Stacey D. Stewart speaks to Congress about maternal death

28
Sep
Posted by March of Dimes

March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart spoke before the U.S. Congress yesterday (September 27, 2018). She urged lawmakers to pass legislation to help prevent the death of women from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The United States is facing a maternal health crisis, making our country one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to give birth.

Stewart started her testimony by showing the members of Congress a hospital receiving blanket used to wrap a baby after birth. She said, “any of us with children will never forget that first moment when the doctor placed our precious baby boy or girl in our arms, wrapped warmly in one of these blankets.” Then she explained that more than 700 times a year a mother dies, leaving a baby without a mom to hold him.  Each year in the United States, 700 families face the devastating experience of losing a mom due to a pregnancy-related death.

Stewart also talked about another alarming problem affecting even more families and moms. In the United States every year, more than 50,000 women have a near-miss (nearly die) from severe complications from labor and childbirth. The emotional and disturbing effects of these experiences distress women and families sometimes for a lifetime.

In the United States almost every measure of mom and baby health and wellbeing is getting worse:

Stewart also highlighted how racial disparities are affecting Black women in our country. “Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women— a truly shocking and appalling disparity,” she said.

We all must address this public health crisis. Help us lead the fight for the health of all moms and babies. Join the March of Dimes advocacy network and take action now to support legislation that can help protect all moms and babies. And learn about the signs and symptoms of health complications after birth to help you know when something’s not right. Knowing what to look for can help save your life. And sharing this information may help save others.

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

 

What do you need to know about respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)?

10
Oct
Posted by March of Dimes

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. Almost all babies get it before the age of 2. Your baby can get RSV at any time of year, but it’s most common from November to April.

Signs and symptoms of RSV

For most healthy children, signs and symptoms of RSV are similar to those of a cold and can last about two weeks. They can include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sluggish or being inactive
  • Wheezing or having trouble breathing

Some babies have a high risk of getting severe RSV. This includes premature babies and babies with lung problems, heart problems and other chronic illnesses. Severe RSV may lead to other serious infections, like:

  • Bronchiolitis, an infection that causes swelling in the smallest air passages in the lungs
  • Pneumonia, an infection in one or both lungs

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than 1 year of age.

Call your baby’s health care provider right away if your baby:

  • Has a cough that gets worse, or she coughs up yellow, green or gray mucus
  • Has a fever higher than 100.4 F if your baby is younger than 2 months, higher than 101F if your baby is 3 to 6 months old or higher than 103F if your baby is older than 6 months
  • Looks dehydrated. This means your baby doesn’t have enough water in his body. Your baby may be dehydrated if he has fewer tears when crying or sunken eyes or if he urinates less frequently.
  • Isn’t hungry
  • Has a thick nasal discharge
  • Has trouble breathing or her mouth and fingernails look blue

Prevent the spread of RSV

You can help protect your baby from RSV by:

  • Keeping your baby away from people who are sneezing or coughing
  • Making sure everyone who touches your baby has clean hands
  • Keeping your baby away from crowds of people
  • Not letting anyone to smoke near your baby

Babies who are at high risk of severe RSV may get medicine that helps prevent RSV from becoming severe. Your baby may get this medicine called palivizumab during the fall and winter months. The medicine doesn’t cure RSV, and it’s not used to treat children who already have severe RSV or to prevent mild RSV. If your baby is at high risk for severe RSV, talk to her provider about treating your baby with palivizumab.

Treatment for RSV

There is no specific treatment for RSV. If your baby has RSV, you can help relieve symptoms by making sure she gets extra rest and drinks lots of fluids. You can use a rubber suction bulb to help clear mucus from her nose. And use a cool-mist humidifier to help your baby breathe more easily. If your baby has a fever, talk to her provider about using acetaminophen.

For more information about RSV and other health conditions, visit marchofdimes.org

Grief: Do men and women grieve differently?

05
Oct
Posted by March of Dimes

The loss of a baby is one of the most painful experiences that can happen to a family. October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, a day to dedicated to recognize and support moms and families who have lost a baby. If your baby died during pregnancy or after birth, you and your partner need time to grieve.

Everyone grieves in his own way. Men and women often show grief in different ways. Even if you and your partner agree on lots of things, you may feel and show your grief differently.

Different ways of dealing with grief may cause problems for you and your partner. For example, you may think your partner isn’t as upset about your baby’s death as you are. You may think he doesn’t care as much. This may make you angry. At the same time, your partner may feel that you’re too emotional. He may not want to hear about your feelings so often and may think you’ll never get over your grief. He also may feel left out of all the support you’re getting.

Women have a special bond with their baby during pregnancy. But men may not feel as close to their baby. Men don’t carry the baby in their body, so the baby may seem less real to them. A man may become more attached to the baby later in pregnancy when he feels the baby kick or sees the baby on an ultrasound.

In general, here’s how women may show their grief:

  • They may want to talk about the death of their baby often and with many people.
  • They may show their feelings more often. They may cry or get angry a lot.
  • They may be more likely to ask their partner, family or friends for help. Or they may go to their place of worship or to a support group.

In general, here’s how men may show their grief:

  • They may grieve by themselves. They may not want to talk about their loss. They may spend more time at work or do things away from home to keep from thinking about the loss.
  • They may feel like they’re supposed to be strong and tough and protect their family. They may not know how to show their feelings. They may think that talking about feelings makes them seem weak.
  • They may try to work through grief on their own rather than ask for help.

It’s OK to show your pain and grief differently than your partner. Be patient and caring with each other. Try to talk about your thoughts and feelings and how you want to remember your baby.

If you or someone you know has lost a baby, visit our online community, Share Your Story. This can be a place of comfort and support for grieving families.

How to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome

03
Oct
Posted by March of Dimes

October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old. Here are some things you can do to help reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS.

How can you make sure your baby’s sleeping in a safe place?

  • Put your baby to sleep on his back on a flat, firm surface, like a crib mattress covered with a tightly fitted sheet. Use a safety-approved mattress and crib.
  • Visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to learn more about product safety standards or product recalls.
  • Put your baby to bed in his own crib or bassinet. Don’t bed-share. Share a room with your baby, but not the same bed. If you have multiples (twins, triplets or more), put each baby in his own bassinet or crib.
  • Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area. This includes blankets, pillows, bumper pads, and soft toys.
  • Don’t let your baby sleep in his carrier, sling, car seat or stroller.
  • Don’t put your baby to sleep on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress or other soft surface. Portable bed rails don’t always prevent a baby from rolling out of bed. Babies can get stuck in them and choke.
  • Remove any hanging window cords or electrical wires near where your baby sleeps. Babies can get tangled in them and choke.

How do you put your baby to sleep safely?

  • Place your baby on her back at all sleep times until she’s 1 year old – this includes naps and at night.
  • Don’t let your baby get too hot while she’s sleeping. Dress her in light sleep clothes. A blanket sleeper (a kind of clothing just for sleeping) can help keep your baby warm without covering his face or head. If your baby is sweating or her chest feels hot, she may be overheated.
  • Give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime. Pacifiers may help protect against SIDS. Wait until your baby is 1 month old before using the pacifier, if you’re breastfeeding.

What else can you do to help reduce the risk of SIDS?

  • Breastfeed your baby. The longer you exclusively breastfeed your baby, the lower the risk of SIDS for your baby.
  • Don’t smoke during pregnancy. Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around your baby.

Learn more about how to help your baby sleep safely at: marchofdimes.org

March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart urges Congress to take action to save moms’ lives

27
Sep
Posted by March of Dimes

Each year in the United States 700 women die from pregnancy-related causes and more than 50,000 have a near-miss (nearly-die) from severe complications from labor and childbirth. The U.S. is one of the most dangerous places in the developing world to give birth. This is simply unacceptable.

March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart speaks to the House of Representatives about the maternal and child health crisis happening in our country. Stewart testifies about the urgent need for legislation that can help save moms’ lives. Watch now!

How to keep your food safe

20
Sep
Posted by March of Dimes

The foods you eat during pregnancy can help you and your baby be healthy. Eat healthy foods and make sure you handle and prepare them safely and correctly. Handling food safely can help prevent you from getting sick. This is especially important during pregnancy when your body’s immune system is weakened. Your immune system is your body’s way of protecting itself from illnesses and diseases.

Follow these guidelines to help protect you and your baby from harmful germs in your food.

Clean everything.

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables under running tap water before eating them. Remove surface dirt with a scrub brush. Cut away any damaged sections because they can contain harmful germs.
  • Wash utensils and cutting boards with hot, soapy water after each use. Don’t use cutting boards made of wood. They can hold more germs than other kinds of cutting boards.
  • After preparing food, clean countertops with hot, soapy water.

Separate, cook and chill food properly.

  • Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Use a different board for fruits and vegetables.
  • When you’re shopping and storing foods, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices separate from other foods.
  • Cook foods to their proper temperature. For example, cook poultry until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F.
  • Make sure your refrigerator’s temperature is between 32F and 40F and the freezer at 0F or below.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours after its preparation. At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes.
  • Chill foods that need to be kept cold. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
  • Thaw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator, not on the counter or in the sink.

For more information on how to have a healthy pregnancy, visit marchofdimes.org

Heart conditions and pregnancy

18
Sep
Posted by March of Dimes

It’s not surprising to hear that being healthy before pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy complications. But if you have a heart condition like heart disease or a health problem like high blood pressure (which can lead to heart problems), you might worry about how it could affect your pregnancy. Here are a few things to know:

  • High blood pressure can cause preeclampsia and premature birth during pregnancy. But managing your blood pressure can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
  • During pregnancy, your heart has much more work to do than before you got pregnant. It has to beat faster and pump more blood. If you have heart disease, then this extra stress on your heart may be a concern.
  • Most women with heart disease have safe pregnancies. But symptoms of heart disease can increase during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters.
  • Some medicines carry a risk for birth defects. These include ACE inhibitors and blood thinners. These are a type of medicine that may be used to treat heart and blood pressure conditions. If you take these medicines, ask your health care provider about their safety and about other medicines that may be safer for you and your baby. But don’t stop taking any medicine without your provider’s OK.

Planning your treatment before pregnancy

Planning your pregnancy can help you make informed decisions about what’s best for you and your baby. Heart problems are one of the leading causes of pregnancy related-death. Getting early treatment for conditions that can cause complications during and after pregnancy may help save your life.

If you have a heart condition, talk to your health care team (for example, your cardiologist and obstetrician) before you get pregnant. They can help you understand what risks (if any) you may have during pregnancy. You also can talk to them about any concerns you have, like changing to a safer medicine. You may want to meet with a genetic counselor to review the risks of passing congenital heart problems to your baby. This risk varies depending on the cause of the heart disease.

If you have high blood pressure, talk to your provider about a treatment plan to help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy. By managing your health before pregnancy, you and your provider can make sure you’re ready for pregnancy.

Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about having a healthy pregnancy and reducing your risk for complications.