November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Join in the fight for the health of all moms and babies.

01
Nov
Posted by March of Dimes

Premature birth is birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Being born too soon can cause problems for babies all throughout their lives. The earlier in pregnancy a baby is born, the more likely he is to have health problems. Sadly, premature birth and the health problems it can cause are the main causes of infant death in the United States and around the world. We believe that every baby deserves the best possible start. Unfortunately, not all babies get one.

In the United States, more than 380,000 babies are born prematurely every year. This number isn’t getting any better. For the third year in a row, the preterm birth rate in this country has gone up. Equally alarming are the disparities (differences) we see in preterm birth rates. For example, more than 20 percent of premature babies are born to black women. That’s 1 in 5 babies. This is not acceptable, and we are fighting to change it.

This November we ask you to join us in the fight to bring about change. Together we can raise awareness and advocate for the health of all moms and babies. Together we can give every baby a brighter future. Here’s how you can help:

  • Join our Twitter chat on November 14th at 3pm ET. Help us elevate the conversation about prematurity awareness along with an amazing group of organizations. Use #PreemieChat and #WellnessWed.
  • Share/Retweet/Repost March of Dimes messages. Show your support with your friends and followers on your social media pages. Here are some you great social messages you can share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • On November 17th, World Prematurity Day, help us light the world purple! Change your profile picture on Facebook using the World Prematurity Day frame or add a World Prematurity Day Twibbon to your Facebook or Twitter profile picture.
  • Tell your Representative to support the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act of 2018. This bill will maintain and improve federal programs focused on trying to find the causes of premature birth and how to prevent it.
  • Join our advocacy network. Together we can help policymakers understand why the health of women, babies and families is so important. Sign up at actioncenter.marchofdimes.org.
  • Donate and help families. Visit our gift guide to make a difference for all moms and babies. Start a Facebook fundraiser to make a meaningful gift to help moms and babies in your community and across the country. Join the fight for the health of all moms and babies at marchofdimes.org/donate. When you donate November 10-17, your gift will be matched to make triple the impact in the fight for the health of all moms and babies.

Premature birth can happen to anyone. Even if you do everything right during pregnancy, you can still have preterm labor and premature birth. Learn the signs and symptoms of preterm labor and what to do if they happen to you. If you do begin labor early, there are treatments that may help stop your labor. Visit marchofdimes.org to learn more.

It’s Prematurity Awareness Month – Come chat with us!

13
Nov
Posted by March of Dimes

November is Prematurity Awareness Month, and World Prematurity Day is on November 17. Come and chat with us on Twitter. Raise your voice and join us in the fight for the health of all moms and babies to help give every baby a brighter future.

March of Dimes is a champion for families, fighting for the health of moms and babies in communities like yours and across the country. Unfortunately, the preterm birth rate is continuing to rise.  While we believe that every baby deserves the best possible start, not all babies get one. Each year 15 million babies are born prematurely worldwide and more than 380,000 are born prematurely in the U.S. Premature birth and its related health problems are the main causes of infant death in the United States and around the world. This is not acceptable, and we are fighting to change it.

You can help families in your community and across the nation by creating awareness of the threats facing moms and babies. Join the #PreemieChat on November 14th at 3 pm ET for a bilingual #WellnessWed discussion.

We hope to see you on Twitter!

Pregnancy after a premature birth

09
Nov
Posted by March of Dimes

If you had a premature birth in the past, you may be worried about having a premature birth in another pregnancy.

No one knows for sure what causes premature birth. Even if you do everything right, you can still give birth early. Women who have had a premature birth in the past are at increased risk of having a premature birth in another pregnancy. If you’ve given birth early, here are some things you can do to help reduce your risk for premature birth in your next pregnancy:

Wait 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again.

Waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies gives your body time to recover from one pregnancy so it’s ready for the next one. Use birth control so you don’t get pregnant again too soon. Talk to your health care provider about the best birth control option for you.

Get a preconception checkup.

This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant. Being as healthy as possible when you get pregnant can help you have a healthy, full-term pregnancy. At your preconception checkup you and your provider can talk about:

Talk to your provider about progesterone shots.

Progesterone is a hormone that helps your uterus grow and keeps it from having contractions. Progesterone shots may help prevent premature birth if both of these describe you:

  • You were pregnant before with just one baby and had spontaneous premature birth. Spontaneous premature birth means labor started on its own.
  • You’re pregnant with just one baby.

Talk to your provider about your risk for preeclampsia.

If you’re at risk for preeclampsia, your provider may recommend that you take low-dose aspirin (baby aspirin) to help prevent it. Preeclampsia is a kind of high blood pressure some women get after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth. If not treated, it can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including premature birth.

Quit smoking, drinking alcohol and using harmful drugs.  

All of these can put your health and your baby’s health at risk and make you more likely to give birth early. Quitting or getting help to quit is the best thing you can do. Talk to your provider about programs that can help you quit.

To learn more about reducing your risk for premature birth, visit: marchofdimes.org

Premature Birth Report Cards grades are not so good this year

06
Nov
Posted by March of Dimes

The 2018 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Cards are in and the grades aren’t good. The United States received a disappointing grade “C.”

March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Cards monitor progress in reducing the number of babies born prematurely in the United States each year. The Report Cards grade all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico on their preterm birth rate, as well as the nation as a whole. The Report Cards also show racial, ethnic and geographic disparities (differences) in premature birth in each state. Premature birth is birth that happens early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies are more likely than babies born on time to have health problems at birth and later in life.

The number of babies born prematurely has increased for the third year in a row in the United States. Every two seconds a baby is born prematurely in our country. More than 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. each year, and more than 20 percent of them are born to black women.  Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributors to babies dying in the first year of life. We need to come together as a community to create awareness and find solutions that help moms and babies be healthy.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the overall United States preterm birth rate rose from 9.85 in 2016 to 9.93 in 2017. Compared to rates in 2016, in 2017:

  • 30 states had a worse rate
  • 6 states stayed the same
  • 16 states improved their rate

There is no single cause of premature birth, but research shows that unequal access to quality health care does have a negative impact on these rates. This was revealed in a recent March of Dimes report showing how certain counties in the United States don’t have access to maternity care. Communities with higher poverty rates tend to have less access to quality maternity care. These and other factors contribute to the continued increase in premature birth in this country.

Although we don’t know all the causes of premature birth, March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies by:

  • Working to ensure women have access to health checkups before, during and after pregnancy
  • Providing programs that help more women have access to care, like group prenatal care
  • Educating families and communities to help women have healthier pregnancies
  • Supporting moms through every stage of the pregnancy journey, even when things don’t go as planned
  • Researching the causes of premature birth
  • Advocating for policies to protect moms and babies and give them the best possible start
  • Helping the voices of all women and families be heard

Find out your state’s grade and visit marchofdimes.org/blanketchange to learn more about what you can do to help every pregnant woman in America get the care she needs.

Can I get an X-ray during pregnancy?

26
Oct
Posted by March of Dimes

If you’re pregnant and you need a diagnostic imaging test, like an X-ray, you may be wondering if it’s safe for your baby. In many cases, there’s no need to worry. But it’s important to tell any health care provider, including your dentist, that you’re pregnant before you get an X-ray or other tests that use radiation.

What is radiation?

Radiation is a kind of energy. It travels as waves or particles in the air. Radiation can attach itself to materials like dust, powder or liquid. These materials can become radioactive, which means that they give off radiation. In large amounts, radiation can be harmful to you and your baby.

You are exposed to (come in contact with) small amounts of radiation nearly every day. This radiation comes from natural sources (like sun rays) and man-made sources (like X-rays). These kinds of radiation don’t cause serious harm. During pregnancy, your body protects your baby from most radiation that you’re exposed to every day.

What imaging tests use radiation?

These diagnostic imaging tests use radiation:

  • X-ray. This is a medical test that uses radiation to make a picture of your body on film.
  • Computed tomography (also called CT or CAT scan). CT scans use special X-ray equipment and powerful computers to make pictures of the inside of your body.
  • This test uses an X-ray beam to show a continuous picture on a monitor, like an X-ray movie.

Most of the time, it’s OK to get an X-ray during pregnancy if it’s needed to give your provider important information about your health. But if you’re pregnant and need an X-ray of your belly, your provider may want to wait until your baby’s born, modify the test to reduce the amount of radiation or use other tests that doesn’t use radiation.

You and your provider can decide what treatment is best for you.

What imaging tests don’t use radiation?

Your provider may want to use a test that doesn’t use radiation if you’re pregnant. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends using these tests when possible if you need an imaging test during pregnancy:

  • This test uses sound waves and a computer screen to show a picture of the inside of your body.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (also called MRI). This is a medical test that makes a detailed picture of the inside of your body. It uses a magnetic field and radio waves to make the picture.

To learn more about radiation during pregnancy, visit marchofdimes.org.

Do you live in a maternity care desert?

25
Oct
Posted by March of Dimes

Maternity care is the health care women get during pregnancy, labor and birth and in the postpartum period after giving birth. Getting quality maternity care can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. But not every woman in the U.S. gets good maternity care. One reason for this is because they live in a maternity care desert. A maternity care desert is an area where there are not enough hospitals, health care providers or health care services for pregnant and postpartum women.

A new report from March of Dimes shows where maternity care deserts exist and how they affect the health of moms and babies. Here are some of the findings:

  • More than 5 million women in the U.S. live in a maternity care desert.
  • About 1,085 counties in the U.S. have hospitals without services for pregnant women.
  • Almost 150,000 babies are born to women living in maternity care deserts.
  • Counties with maternity care deserts have a higher number of people living in poverty.

Maternity care deserts are a problem for all of us.

Having good quality and on-time health care services can help women have healthier pregnancies and babies. Through health checkups, a provider can spot health conditions and treat them before they become serious. Women who live in maternity care deserts may be at higher risk of having serious health complications and even death. Babies who are born prematurely or with special health conditions may not get the medical care they need in counties with maternity care deserts. The health of moms and babies is at risk when they live in counties with maternity care deserts.

The United States is facing a maternal health crisis.

More than 700 moms died due to pregnancy-related causes this year alone, making the United States one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to give birth. Women of color are most at risk of facing life-threatening complications. Black women are three times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy-related causes. More than 50,000 women have a near-miss (nearly die) from severe complications from labor and childbirth every year.

What can you do?

You can take action now and help us fight for the health of all moms.

A quick guide to preconception health

23
Oct
Posted by March of Dimes

If you are thinking of getting pregnant, whether it’s soon or sometime in the future, one thing is for sure—your preconception health matters! So what is preconception health exactly?

Preconception health is your health before pregnancy. In addition to helping improve your chances of getting pregnant, being healthy before pregnancy can help prevent complications when you do get pregnant. Good preconception health includes getting a preconception checkup and talking to your health care provider about any health conditions you, your partner and everyone in your families have had.

Once you and your partner feel you are ready to have a baby, it’s important that you start to focus on your health at least 3 months before you start trying to get pregnant. Here are some things you can do:

Take a vitamin supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it each day. This is very important. Folic acid helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine in your baby called neural tube defects (NTDs).

Stay away from harmful substances. Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use street drugs. All of these can make it harder for you to get pregnant, and they’re harmful to your baby when you do get pregnant. Tell your provider if you need help to quit.

Make sure medicines you take won’t harm your baby. Some medications are not safe to use when you’re pregnant, so you may need to stop taking them or switch to something safer. Tell your provider about any medicine you take. Don’t stop taking any prescription medicine without your provider’s OK. Stopping certain medicines, can be more harmful to you or your baby than taking the medicine. If you take prescription opioids (medicine used to relieve pain) tell your provider, even if it was prescribed to you by another provider. Using opioids during pregnancy can cause problems for your baby.

Get treatment for health conditions. Conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure can cause serious problems if they are not under control. Your provider can also check for infections, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Get vaccinated. Make sure all of your vaccinations are up to date before pregnancy. Infections like chickenpox and rubella (also called German measles) can harm you and your baby during pregnancy. Get a flu shot once a year before flu season (October through May).

Get to a healthy weight. If you are overweight or underweight, you are at higher risk for complications, like premature birth. Talk to your provider about what a healthy weight is for you.

Take care of your mental health: If you think you may be depressed, talk to your provider right away. There are many ways to deal with depression. Getting treatment and counseling early may help.

Depression during pregnancy: what you need to know

17
Oct
Posted by March of Dimes

Depression is more than just feeling sad. It’s a medical condition that affects your thoughts, can interfere with your daily life and even causes changes to your body. It needs treatment to get better.

The signs or symptoms of depression last for more than two weeks. These are the signs and symptoms to look for:

Changes in your feelings 

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or overwhelmed
  • Feeling restless or moody
  • Crying a lot
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Thinking about death or suicide

Changes in your everyday life 

  • Eating more or less than you usually do
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering things or making decisions
  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Losing interest in things you used to do

Changes in your body 

  • Having no energy and feeling tired all the time
  • Having headaches, stomach problems or other aches and pains that don’t go away

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your health care provider.

Depression during pregnancy

If you’ve had depression before, you’re more likely than other women to experience depression during pregnancy. Being pregnant can make depression worse or make it come back if you’ve been treated in the past and were feeling better.

If you have depression during pregnancy and don’t get treatment, you may not feel well enough to make sure you are eating healthy foods and you may not gain the right amount of weight. You may miss prenatal care appointments or have trouble remembering and following medical instructions. Or you may smoke, drink alcohol, use street drugs or misuse prescription drugs. All of these things can affect your baby before he’s born.

Depression that is not treated during pregnancy can increase the risk of:

  • Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • A low-birthweight baby (a baby weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces)
  • A baby who is more irritable, less active, less attentive and has fewer facial expressions than babies born to moms who don’t have depression during pregnancy.
  • Postpartum depression.

Treatment for depression during pregnancy

It’s best if you work with a team of providers to treat your depression during pregnancy. These providers can work together to make sure you and your baby get the best care. They may include your prenatal care provider and a professional who treats your depression (such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or counselor).

There are several treatment options available for depression during pregnancy including talk therapy, support groups and medicine, such as antidepressants. Make sure you talk to your provider about the best choice for you.

If you think you have depression during pregnancy, talk to your provider. You may need treatment to help you feel better.

For more information about depression, including resources and medication safety, visit marchofdimes.org 

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day, a personal story

15
Oct
Posted by March of Dimes

Today’s guest post is Stacey Skrysak. Stacey Skrysak is a television news anchor & blogger based in Illinois. She is a mother to a 22-weeker surviving triplet and two children in Heaven. Through her experience, Stacey has become a voice for premature birth and child loss, all while sprinkling in the trials and tribulations of raising a preemie who was once nicknamed the “Diva” of the NICU. 

It’s a club no parent ever wants to be part of. Yet one in four women will experience the heartbreaking loss of a child, whether it’s through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. We are mothers, fathers, survivors. We are the parents who have the tricky task of learning to spread our love between Heaven and earth.

It’s something you never plan on. After years of infertility, my husband and I were shocked and overjoyed as we found out we were expecting triplets. I knew I faced a high-risk pregnancy, but I never imagined that losing a child could become a reality. As I basked in the glow of three babies growing within me, doctors kept a close eye on me. I did everything by the book, yet our lives forever changed when I went into labor at just 22 weeks gestation. Nothing prepares you for the moment you meet your baby, only to say goodbye hours later.

Our firstborn baby passed away two hours after birth; our son died 55 days later, never seeing life beyond the hospital walls. Within two months, two of our triplets were gone. We were left balancing the grief with trying to stay strong for our survivor, who faced an uphill battle in the NICU.

In the early days of my losses, I felt alone. It wasn’t that people didn’t reach out to offer support. Instead, I shut myself off from the world. I didn’t want to explain the traumatic events that unfolded, and I didn’t want to talk about my babies. I felt like a failure. Two of my three children had died, their premature bodies simply born too early to survive. The guilt overwhelmed me, while my sadness consumed me.

But, as my surviving triplet grew stronger, so did my inner strength. I couldn’t live my life wondering, “Why me?” I pored through my voicemail, emails and other messages and found a support system that spanned the globe. What surprised me the most was the number of people who, like me, experienced a loss. Strangers shared their experience of having to bury a child. Childhood friends reached out to me to share their devastating losses from miscarriage and stillbirth.

Peyton and Parker

I quickly realized, I am not alone.

It’s been more than five years since two of my children died, and while there are still moments of deep heartache, I have found that grief changes over time. These days I find myself in a good place; full of happiness and love as I look at my beautiful daughter, while finding ways to honor and remember her brother and sister in Heaven. Life doesn’t always go as planned, but through my losses, I have found new purpose in life. My triplets taught me to live life to the fullest, for you never know what tomorrow may bring. And while I joined a club no parent ever wants to be part of, I am forever grateful for this group that shares a common bond. I am a mother of triplets, one in my arms and two in my heart. And thanks to others who reminded me I am not alone, I have found life after loss.

  • Visit Share Your Story®, our online community where families who have lost a baby can talk to and comfort each other. Sharing your family’s story may ease your pain and help you heal.
  • Visit our new Wall of Remembrance, a space for parents and loved ones living with loss to pay tribute and share their story.

It’s time to schedule your flu shot

12
Oct
Posted by March of Dimes

A new study published today showed that pregnant women who got the flu shot had an average of 40 percent less risk of being hospitalized from flu. The study, co-authored by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), analyzed data from more than 2 million pregnant women over the course of 6 flu seasons. This is the first study to show how women who get a flu shot are at lower risk of flu-associated hospitalization.

The flu is more than just a runny nose and sore throat. It’s a serious illness that can make you very sick. The flu can be especially harmful if you get it during pregnancy or right after you’ve had your baby.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop full protection against the flu (also called immunity). Getting the flu vaccine is especially important for babies 6 months and older, young children, pregnant women and other high-risk groups.

Do you need to get a flu vaccine every year?

Yes! Flu viruses change every year, so just because you got a flu vaccine last year doesn’t mean that you are protected this year. The flu vaccine is made to protect against the flu viruses that are likely to be the most common during the flu season. Also, protection from the flu only lasts about a year. For these reasons, everyone 6 months and older need a flu vaccine every year.

Are flu vaccines safe for pregnant women?

It’s safe for most pregnant women to get the flu shot. Tell your health care provider if you have any severe allergies or if you’ve ever had a severe allergic reaction to a flu shot. Severe allergic reactions to flu shots are rare. If you’re worried about being allergic to the flu shot, talk to your provider to make sure it’s safe for you.

Some flu vaccines are made with eggs. Most women with egg allergies can get the flu shot. But if you have severe egg allergies, get the shot in a medical setting (like a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic) from a provider who knows how to treat severe allergies and allergic reactions.

Pregnant women should not get the flu nasal spray. This is a spray that’s put in your nose.

How can the flu harm your pregnancy?

The flu can be dangerous during pregnancy because:

  • If you get the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications. Health complications from the flu, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, can be very serious and even deadly.
  • Pregnant women who get the flu are more likely than women who don’t get it to have preterm labor and premature birth (before 37 weeks).
  • Fever from the flu may be linked to birth defects, like neural tube defects, and other problems in your baby.

Will getting a flu vaccine during pregnancy protect your baby?

Getting the flu vaccine during pregnancy helps to protect your baby from the flu after he’s born. If you get the flu vaccine during pregnancy, you pass on your immunity to your baby. Some studies have shown that this can help protect a baby from flu for several months after birth. Your baby should get his own flu vaccine at 6 months.

Are some children more likely to have serious health problems caused by flu than others?

Yes. Babies and children up to 5 years old are more likely than older children to have complications from the flu. Any child older than 6 months with chronic health conditions, like asthma, heart disease or blood disorders, also are is at high risk of complications from flu. Any child older than 6 months should get the flu vaccine every year.

Where can you get a flu vaccine?

You can get the vaccine from your provider. Many pharmacies and workplaces also offer it each fall. You can use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find where the flu vaccine is available in your area.

More information