U.S. study shows fewer babies are dying in their first year of life

22
Mar
Posted by Sara

The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. A new report released by the CDC shows that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. dropped 15% from 2005 to 2014. In kangaroo-care-242005 the rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2014, the rate dropped to 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births.

While the study did not look at the underlying causes of the decline, it did report valuable information:

  • Infant mortality rates declined in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The other 17 states saw no significant changes.
  • Declines were seen in some of the leading causes of infant death including birth defects (11% decline), preterm birth and low birthweight (8% decline), and maternal complications (7% decline).
  • The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) declined by 29%.
  • Infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives.
  • Infants born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

“On the surface, this seems like good news. But it is far from time to celebrate,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes. “What is concerning, though, is that the inequities between non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians and the Caucasian population have persisted.” Dr. Jarris adds, “This report highlights the need to strengthen programs that serve low income and at-risk communities, especially those with the highest infant mortality rates.”

The infant mortality rate is one of the indicators that is often used to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants.

What can you do?

Having a healthy pregnancy may increase the chance of having a healthy baby. Here are some things you can do before and during pregnancy:

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Zika travel guidance – an update and helpful tools

20
Mar
Posted by Barbara

airplaneThe CDC recently updated its Zika travel guidance. March is a time when many people get away from the snow, ice and cold and thaw out in the sunshine of a southern climate. But, before you hop on a plane, it is best to do a little homework first and find out where the Zika virus may be a threat.

An interactive world map will show you areas of Zika risk so that you are able to make an educated travel decision. The map shows international destinations as well as U.S. territories.  You can search for location-specific Zika information and travel recommendations.

Another helpful tool is CDC’s Know Your Zika Risk (scroll down the page to use the widget).  It will help you determine the risk of Zika for each person in your household and assist you in making informed decisions about your health.

If you are going to visit family or a friend in an area with Zika, the CDC tells you what you need to know before, during and after your trip, to keep you and your family safe.

Remember

  • If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, do not travel to an area with active Zika.
  • Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby and can cause serious birth defects.
  • Even men need to protect themselves from Zika, as it can be passed through semen.
  • At this time, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika, and no known cure.

Prevention and protection is key. Learn more on our website.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org for a personalized reply from a health education specialist.

 

What causes gas in breastfed babies?

17
Mar
Posted by Lauren

Dad calming babyEveryone has gas, adults and babies alike. Gas is a result of both swallowing air and the digestion process. If your baby has a lot of gas though, you probably have concerns about the cause and more importantly, how to fix the problem.

So what can cause gas in your baby?

  • Anything that could cause your baby to swallow air: This includes crying, sucking a pacifier and eating from either the breast or a bottle.
  • A forceful letdown: If you’re nursing and have an oversupply of milk, your baby may take in too much milk at one time and swallow air. Changing positions, nursing frequently or expressing some of your milk before latching can help.  Reach out to a Lactation Consultant for assistance.
  • An intolerance to proteins in your diet: Most breastfed babies do not have allergic reactions to their mom’s milk. However, if food allergies run in your family, you should discuss this with your lactation consultant. The proteins from foods such as cow’s milk and peanuts pass through breast milk.  Also, be sure to watch your baby for any allergic reactions such as green, mucus-like stools with signs of blood.

What can help your baby’s gas?

  • Change your position while feeding: Tilt your baby up so her head is higher than her stomach. This will allow air to come up and out and milk to go down more smoothly.
  • Burping more often: Try burping during as well as after a feeding. If you are switching breasts, try burping before moving your baby over to your other side.
  • The bicycle: Lay your baby on her back and move her legs in a bicycle motion. Tummy time can also help put pressure on your baby’s stomach to relieve gas.
  • There are over-the-counter medications that may help relieve your baby’s gas. Ask your baby’s provider for a recommendation.

If your baby has excessive gas, there may be other reasons why it is happening. Reach out to your baby’s provider or your Lactation Consultant for an evaluation.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Zika and sperm – a new concern

15
Mar
Posted by Barbara

spermThe latest news about the Zika virus is that there is a potential risk that some semen donated to sperm banks in South Florida might be contaminated with Zika.

Here’s why:

  • Zika can remain in semen for several months;
  • men who donated semen may not have shown signs or symptoms of Zika yet they could have been infected with the virus;
  • semen is not tested for Zika, unlike blood and tissue donations.

Therefore, it is possible that an infected man may have unknowingly donated semen contaminated with the Zika virus.

Where is the risk?

Although the Zika virus has been identified in Miami-Dade County, the risk of it spreading to other neighboring areas is possible, since individuals in this part of the state often travel to and from Broward and Palm Beach counties.

CDC says “This analysis has led to CDC identifying that since June 15, 2016, there has been a potential increased Zika risk for residents in Broward and Palm Beach counties because of local travel to areas of active transmission in Florida and challenges associated with defining sources of exposure.” The increased risk in the overall numbers of people exposed to the virus means that donor sperm may be at risk, too.

What does this mean to women trying to become pregnant by donor sperm?

Semen contains sperm, which is necessary for a woman to become pregnant. Although the risk of Zika transmission is small, if a woman wishes to become pregnant or currently is pregnant by donor sperm from these areas in Florida, she should speak with her healthcare provider. There have not been any confirmed cases of the Zika virus infecting a pregnant woman from donor sperm, but the possibility exists that it could occur.

The CDC emphasizes that Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause brain problems, microcephaly, and congenital Zika syndrome, a pattern of conditions in the baby that includes brain abnormalities, eye defects, hearing loss, and limb defects.

See our website for more information on Zika during pregnancy, microcephaly, and congenital Zika syndrome.

The CDC website offers detailed guidance for people living or traveling to South Florida.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

March is Trisomy Awareness Month

13
Mar
Posted by Sara

chromosomesWhat is trisomy?

Babies with trisomy are born with an extra copy of a specific chromosome in most or all of their cells. This means that they have three copies of this chromosome in each cell rather than the typical number, which is two. Health conditions that may be associated with trisomy include heart defects, vision or hearing problems, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Chromosomes are the structures in cells that contain genes. Each person normally has 23 pairs of chromosomes, or 46 in all. An individual inherits one chromosome from the mother’s egg and one from the father’s sperm. When an egg and sperm join together, they normally form a fertilized egg with 46 chromosomes.

Sometimes a mistake in cell division occurs before a woman gets pregnant. A developing egg or sperm ends up with an extra chromosome. When this cell joins with a normal egg or sperm cell, the resulting embryo has 47 chromosomes instead of 46.

Common trisomy conditions

Although trisomy can occur with any chromosome, here are the conditions that are most often associated with an extra chromosome:

  • Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome: Down syndrome is one of the most common birth defects. In the US, about 6,000 babies (or 1 in 700) are born with Down syndrome each year. Most affected individuals have intellectual disabilities within the mild to moderate range. Although health conditions such as heart defects and vision and hearing problems are associated, most of these can be treated, and life expectancy is now about 60 years.
  • Trisomy 18 is also called Edward syndrome: Trisomy 18 occurs in about 1 in 5,000 live births each year. Affected individuals may have heart defects, significant intellectual and developmental delays, and other life-threatening medical problems.
  • Trisomy 13, also known as Patau syndrome: Trisomy 13 occurs in about 1 in 10,000 to 16,000 live births each year worldwide. Individuals with trisomy 13 often have heart defects, brain or spinal cord abnormalities, severe intellectual and developmental disabilities, and multiple physical problems in many parts of the body.

It is important to understand that every individual with a trisomy is unique and not all of them will have the same symptoms. The severity of the condition and the associated problems depend on:

  • Which chromosome is duplicated: An extra copy of certain chromosomes, like chromosome 1, is not compatible with life and the embryo will not develop.
  • How much of the extra chromosome is present: If only part of the chromosome is present, symptoms may be milder. If the complete chromosome is present, the symptoms may be more severe.
  • How many cells have the extra chromosome: If the copy of the extra chromosome is in only a few cells (mosaicism), the symptoms are usually less severe than if all of the cells in the body are affected.

In the past 10 years, the March of Dimes has invested over 15  million dollars into research for chromosomal conditions, including trisomy. And many March of Dimes grantees are studying basic biological processes of development. This important research should improve our understanding of how genes and other factors affect the development of a baby.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Do you need carrier screening?

10
Mar
Posted by Sara

preconception healthRecently the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) updated their recommendations for carrier screening.

A gene is a part of your body’s cells that stores instructions for the way your body grows and works. Genes come in pairs—you get one of each pair from each parent.

Sometimes the instructions in genes change. This is called a gene change or a mutation. Parents can pass gene changes to their children. Sometimes a gene change can cause a gene to not work correctly. Sometimes it can cause birth defects or other health conditions.

For certain conditions, if you inherit a gene change from just one parent, you have the gene change but not the disease. When this happens, you’re called a carrier. A carrier of a genetic mutation does not have any symptoms of the disease or condition. But, if their partner carries a change in the same gene, then they are at risk to have a baby with the condition.

If you and your partner both carry the gene change for a condition, your baby may get two gene changes (one from each of you) and have the disease. If both you and your partner are carriers (you both have the gene change), there is:

A 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby can have the disease

A 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby won’t have the disease and won’t be a carrier

A 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) that your baby won’t have the disease but will be a carrier

Who should get carrier screening?

Carrier screening is simply a blood test. The updated recommendations for carrier screening include:

  • All pregnant women should be offered information about carrier screening. They may then choose to have some screening or none at all.
  • Ideally, carrier screening should be done before pregnancy.
  • If a woman is a carrier for a specific condition, her partner should be offered carrier screening as well.
  • If both parents are found to be carriers of a specific disorder, they should meet with a genetic counselor. This will allow them to better understand the condition, the possible risks to their children, and how other family members may be affected.

What conditions should be tested for?

ACOG now recommends ALL WOMEN be offered carrier screening for the following conditions:

  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA): SMA is a disease that attacks nerve cells in the spinal cord. These cells communicate with your muscles. As the neurons die, the muscles weaken. This can affect walking, crawling, breathing, swallowing, and head and neck control.
  • Cystic fibrosis (CF): CF is a condition that affects breathing and digestion. It’s caused by very thick mucus that builds up in the body. This thick and sticky mucus builds up in the lungs and digestive system and can cause problems with how you breathe and digest food.
  • Hemoglobinopathies: These are blood conditions that are caused by problems with hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in the blood that carries oxygen. There are different kinds of hemoglobin in the blood, and there are many kinds of hemoglobin disorders. Some are caused when hemoglobin doesn’t form correctly or when your body doesn’t make enough hemoglobin.

Additional carrier screening should be offered for other conditions based on family history. If you are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant already, make sure you talk to your health care provider about the new guidelines and discuss any questions or concerns you may have.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

TTC? Should you change your diet?

08
Mar
Posted by Lauren

woman having breakfastIf you’re trying to conceive (TTC) or thinking about getting pregnant soon, don’t wait until you get a positive pregnancy test to make changes to your diet and lifestyle. Start now.

Did you know that when you get a positive pregnancy test result, you’re already 3 – 4 weeks pregnant? This is why you should treat your body as if you are already pregnant when you are trying to conceive.

Not sure where to begin? Here’s your cheat sheet:

  • Include a multivitamin on your grocery shopping list. Taking a daily multivitamin that contains 400 micrograms of folic acid BEFORE and early in pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain and spine) in your baby. Don’t wait until you are pregnant – start taking a multivitamin now. When you become pregnant switch to a daily prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid.
  • Here’s more to put on your shopping list: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and proteins. Go ahead and make your plate all the colors of the rainbow. See our guide for details and a sample menu.
  • Cut out alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigs, marijuana and street drugs. These items can be harmful to your baby during pregnancy. By cutting them out now, you don’t have to worry about them when you become pregnant.
  • Talk to your provider about all of the medications you are currently taking to see if any need to be switched to one that is safe to take during pregnancy. Never go off a prescription medication without speaking with your health care provider first.
  • Start limiting your fish and caffeine intake. Eat 8 to 12 ounces a week of fish low in mercury such as shrimp, salmon, Pollock, catfish and canned light tuna or 6 ounces a week of albacore (white) tuna. Limit your caffeine to 200 milligrams a day; this is the amount in 1½ 8-ounce cups of coffee or one 12-ounce cup of coffee. And be sure to read labels on your food products for added caffeine.
  • Stay away from: raw or under cooked meat and eggs, raw fish and all shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Don’t eat refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads, raw sprouts and herbal products like pills and teas. Avoid all unpasteurized products, which may include juice, milk and soft cheeses. See our complete list of foods to avoid.
  • Healthy foods can get expensive; read our guide to food shopping on a budget.

Remember, as you’re trying to conceive, treat your body like you are already pregnant. Making healthy choices now will give you a great start once you become pregnant.

Researchers identify a new form of muscular dystrophy

06
Mar
Posted by Sara

MOD scienceResearchers, funded in part by the March of Dimes, have identified a genetic mutation which causes a new form of muscular dystrophy (MD).

This particular form of MD has many features, such as short height, cataracts (eye problems causing it hard to see), and intellectual disability, that are similar to other disorders. The overlap has caused confusion for physicians and researchers, until now. An international group of researchers were able to show that mutations (changes) in the INPP5K gene are responsible for a unique form of MD.

“Families and physicians have been searching for the origins of this rare disorder for years,” says Dr. Chiara Manzini, one of the researchers. “Children with a similar combination of symptoms had been described in the medical literature before, but it was unclear whether or not it was a new disease. Now we know it’s a variant of MD that affects other organs.”

Muscular dystrophy is a group of disorders that causes muscle weakness and muscle loss over time. Most people with MD are eventually unable to walk. More than 250,000 Americans are affected by the approximately 30 forms of MD and other related neuromuscular disorders. MD is inherited, meaning it is passed down from parents to their children.

How does this research help families?

Identifying a target gene, such as the INPP5K gene, reduces uncertainty for families. It allows parents to receive a precise diagnosis instead of not knowing what condition their child may have. In addition, knowing their child’s exact disorder can help families understand which medical specialists should be consulted and it can aid in overall clinical management.It gives hope to families that new, targeted treatments may become available in the future. Finally, a specific diagnosis will help health care providers better understand the disease and how it affects a child throughout his life.

“This is a great example of collaborative, innovative genetic research that has an immediate benefit to babies and their families,” says Joe Leigh Simpson, MD, senior vice president for Research and Global Programs at the March of Dimes. “Studying rare disorders can also teach us more about common conditions that affect millions of people in the United States and around the world.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Is the Zika virus affecting babies in the U.S.?

03
Mar
Posted by Barbara

microcephalyShort answer…Yes.

The CDC just released a report that measured the number of brain related birth defects in the U.S. before and after the arrival of Zika. The study focused on data from three areas of the U.S. that track brain related birth defects – Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia – in the year 2013-2014, before Zika arrived in the U.S.

It found that during that time, brain related birth defects occurred in 3 out of 1,000 births (.3%).

A study done looking at 2016 data shows that among women in the US with possible Zika virus infection, similar brain related birth defects were 20 times more common, affecting 60 of 1,000 pregnancies (6%).

This is a huge increase.

Here’s what we know

If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, the virus can pass to her baby. Zika has been shown to cause a range of birth defects including brain problems, microcephaly, neural tube defects, eye defects and central nervous system problems. Although none of these birth defects are new to the medical field and they can occur for other reasons, it has been clearly established that the Zika virus can cause these serious problems, too.

Babies will require coordinated, long-term care

Babies born with Zika related birth defects will require access to coordinated medical care among a team of specialists. Such care may seem daunting to the parents and even to the medical community as they gather new information about the effects of the virus on a daily basis.

Enter the Zika Care Connect Network (ZCC)

This new website will launch in April 2017 to help parents and providers coordinate care for babies with complex medical needs due to Zika infection. The ZCC aims to improve access to medical care, which will jump-start early identification and intervention. The goal is to reduce the long-term effects of Zika on children and families by making it easier to locate a network of specialists knowledgeable about services for patients with Zika. The searchable database will feature a Provider Referral Network, patient resource tools, and a HelpLine.

Bottom line

Zika is still here, and it is seriously affecting babies and families. The best line of defense is to protect yourself from infection. Our website has detailed information on how to stay safe.

If you have questions, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Why do we have World Birth Defects Day?

01
Mar
Posted by Barbara

wbddlogoIn a day and age when many cures exist for diseases and conditions, it may seem hard to believe that birth defects still occur. Yet, unfortunately they do.

Every year, millions of babies around the world are born with a serious birth defect. In many countries, birth defects are one of the leading causes of death in babies and young children. Babies who survive and live with these conditions are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities and other health problems.

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They may change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or how the body works.

There are thousands of different birth defects. The most common are heart defects, cleft lip and palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida. Our website has a list of common birth defects as well as examples of rare birth defects.

We don’t know all the reasons why birth defects occur. Some may be caused by the genes you inherit from your parents. Others may be caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to harmful chemicals. Some may be due to a combination of genes and environment. In most cases, the causes are unknown.

Why #WorldBDDay?

The goal of World Birth Defects Day is to expand birth defects surveillance, prevention, care, and research worldwide. Naturally, the goal is to raise awareness, too.

You can help.

  • Lend your voice! Register with your social media account and Thunderclap will post a one-time message on March 3rd. The message will say “Birth defects affect 3-6% of infants worldwide. It’s a major cause of death/disability. Lend your voice!”
  • Join the Buzzday on Twitter, March 3, 2017 by using the hashtag #WorldBDDay.

With your help, we’ll raise awareness, which is the first step in improving the health of all babies.

What we’re doing

The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Our research grantees have discovered genes that cause or contribute to a number of common birth defects, including fragile X syndrome, cleft lip and palate, and heart defects. These discoveries may one day lead to interventions so that some birth defects can be prevented.

The March of Dimes offers information about how to have a healthy pregnancy on our website and this blog.

We answer health questions from the public through AskUs@marchofdimes.org, and promote messaging on our Twitter handles, @modhealthtalk, @nacersano (in Spanish) and @marchofdimes.

We welcome your comments and questions.