a bit disappointing that they didn’t include more types of heel sizes and fashions.  There are definitely all types of high heels that have higher platform bottoms and thinner, spikier heels than the shoes used in the example.  All in all, I wasn’t necessarily blown away by the research methods they used, and so I think they could have done more to make this experiment extensive and lengthy.