Mental health matters for moms

20
Jul
Posted by March of Dimes

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health, people from racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely than people who aren’t minorities to get treatment for mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression.  So what’s causing this difference?

  • Social determinants of health. These are conditions in which you’re born, grow, work, live and age that can affect your community, education, income and your relationships with your partner, family and friends.
  • Less access to services. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. are less likely to have access to mental health services than other groups and are more likely to receive lower quality care.
  • Ethnic background. Because of cultural beliefs and traditions, some people may They may be afraid to talk to their health care provider or to ask for help.

Mental health awareness is especially important for all women during and after pregnancy. In the United States, about 1 in 10 women (10 percent) has signs or symptoms of depression. About 1 in 7 women (about 15 percent) have depression at some time during pregnancy and the year after pregnancy. Depression before or during pregnancy is different than postpartum depression (also called PPD). PPD is a kind of depression that some women get after pregnancy.

What you need to know:

  • Learn the signs and symptoms of depression and postpartum depression.
  • If you think you have depression or PPD, tell your health care provider.
  • If you’ve had depression before, you’re more likely than other women to have depression during pregnancy.
  • If you’re pregnant and taking an antidepressant, tell your provider right away. Don’t stop taking it without talking to your provider first.

Here are some helpful resources:

Treating for two: Safe medication use in pregnancy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Depression during and after pregnancy: A resource for women, their families and friends from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Maternal and Child Health

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness, 800-950-NAMI (6264)

National Institute of Mental Health

Cleft lip and cleft palate: causes and prevention

17
Jul
Posted by March of Dimes

Cleft lip and cleft palate happen when a baby’s lip or mouth doesn’t form completely during pregnancy. Cleft lip is an opening in a baby’s upper lip. Cleft palate is an opening in the roof of a baby’s mouth. Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects. About 1 or 2 in 1,000 babies (less than 1 percent) are born with cleft lip and palate each year in the United States.

Cleft lip and palate happen very early in pregnancy. Your baby’s lips form between 4 and 7 weeks of pregnancy, and the palate forms between 6 and 9 weeks of pregnancy. Cleft lip and palate don’t have to happen together — a baby can have one without the other.

What causes cleft lip and cleft palate?

We’re not sure what causes cleft lip and cleft palate. They may be caused by a combination of factors, like genes and things in your everyday life, like certain medicines you take. Risk factors include:

  • Having a family history of cleft lip and cleft palate
  • Smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy
  • Having diabetes before pregnancy
  • Taking certain anti-seizure medicines during the first trimester of pregnancy, like topiramate or valproic acid
  • Being obese during pregnancy.

How can you reduce your baby’s risk for cleft lip and palate?

Here’s what you can do to reduce your baby’s risk:

  • Take folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent certain birth defects in your baby. Before pregnancy, take a vitamin supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. During pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid in it every day.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Get a preconception checkup. This is a checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.
  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and talk to your provider about gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your provider to make sure any medicine you take is safe during pregnancy. Don’t stop taking any medicine without talking to your provider first.
  • Get early and regular prenatal care. This is medical care you get during pregnancy to make sure you and your baby are doing well.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Make sure all your vaccinations are up to date, especially for rubella (also called German measles). Wash your hands often.

Visit marchofdimes.org for more information.

Breastfeeding is good for mom and baby

12
Jul
Posted by March of Dimes

In the United States, most new moms (about 80 percent) breastfeed their babies. About half of these moms breastfeed for at least 6 months. You may know that breastfeeding is best for your baby, but did you know that it’s good for you, too? Here’s why breastfeeding is good for both of you:

For your baby, breast milk:

  • Has the right amount of protein, sugar, fat and most vitamins to help your baby grow and develop.
  • Contains antibodies that help protect your baby. Antibodies are cells in the body that fight off infection. In general, breastfed babies have fewer health problems than babies who don’t breastfeed.
  • Has fatty acids, like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), that may help your baby’s brain and eyes develop. It also may reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Is easy for your baby to digest. A breastfed baby may have less gas and belly pain than a baby who is given formula.
  • Changes as your baby grow, so he gets exactly what he needs at the right time. For the first few days after your baby is born, your breasts make colostrum. This is a thick, yellowish form of breast milk. Colostrum has nutrients and antibodies that your baby needs in the first few days of life. In 3 to 4 days, the colostrum gradually changes to breast milk.

For you, breastfeeding:

  • Increases the amount of a hormone in your body called oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract. These contractions help your uterus go back to the size it was before pregnancy. They also help you stop bleeding after giving birth.
  • Helps reduce stress. The hormones your body releases can help you relax and bond with your baby.
  • May help lower your risk for diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Burns extra calories (up to 500 a day). This can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight in a gradual and healthy way.

Recently, you may have heard in the news about the U.S. delegation’s opposition to a resolution for promoting breastfeeding at the World Health Assembly. March of Dimes released the following statement from President Stacey D. Stewart:

“March of Dimes is appalled to learn of the U.S. delegation’s opposition to a resolution for promoting breastfeeding, at the World Health Assembly this spring. As a leading U.S. health organization that also maintains official relations with the World Health Organization, we can attest to the global scientific consensus that breastmilk is the healthiest option for babies and young children. It is unconscionable that any government would seek to hinder access to the most basic nutrition for children around the globe by opposing the passage of such a resolution for improving the health and survival of babies globally.”

“March of Dimes calls on the Administration to immediately abandon their opposition to this resolution and instead to champion breastfeeding and access to breast milk for all infants and young children everywhere.”

Visit marchofdimes.org for more information.

Tips for bringing baby home from the NICU

10
Jul
Posted by March of Dimes

Bringing your baby home from the hospital after birth is a very exciting time. But if you had a premature birth or other pregnancy complications and your baby had to stay in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU), you may feel stressed or worried about taking your baby home. It’s normal to have lots of questions about life after the NICU. You may have questions like:

  • How do I get ready to take my baby home from the NICU?
  • What do I need to do if my baby needs medical equipment at home?
  • Is it OK to have visitors and family over when the baby comes home?
  • Can I take my baby outside for walks or with me to run errands?

Here’s what you can do to feel ready:

Talk to your baby’s health care provider and the NICU staff before leaving the hospital with your baby. This is especially important if your baby needs medicine. Write down all the medicine instructions and ask about how to store the medicine properly. Ask about basic baby care, safe sleep and how to use a car seat safely. And ask what the temperature in your home and your baby’s room should be.

If your baby needs medical equipment, learn how to use it while your baby is still in the NICU. Make sure the electricity in your home works with your baby’s equipment. If your baby needs more than one kind of equipment or if you live in an older home, you may need to check your electric system. If you rent your home, talk with your landlord about what you need.

Having friends and family over to meet your baby is fine, but limit the number of people who visit. Even though its summer, you and your baby can get the flu and other infections anytime of the year. Family and friends who are sick, have a fever or who may have been exposed to an illness should wait to visit your baby. Any adult who will have contact with your baby should get a pertussis vaccination (shot). Pertussis is also called whooping cough.

Going outside with your baby is OK, but stay away from crowded places like grocery stores. It’s fine to take your baby for walks outside or to visit friends or family.  But don’t take your baby to places like shopping malls and grocery stores. If you’re going outside, keep your baby cool in hot weather and protect yourselves from mosquitoes. Most bug sprays and lotions are safe to use on babies 2 months and older, but products with oil of lemon eucalyptus are not safe for children under the age of 3. Always read the spray or lotion label to make sure it’s safe for your baby. Put a mosquito netting across the top of your baby’s stroller when you’re outside. Make sure it doesn’t touch your baby’s face or body.

Traveling this summer? Stay safe from Zika

05
Jul
Posted by March of Dimes

Summer is travel season for many of us. Before your trip, make sure you’re protected from Zika. The Zika virus is still spreading in certain areas (called Zika-affected areas) around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an interactive world map to show you areas with risk of Zika.  If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, don’t travel to a Zika-affected area unless it’s absolutely necessary.

If you get infected with Zika during pregnancy, you can pass it to your baby. Zika infection during pregnancy causes a birth defect called microcephaly and other brain and health problems. You can get infected with the Zika virus through body fluids, like blood and semen, and through mosquito bites.

If you’re planning to travel to a Zika-affected area, talk to your health care provider before you go about how to protect yourself from Zika. Here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t have sex. If you do have sex, use a barrier method of birth control (like a condom or dental dam) every time.
  • Protect yourself from mosquitoes. Here’s how:
    • Use an insect repellant, like bug spray or lotion, that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Use one with one or more of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, IR3535, and 2-undecanone. These ingredients are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Stay in places that have air conditioning or screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. If you’re in a Zika-affected area and sleeping outside or in a room that doesn’t have screens on doors and windows, sleep under a mosquito net.
    • Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes and socks.

If you’ve been in a Zika-affected area, use bug spray or lotion for 3 weeks after you get back to help prevent Zika from spreading to others.

For more information:

 

Barbecues, picnics and food safety

03
Jul
Posted by March of Dimes

For many of us, summertime means lots of barbecues and picnics. Both are popular outdoor activities and are great ways to get together with family and friends. They also include lots of grilled foods and side dishes, like pasta salad and potato salad. If you’re pregnant and planning to eat at an outdoor event, here’s what you should know:

Not all foods are safe to eat during pregnancy. Some foods are more likely than others to have harmful bacteria like Listeria or Salmonella. These bacteria can cause infections that can be dangerous during pregnancy. Deli meat, hot dogs, dry sausages, refrigerated patés or meat spread, and soft cheese, like brie and feta, are examples of foods that are most likely to be contaminated with Listeria. Food made with raw eggs, like homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, cookie dough, frostings and homemade ice cream, may have Salmonella. If you’re pregnant, don’t eat these foods.

Cold foods need to stay cold. When foods that need to be cold or refrigerated are kept at room temperature, bacteria and germs start to form. Even if the food looks and smells good, it can be contaminated and make you sick. Always keep pasta salads and potato salads in a cooler. Don’t leave them at room temperature.

Food preparation matters. Foods can become contaminated with harmful bacteria when they aren’t prepared properly or when they’re cooked or stored at the wrong temperature. Eating contaminated foods can cause food poisoning. When you’re pregnant, your immune system isn’t as quick to respond to infections like food poisoning as it was before pregnancy. During pregnancy, food poisoning can cause serious problems for you and your baby, including premature birth, miscarriage and stillbirth.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your baby from food poisoning during pregnancy:

  • Make sure your food is fully cooked. Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, pork, poultry, fish or shellfish. Fully cook hamburger, steak, chicken and pork so they don’t have any blood or pink areas.
  • Don’t eat foods made with homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce or other products prepared with raw or half-cooked eggs.
  • Keep cold foods, like pasta or potato salad, in a cooler.
  • Throw away any food that sits at room temperature for more than 2 hours. It may be contaminated and may make you sick.

For more information visit:
marchofdimes.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Foodsafety.gov

Pregnancy-related death, maternal death and maternal mortality

29
Jun
Posted by Juviza Rodriguez

There are nearly 4 million births every year in the United States. Although most pregnancies and births go smoothly, some do not. Sadly, some women die from pregnancy-related causes. You may have heard about pregnancy-related death or maternal death (also called maternal mortality) in the news lately. Although pregnancy-related death and maternal death have similar meanings, they are not the same thing. So what’s the difference?

Pregnancy-related death is when a woman dies during pregnancy or within 1 year after the end of her pregnancy from health problems related to pregnancy.

Maternal death is when a woman dies during pregnancy or up to 42 days after the end of pregnancy from health problems related to pregnancy.

How common is pregnancy-related death?

The good news is that pregnancy-related death is not very common. About 700 women die each year from pregnancy-related problems. While only a small number of women are affected, this continues to be a serious problem. Unfortunately, pregnancy-related death in this country has increased over the last 25 years and continues to rise.

What causes pregnancy-related death and who is at risk?

Pregnancy-related death and maternal death may be caused by:

  • A health condition (like heart disease) that you had before pregnancy that gets worse because of pregnancy
  • A pregnancy complication, like preeclampsia (a serious condition that affects blood pressure that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth). Other complications include infection (illness caused by bad germs) and hemorrhage (heavy bleeding).
  • Treatment you get during pregnancy

In the United States, women age 35 to 39 are about 2 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as women age 20 to 24. The risk for women who are 40 and older is even higher. Some racial groups are at higher risk as well. For

What can you do to reduce your risk?

Getting regular health care before, during and after pregnancy helps you and your health care provider find out about health problems that can put you at risk. Learning warning signs of complications can help you get early treatment and may prevent death.

Always trust your instincts. If you’re worried about your health or your pregnancy or if you have signs or symptoms of conditions that can cause problems during pregnancy, call your provider right away or go to the hospital.

March of Dimes supports efforts to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and the unacceptably large disparities in rates experienced by black women. To learn more visit marchofdimes.org/wontstop.

 

 

What is sickle cell disease?

26
Jun
Posted by March of Dimes

Sickle cell disease (also called SCD) is an inherited condition that affects a person’s red blood cells. Inherited means it’s passed from parent to child through genes. A person with SCD has red blood cells shaped like a sickle. A sickle is a farm tool shaped like the letter C.

Healthy red blood cells are round and flexible. They can move easily through the body’s blood vessels. When a person has SCD, the red blood cells get stuck and clog the blood flow. These blockages cause pain, infections and sometimes organ damage and strokes. SCD also may cause anemia. Anemia is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.

SCD or sickle cell trait

SCD happens when a person inherits a gene change for sickle cell from both parents. If you inherit the gene change from just one parent, you have sickle cell trait. Even though this means you don’t have SCD, you can still pass the sickle cell trait to your children.

If you and your partner both have sickle cell trait, there’s a:

  • 3-in-4 chance (75 percent) that your baby won’t have SCD
  • 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) that your baby will have sickle cell trait
  • 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby will have SCD
  • 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby won’t have SCD or sickle cell trait

Find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait

You can find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait. You are more likely to have them if:

  • You’re black or Hispanic or if your family’s ancestors are from Africa, the Caribbean, Greece, India, Italy, Malta, Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey or South or Central America.
  • Members of your family have SCD or sickle cell trait. To help you find out, take your family health history. This is a record of any health conditions that run in your or your partner’s family.

You and your partner can get tested to find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait. There are two tests, and both are safe during pregnancy. One is a blood test, and the other is a swab inside your mouth. This means your health care provider rubs a cotton swab against the inside of your cheek to get some cells.

How can you find out if your baby has SCD or sickle cell trait?

If you or your partner has SCD or sickle cell trait, ask your provider about having a prenatal test, like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS) to find out if your baby has either condition.

All babies are tested for SCD after birth as part of the newborn screening tests. This allows babies who have SCD to be identified quickly and treated early. Because children with SCD are at an increased risk of infection and other health problems, early diagnosis and treatment are important.

More information

Working during pregnancy

21
Jun
Posted by March of Dimes

It comes as no surprise to know that many women work during pregnancy. Some women work right up until their due date, or close to it. One of the first things many women think about is when to share the big news with their boss and coworkers. Here are some other things to think about as a working mom to-be:

  • Your safety. It’s important to stay healthy and safe at work, especially during pregnancy. If you work with chemicals or have to lift or carry heavy things, talk to your boss about changing your job responsibilities. Standing all day or working with things like pesticides or radiation may put your health and your baby’s health at risk.
  • Time away from work for prenatal care checkups. Prenatal care is medical care you get during pregnancy. Going to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. At the beginning of pregnancy, you get a prenatal checkup once a month (every 4 weeks). Later in pregnancy you go for checkups more often. Talk to your boss about flex time or how to make up the time you miss from work.
  • Planning your maternity leave. Maternity leave is time you take off from work when you have a baby. When planning your maternity leave, think about a start date and how long you plan on staying home after your baby is born. Talk to your boss or human resources department about maternity leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (also called FMLA), employees can take time off without pay (up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year) for pregnancy- and family-related health issues. Find out how this works as part of maternity leave. Pregnancy, labor and birth go smoothly for most women. But sometimes things don’t go as planned, especially if you have pregnancy complications. If this happens, you may need to adjust the timing of your leave.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act says that employers can’t discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or other related health conditions. If you’re pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions, your employer has to treat you just like any other employee with a similar condition.

Pregnancy should never be the cause of a woman being discriminated against, denied opportunity, treated unfairly or compensated less. Supporting healthy pregnancies is critical to reducing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality (death). March of Dimes fights for the health of all moms and babies and works with government, employers and health care providers to make positive changes for every mom and every baby.

To learn more visit: marchofdimes.org

Choosing the right birth control for you

19
Jun
Posted by March of Dimes

Planning your pregnancy helps you be in control of having a baby when you’re ready. But until you’re ready to start your family, birth control can help keep you from getting pregnant. There are different types of birth control. Talk to your health care provider to help you choose the right birth control method for you.

Your provider can help you understand how different methods work, how well they prevent pregnancy and if they have side effects. Other things to think about when choosing birth control include how it may affect your health, your need to prevent sexually transmitted infections (also called STIs) and when you want to have a baby.

Here are some birth control options:

Intrauterine devices (also called IUDs). An IUD is a small, plastic T-shaped device that your provider puts in your uterus. IUDs are one of the most effective types of birth control. There are two types: hormonal and copper. Hormonal IUDs contain progestin, which is a form of the hormone progesterone. Hormonal IUDs can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 5 years, depending on what brand you choose. Copper IUDs don’t contain progestin. The copper on the IUD prevents pregnancy because it makes it hard for a sperm and egg to meet. Copper IUDs can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years.

Implants. An implant is a tiny rod that your provider inserts in your arm. The implant releases progestin to help prevent pregnancy. The rod is about the size of a matchstick. It’s hard to notice once it’s inserted in your arm. Implants can prevent pregnancy for about 3 years.

The pill (also called oral contraceptive). You take one birth control pill every day. Some pills have progestin only, and some have a combination of progestin and estrogen (called combined pills). If you’re older than 35, smoke or have blood clots, you may not be able to take combined pills because you may be at risk for heart disease and thrombophilias.

Condoms. Male and female condoms help prevent pregnancy by keeping your partner’s sperm from getting into your body. They also help protect you from STIs. Condoms are one of the most popular types of birth control. Most male condoms are made of latex (rubber), but some are made of lambskin and other non-latex kinds of plastic. Condoms made of lambskin may not prevent STIs. A female condom (also called an internal condom) is made of plastic or rubber and goes inside your vagina.

Abstinence. To abstain from sex means you are making a choice not to have sex. This method is the only one that is 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. It also can prevent STIs if you avoid all types of sexual activities.

Birth control, counseling and follow-up care is a preventive service covered by most health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, at no extra cost to you. Learn more about recommended preventive services that are covered under the Affordable Care Act at Care Women Deserve.

For more information visit: