Need to catch up on your zzzz’s?

Posted by Lauren

sleepingYour baby hasn’t arrived yet, so why is it so hard to get enough sleep? Getting up to go to the bathroom, heartburn and having to adjust pillows to find a comfortable sleep position are just a few of the discomforts of pregnancy.

If you’re like me, you may have spent most of your life sleeping on your back. But now that you’re pregnant, you need to adjust to sleeping on your side. The issue with lying on your back during pregnancy is that the weight of your uterus can flatten a major blood vessel that carries blood between your lower body and heart. It is better to lie on your side, especially the left side, which will promote circulation and help reduce swelling in your feet.

So how can you catch up on your sleep?

  • Reduce your stress before bedtime – try breathing deeply, closing your eyes or relaxing in your favorite armchair before bed. You can take a warm shower or bath before bedtime too.
  • Use pillows: between your legs, to support your back and abdomen, and to lift up your upper body if you suffer from shortness of breath.
  • Use your bed only for sleep- don’t watch TV or use your iPad while in bed. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature and try using a noise machine to block out other sounds.
  • Go to bed earlier – you need as much rest as possible.
  • Avoid drinking fluids right before bedtime. If you suffer from heartburn, try to eat your last meal a few hours before going to sleep.
  • Exercising during the day can help you get a better night’s sleep, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it may make it hard for you to fall asleep. Read about our tips to stay active.

Your baby will be here before you know it. Take this time to grab a few extra zzzz’s whenever possible.

Have questions? Email us at

Giving thanks

Posted by Barbara



As Prematurity Awareness Month draws to a close, we just want to take a moment to say how grateful we are for all of our volunteers. Without your tireless efforts we would not be the organization we are today, fighting to give every baby a healthy start in life.

Thank you for helping us spread awareness about the serious problems of premature birth. You are helping more babies be born full term and healthy. We thank you, and the babies thank you!

We at the March of Dimes wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving.


Is donor milk right for your preemie?

Posted by Lauren

feeding in the NICUFor premature babies, breast milk can be lifesaving. It is more easily digested and provides protection against many diseases. Providing breast milk, however, can be a challenge for some moms. Many moms are not able to provide their baby with their own breast milk for various reasons, they:

  • are recovering from surgery or have certain medical conditions that make it difficult to initiate and maintain a milk supply;
  • find it difficult to pump enough milk to meet their baby’s needs;
  • have chronic conditions and need to take medications that may make their breast milk unsafe.

In these cases, donor milk may be the best option for your preemie, and a better alternative to formula.

What is donor milk and where does it come from?

A milk bank is a service that collects, screens, processes and distributes safe human milk to babies in need. All donated milk goes through a pasteurization process to eliminate bacteria while keeping the milk’s essential nutrients. The milk is then packaged, stored and ready to ship to hospitals or individual recipients at home. Lactating women who wish to donate their breast milk may do so through a milk bank.

Does your preemie need donor milk?

The nutritional needs of each baby depends on many different factors. It’s important to talk to your baby’s doctor to see if donor milk is right for your baby. Some hospitals have their own donor milk bank or have a partnership with a milk bank near them. If your baby’s doctor indicates that your baby will benefit from donor milk, he can write a prescription. For more information about the milk bank closest to you, visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

Can you buy breast milk from another mom who has milk to spare?

There are risks with getting breast milk from a stranger or a friend; this milk is not tested or screened for infectious diseases or contamination. A study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that out of 101 samples of milk purchased online from different mothers, 74% of samples were contaminated with bacteria and 21% of samples contained cytomegalovirus (CMV) bacteria.

It’s important to be informed when making feeding decisions for your preemie. If you have any questions about donor milk or your baby’s nutritional needs, speak with your baby’s healthcare provider.

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)

Posted by Sara

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICUNecrotizing enterocoloitis, also known as NEC, is a condition of the intestinal tract that almost only affects premature babies. It often begins 2 or 3 weeks after birth and appears in preemies who seem to be getting better. NEC occurs when the lining of the intestine becomes inflamed. Most of the time, the damaged section of the intestine will heal on its own. But in some cases, the tissue dies. When this happens, that part of the intestine no longer works the way that it should. This damage may cause the intestine to tear. The bacteria in the intestine can then enter the blood and this can then lead to infection throughout the body.

What causes NEC?

Researchers are still not exactly sure what causes NEC. But in premature infants, it is probably related to the immaturity of the baby’s intestine. Some other factors that may contribute to NEC include:

  • An injury to the immature intestine
  • Reduced blood flow to the intestine
  • Growth of bacteria in the intestine that damages the intestinal wall

What are the signs of NEC?

NEC can be difficult to diagnose. The early signs can be similar to other infections or to problems caused by feeding difficulties often seen in preemies. However, NEC can get worse very quickly. Some common symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite, not tolerating feedings
  • Red, painful, and swollen belly
  • Diarrhea or bloody stool
  • Decreased activity
  • Body temperature instability (may be lower than normal or fluctuate)
  • Episodes of low heart rate or apnea
  • Sometimes greenish vomit

Doctors can diagnose NEC with an X-ray of the belly.  When they examine the X-ray, they are looking for tiny gas bubbles inside the walls of the intestine. They can also see if air has leaked out of the intestine through a tear or hole.

How is NEC treated?

Early diagnosis and intervention is very important. Typical treatment includes:

  • Stopping oral (mouth) feedings and replacing with IV nutrition to give the bowel time to rest,
  • Inserting a tube through the nose and into the stomach to remove air and other secretions from the intestine,
  • Giving broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat and prevent infection,
  • Continuous monitoring using X-rays, blood and urine cultures,

If these interventions work, NEC typically lasts 2-3 weeks, although the critical stage is often over after a few days. Usually doctors will continue IV feedings until the intestines heal and the pockets of gas have been gone for 5 or more days. They will then start to gradually re-introduce oral feedings.

Surgery may be necessary for those babies who do not respond to the treatments above. In that case, the surgeon will remove the damaged section of intestines.

How can NEC be prevented?

Researchers are trying to better understand NEC so that they can prevent it. However, here are some things that seem to be beneficial:

  • It is important to start oral feedings early. The introduction of tiny amounts of milk to the digestive system may help the intestine to mature faster and possibly reduce the chance of your baby developing NEC.
  • Early feeding with colostrum and breast milk may be beneficial. It is easy to digest, supports the growth of good bacteria in the intestine, and helps to build your baby’s immune system.

If your baby has NEC or had it in the past, please go to Share Your Story where you can connect with other families and find comfort, support, and advice.

Have questions? Text or email us at

Knowing your family health history may help your baby

Posted by Barbara

Family at Thanksgiving dinnerRecently I had an appointment with a new healthcare provider and had to complete a health history form at my first visit. It was 3 pages long and took me about 20 minutes to do while in the waiting room. As I was sitting there, I realized that I didn’t know the answers to some of the questions, especially about my relatives.

Was this really that important?

In one word? Yes.

A family health history (FHH) form is a record of health conditions and treatments that you, your sisters, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great grandparents have had. It can help you figure out the medical problems that run in your family. Knowing your FHH may just save your life. It may also have a direct effect on your baby’s health.

How can a FHH form help your baby?

The FHH form will help your provider see if any of the conditions or diseases that run in your family will affect your baby. For example, premature birth can run in families. And, certain conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure put you at a higher risk to have a premature baby.

If you and your partner complete a FHH form and share it with your prenatal provider, you may learn about the health of your baby before she is born. The earlier in your pregnancy that your provider is aware of health conditions, the sooner your provider can decide on treatments for you.

It would be even better if you could complete and share this information with your provider before pregnancy, at a preconception checkup. This way, your provider can help you become as healthy as possible before pregnancy.

Use our FHH form

Here is a form that you can print out and complete.  Print one copy for yourself and one for your partner/spouse. We suggest you take it with you to family gatherings (Thanksgiving anyone?) and ask your relatives to help you fill in the blanks. You may very well find out information about diseases and conditions that run in your family and put you at risk. Early detection is often key in successfully managing a disease.

Here are tips on how to gather information from relatives.

Knowing your risk for certain conditions and that your provider is on top of treatment options, should put your mind at rest. And, knowing you are doing your best to take care of your baby’s health should make you feel even better.

So, when you sit down to apple pie, start a conversation, and fill in your FHH form. The information you share with your family may make a positive difference in everyone’s lives.

Have questions? Text or email us at

Crazy luck – one mom’s story

Posted by Sara
CharlieNICU (2)Today, in recognition of World Prematurity Day, we are honored to share this post written by a mom of a preemie about what Prematurity Awareness Month means to her.

Lots of people don’t know what it means to have a premature baby. I didn’t know either, before I had my baby. Charlie was born  at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 15 ounces.

If you had told me that I, a healthy person with not a single complication in my first 25 weeks of pregnancy, would have a baby before I even reached my third trimester – I’m not sure I would have believed it. And yet, it happens, WAY more than it should. Yes, it sometimes happens to moms who don’t have access to good prenatal care. But it also happens to moms who do take care of themselves, who get prenatal care… moms like me.

In this day and age, where doctors can predict, know, and treat so much, the miracles of fertility, pregnancy and prematurity are still mysteries in a lot of ways. In our case, we still don’t know for sure why Charlie came early – and why there were no advance signs that gave the doctors any chance to prepare him for an untimely arrival.

My “incompetent cervix” (worst medical term ever, by the way) was part of the problem, but the fact that my body was contracting and ready to birth a baby at just 25 weeks was another, totally unexplained, part of the problem. And between the time I walked to the hospital that morning and he was born that afternoon, there just wasn’t enough time for them to do anything to keep him inside a few more precious days. Those days really are precious, too. That early in gestation, every week increases the chances of survival a lot, and likely reduces the number of complications the baby is going to face. Unfortunately for us, by the time they knew I was in labor, there was no stopping it or even slowing it down.

Our story has a happy ending – at least at this point! Our boy is happy, a total handful, and most importantly, healthy – for the most part, although the hacking cough he has right now might indicate otherwise. Today I picked him up from school, and he and his best buddy (another Charlie) wanted to run wild on the playground a bit before heading home – all that time sitting in a classroom is hard on a first grade wild man!  So they ran – and then they both planted themselves on a bench and coughed and coughed, like little old men. The common thread? Both are preemies. Coincidence that they’re the ones hacking when the other kids are running non-stop?  I think not. I think these former preemie lungs seem to be more impacted by this unusually warm, moist fall we’re having – and by pollen-heavy springs, and pollution, etc. Though our boy grows and grows, his premature past still rears its ugly face here and there.

I recognize that we are CRAZY lucky to have such a vibrant, busy, healthy boy. I think most moms probably reflect all the time on their kids’ successes and strengths and feel pride and joy. But for me, there’s the added reminder of what could have been. I can guarantee you, I take none of these skills and accomplishments for granted. I think ALL THE TIME about the tears I shed over that tiny, struggling baby in the isolette, and how the life I’m living now was the stuff of daydreams back then. And I will never forget where we started, and just how far he’s come.Charlie2015

So that’s it, that’s why this month is important to me. Prematurity awareness is important because it helps people realize that it really matters to support the March of Dimes, which works constantly to reduce the numbers of premature babies born every day. And it’s important because it reminds me to be oh so grateful for how far we’ve come, and how many doctors and nurses and therapists and scientists and family and friends have helped us get here.

Marie lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband and Charlie. Charlie was born at 25 weeks and weighed 1 pound 15 ounces at birth. He spent 85 days in the NICU at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC.


On an average DAY in the United States…

Posted by Barbara

10,926     babies are born
1,045       babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks gestation)
874          babies are born low birthweight (under 5 1/2 pounds)
329          babies are born with a birth defect
174          babies are born very preterm (before 32 weeks gestation)
153          babies are born very low birthweight (under 3 1/3 pounds)
64            babies die before their first birthday

Yes – these numbers are talking about only ONE day!

Numbers don’t lie. And these numbers are way too high. In the U.S., 380,000 babies are born too soon every year. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born prematurely each year.

Some babies will pull through without issues or problems, due to medical advances. But there are so many who won’t. Losing a baby due to premature birth is nothing short of a tragedy. And, the enormous stress and strain of having a child with a disability as a result of prematurity, is lifelong.

This is why the March of Dimes is working so hard to solve this complex problem.

We’re getting resultsNICU doctor and baby resized

After decades of increases, the rate of premature birth in the United States has now been on a steady decline for the last several years.

This decline – to 9.6% today (down from 12.8% in 2006) – means 231,000 fewer babies  have been born premature. That’s significant! It also has saved our nation billions of dollars in excess health care costs. But we still have more work to do. Our goal is to lower the preterm birth rate to 5.5% in 2030. When we reach this goal, it will mean that 1.3 million fewer babies will have been born preterm.

You can help

November 17th marks World Prematurity Day, and the March of Dimes and our partner organizations worldwide are asking everyone to help spread the word on the serious problem of premature birth.

Join the 24-hour #worldprematurityday Buzzday.

Join one of our Twitter chats.

Don’t be silent. Every voice counts. Together we can increase awareness and help end premature birth.

Our babies deserve it.

Pregnancy after a preemie

Posted by Sara

You may know that having had a premature baby increases your risk to give birth early in your next pregnancy. No one knows for sure what causes a woman to have a premature baby. However, it is important to understand what factors may make you more likely to give birth early and understand how you may be able to reduce your risk.

When you are ready to think about having another baby after you have had a preemie, here are some things to consider:

When to get pregnant again

Getting pregnant too soon after having a baby increases your chance of giving birth early. If possible, wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. This gives your body time to recover.

Manage preexisting health conditions

Having diabetes or high blood pressure puts you at a higher risk to have a premature baby. Talk to your health care provider about how to best manage these conditions before you get pregnant again. And weighing too much or too little can also be a risk factor. Try to get to a healthy weight before you get pregnant again.

Prevent infections

Having an infection during pregnancy may increase your chance of giving birth early. Always wash your hands thoroughly and practice good hygiene. This won’t prevent all infections, but it can help. Also, get tested for STDs before you become pregnant.

Treatments for preterm labor

Some women may be able to receive progesterone treatment or cerclage in their next pregnancy to reduce their chances of giving birth early again. Talk to your provider to see if these treatments may be right for you.

In the video below, Dr. Siobhan Dolan discusses who may be a good candidate for progesterone treatment:

If you are planning on getting pregnant again, make sure you talk to your health care provider about what you may be able to do to reduce your risk of premature birth. Together, the two of you can make a plan so that hopefully your next pregnancy can be closer to 40 weeks. You can also go to our online community Share Your Story to talk to other women who gave birth early and are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant again.

Have questions? Text or email us at

Skin to skin contact helps your baby AND you

Posted by Barbara

Skin to SkinResearch has shown that skin to skin holding, also known as “kangaroo care,” is one way to help stabilize your baby’s body temperature and help his heart rate become regular. It is comforting to your baby, and may help him gain weight. Even very sick or fragile babies can usually benefit from kangaroo care.

It’s good for parents, too. It helps you bond with your baby, which boosts your spirits. For moms, it encourages your breast milk supply, too.

What is skin to skin holding or kangaroo care?

It is when you hold your baby, skin to skin, bare chest to bare chest, in an upright position. Your baby is wearing only a diaper.

Does it have other benefits?

Yes. For your baby…

Skin to skin holding may help lower the risk of infection, improve survival rates, and encourage your baby to spend more time in deep sleep (which is important for growth and good health). It may also lessen your baby’s pain and help with brain development. Kangaroo care may help your baby spend more time being quiet when awake, and less time crying.

For you and dad…

Skin to skin increases the feeling of intimacy between the baby and parent, helping the mom or dad feel connected. Often dads are fearful of holding their baby – skin to skin may promote a sense of empowerment and confidence. It may decrease anxiety, fear and depression and encourages attachment. Parents say it is the most comforting activity they experience in the NICU.

One mom told us she wrote in her journal “Today I feel like a mother for the first time” – that was the first time she held her twin boys skin to skin, 5 weeks after they were born!

Should you ask to hold your baby?

Yes! If you have not yet held your baby skin to skin, ask if you can. Often, the NICU staff is just so busy with other important duties that they don’t think to offer it. Typically, your baby must be medically stable before he is ready for kangaroo care. But, you can do it even if your baby is hooked up to machines.

How much kangaroo care should you do?

The more you can do, the better. It has been shown that skin to skin contact should take place for a minimum of one hour, but several hours at a time are better. It takes a while for a baby to transition from the isolette to chest and back, so you must take that into account. In some countries, parents are encouraged to do kangaroo care round the clock – that’s how good it is for babies!

Still wondering if skin to skin holding is for you?

Watch this video.

Did you experience kangaroo care in the NICU? Please tell us about it.


Have questions? Email or text We are here to help.

Thinking about becoming pregnant? Are you worried about your diabetes?

Posted by Lauren

Diabetes and pregnancyDiabetes can cause problems during pregnancy, such as premature birth, birth defects and miscarriage. But don’t panic; with some planning ahead, you can become as healthy as possible before you become pregnant.

When you eat, your body breaks down sugar and starches from food into glucose to use for energy. Your pancreas (an organ behind your stomach) makes a hormone called insulin that helps your body keep the right amount of glucose in your blood.  When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use insulin well, so you end up with too much sugar in your blood.

Too much sugar can cause serious health problems, like heart disease, kidney failure and blindness. High blood sugar can be harmful to your baby during the first few weeks of pregnancy when his brain, heart, kidneys and lungs begin to form. It’s really important to get treatment for diabetes to help prevent problems like these.

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant and have diabetes, here are a few tips:

  • Manage your diabetes to get your blood glucose levels in to your target range. Try to get it under control 3-6 months before you start trying to become pregnant.
  • Take a multivitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
  • Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking to make sure that they are OK to continue taking when you do get pregnant. He or she may want to change some medications now, before you get pregnant.
  • Eat healthy foods and keep moving.
  • Get support and guidance. Talk with your provider, a diabetes educator or a dietician about how to manage your diabetes.

Not sure if you are at increased risk of developing diabetes? Read our post to find out.

Remember: If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, now is the time to talk to your doctor about getting as healthy as you can before you conceive. Take small steps now toward a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Have questions? Text or email us at