Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How to support grieving parents

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

The loss of a baby is one of the most painful things that can happen to a family. If you have a family member or friend that has lost a baby during pregnancy, in the first days of life, or even as an infant, it’s very hard to know what to say or do. Here are some ideas that may help.

It’s important to recognize that although the loss may have happened to friends or family, you may be affected by their baby’s death too. To be able to support the parents, try to understand your own feelings. You may feel sad, helpless, worried, angry, confused or numb. You may wonder how you can help the parents if you feel so sad yourself. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. But by understanding how you feel, you can better support the grieving family.

It’s hard to know exactly what to say to parents whose baby has died. But there are a few important things to remember:

  • Be simple: “I’m sorry for your loss.”
  • Be honest: “I don’t know what to say. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
  • Be comforting: “I care about you and your family. Please tell me what I can do to help.”
  • Be specific, not everyone feels comfortable asking for help: “Can I bring you dinner on Tuesday? How about I watch the kids this week”

Don’t forget about dad. Be sure to include him as a grieving parent.

Some words may not be helpful to a grieving family, in fact, they may actually be hurtful. Here are things you should NOT to say to grieving parents:

  • “You’ll get over it in time.”
  • “It’s for the best.”
  • “You can always have another baby.”
  • “Count your blessings.”

If you can’t find the right words, it’s OK to say nothing. Sometimes just being there to listen and hold a hand is all a parent needs. You don’t always have to find the perfect words to say.

Parents may need lots of comfort and support during this painful time. And there are many things you can do to help. You can read more about grief and loss on our website too. The most important thing is simply to offer your support and love to your family or friend  and let them know you are there for them as they grieve.

Can you get pregnant while on your period?

Monday, February 12th, 2018

This is a question we often receive through AskUs@marchofdimes.org. What you may find surprising is that the answer is yes, you can get pregnant while having sex during your period.

Let’s back up for a minute.

Each month your ovaries release an egg about 14 days before the first day of your period. This is called ovulation. When you and your partner have unprotected sex around the time of ovulation, his sperm swim to meet your egg.

When the egg and sperm meet, it’s called fertilization. The fertilized egg (also called an embryo) moves through your fallopian tubes and attaches to the wall of your uterus where it grows and develops into a baby. When the embryo attaches to the uterus, it’s called implantation.

You can get pregnant if you have unprotected sex any time from 5 days before and the day of ovulation.

What if you have sex during your period?

It’s possible for women with a very short menstrual cycle or a very long period to become pregnant by having sex during their period. Many women have cycles that are 28 days or longer. (Your cycle length is measured from the first day of your period and all the days after, until your next period.) But others have shorter cycles, or longer periods, so ovulation can happen right after your period ends. Since sperm can live in your reproductive tract for up to 5 days before ovulation, it’s possible that you could have sex during your period and conceive when you ovulate days later.

If you’re not ready to get pregnant, use birth control until you’re ready. Talk to your health care provider about the right birth control for you.

Congenital heart defects: how do you know if your baby has one?

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Nearly 1 in 100 babies (about 1 percent or 40,000 babies) is born with a heart defect in the United States each year. About 4,800 babies each year are born with critical congenital heart defects or CCHD.

CCHD is a group of the seven most severe congenital heart defects. Many heart defects don’t need treatment or can be fixed easily. But some, like CCHD, can cause serious health problems or death. Babies with CCHD need treatment within the first few hours, days or months of life.

Severe congenital heart defects usually are diagnosed during pregnancy or soon after birth. Less severe heart defects often aren’t diagnosed until children are older.

During pregnancy

Your provider may use a test called fetal echo to check your baby’s heart. This test makes a picture of your baby’s heart while still in the uterus (womb). You can have this test as early as 18 to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

You may need a fetal echo if:

• Your provider finds a possible problem, like your baby has an abnormal heart rhythm, during an ultrasound.
• You have a medical condition, like diabetes or lupus, that may play a role in congenital heart defects.
• You have a family history of congenital heart defects or heart disease.
• Your baby has a chromosomal condition, like Down syndrome, Turner syndrome or VCF.

After birth

Your baby may be tested for CCHD as part of newborn screening before he leaves the hospital after birth. Newborn screening checks for serious but rare conditions at birth. It includes blood, hearing and heart screening. All states require newborn screening, but they don’t all require screening for CCHD. Ask your provider if your state tests for CCHD. Or check for what your state covers.

Babies are screened for CCHD with a test called pulse oximetry (also called pulse ox). This test checks the amount of oxygen in your baby’s blood using a sensor attached to his finger or foot.

After birth, signs and symptoms of heart defects can include:

• Fast breathing
• Gray or blue skin coloring
• Fatigue (feeling tired all of the time)
• Slow weight gain
• Swollen belly, legs or puffiness around the eyes
• Trouble breathing while feeding
• Sweating, especially while feeding
• Abnormal heart murmur (extra or abnormal sounds heard during a heartbeat)

If your baby shows any of these signs or symptoms, call her health care provider right away. Your baby’s provider can use additional tests to check for heart defects.

Your heart health and pregnancy

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

If you have a condition related to your heart, such as high blood pressure or heart disease, you may be worried about how it could affect a pregnancy. The good news is that by taking precautions and managing your health now, you and your health care provider can make sure you’re ready for pregnancy.

High blood pressure

A condition such as high blood pressure can cause preeclampsia and premature birth during pregnancy. High blood pressure can put extra stress on your heart and kidneys. This can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. But managing your blood pressure can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. If you have high blood pressure, reach out to your health care provider at a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to take care of health conditions that may affect your pregnancy.

You can also:

  • Get to a healthy weight. Talk to your provider about the weight that’s right for you.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Do something active every day.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking during pregnancy can cause problems for your baby, like premature birth. It’s also dangerous for people with high blood pressure because it damages blood vessel walls.

Heart disease

Women with heart disease can have a safe pregnancy with minimal risks. However during pregnancy, your heart has a lot more to do and this extra stress can be a concern.

If you have a congenital heart disease, the best thing you can do is to talk to both your cardiologist and obstetrician before you get pregnant. This will allow you to understand what risks (if any) are involved for your pregnancy. You can also determine if there are any concerns with your heart that need to be fixed prior to pregnancy such as any surgical repairs or medication changes.

Speaking of…

Be sure to ask your provider about any medications you are currently taking at your preconception checkup. Many heart conditions require medications to be controlled and your provider can help you choose one that’s safe for you and your baby.

Bottom line

Taking these steps now will allow you to manage any conditions before you conceive to make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.

Chickenpox and pregnancy – what you need to know

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

You probably don’t need to worry about chickenpox (also called varicella) if you’ve had it before or if you’ve had the chickenpox vaccine. Both of these can help make you immune to chickenpox. Immune means being protected from an infection. If you’re immune to an infection, it means you can’t get it. About 9 out of 10 pregnant women (90 percent) are immune to chickenpox.

Usually people get chickenpox during childhood. It’s caused by a virus and you can get it by being in contact with someone else’s chickenpox rash or through the air when someone with chickenpox coughs or sneezes. An infected person can spread chickenpox starting 1 to 2 days before the rash appears and until the rash stops spreading and is covered by dry scabs. This is about 5 days after the rash starts.

Chickenpox usually isn’t dangerous in children. But if you get it during pregnancy, chickenpox can be harmful to your unborn baby or newborn. Chickenpox during pregnancy may cause some babies to get congenital varicella syndrome. This is a group of birth defects that can include problems with muscles and bones, blindness, seizures, learning problems, and microcephaly. Also, 1 to 2 out of 10 pregnant women (10-20%) who get chickenpox get a dangerous form of pneumonia (a kind of lung infection).

The good news is that if you haven’t had chickenpox already, the best way to protect yourself is to get the vaccine before getting pregnant. But if you’re already pregnant, you’ll need to wait until after you give birth to get the vaccine. So if you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant and you’re not sure if you’ve had chickenpox or the vaccine, talk to your health care provider. You can get a blood test to find out if you’re immune to chickenpox.

If you’re pregnant and find out that you’re not immune to chickenpox, try to avoid anyone who has chickenpox or shingles. If you come into contact with someone who has it, tell your health care provider right away. Treatment is available, but it’s important to get it within 4 days after you’ve come into contact with chickenpox to help prevent the infection or make it less serious.

Are you getting your daily folic acid dose? Check the label

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. It helps your body make red blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. If you take folic acid before and during early pregnancy, it can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (also called NTDs). Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects in a baby and birth defects in a baby’s mouth called cleft lip and palate.

How can you be sure you’re getting the right amount of folic acid?

The best way to get the right amount of folic acid is to take a daily multivitamin that has 400 mcg of folic acid. Check the back of your bottle for the label (also called supplement facts). Look for the word “folate” on the label to see how much folic acid you’re getting.

The label tells you this information:

• Serving size. This tells you how much of the product is in one serving. One multivitamin usually is one serving.

• Servings per container. This tells you how many servings are in a multivitamin bottle. For example, if two pills is one serving and the bottle has 30 multivitamins in it, that’s 15 servings.

• Nutrients, like vitamin D, folate and calcium, in each serving

• Daily value (also called DV) of one serving. DV is the amount of a nutrient in a serving. For example, if the DV of folic acid in a multivitamin is 50 percent, that multivitamin gives you 50 percent (half) of the folic acid you need each day.

What else do I need to know about the labels?

Multivitamin labels now give new information about folic acid. In the past, they just listed mcg of folic acid. Now they list “mcg DFE of folate.” For example, for folate you’ll see “400 mcg DFE.” DFE stands for dietary folate equivalent. It’s the amount of folate your body absorbs. If a serving has less than 400 mcg DFE of folate, you need more than one serving to get all the folic acid you need each day.

Can I get folic acid from food?

Some foods have folic acid added to them. Look for the word “fortified” or “enriched” on the package label on foods like:
• Bread
• Breakfast cereal
• Cornmeal
• Flour
• Pasta
• Products made from a kind of flour called corn masa, like tortillas, tortilla chips, taco shells, tamales and pupusas
• White rice

Some fruits and vegetables are good sources of folic acid. When folic acid is naturally in a food, it’s called folate. Folate is found in lentils, black beans, peanuts, leafy green veggies like romaine lettuce and spinach, citrus fruits and orange juice.

It’s hard to get all the folic acid you need from food. Even if you eat foods that have folic acid in them, take your multivitamin each day, too. Labels on food products don’t always list the amount of folic acid in the product. New food labels that list folic acid will list mcg DFE of folate, just like for multivitamins.

Read more about why folic acid is important to you and your baby.

Good hygiene can help prevent birth defects

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Now that winter has arrived, the temperatures are decreasing and the spread of germs is increasing. In an effort to stay healthy, I find myself constantly washing my hands and trying to maintain good hygiene. Hygiene refers to activities such as hand washing, bathing, and brushing your teeth, which help you stay healthy. Maintaining good hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of infections.

Women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by doing things to help reduce the risk of infection. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but by maintaining healthy hygiene, you can help prevent the spread of infection. Not sure where to start? We have tips:

Wash your hands

And wash them often. Wash them before preparing or eating food, after handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables. Wash them after being around pets or animals and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.

Prepare food safely

Besides your hands, you should also wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing your food. Wash all surfaces and cuttings boards with warm soapy water after use as well. Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Be sure to cook foods at their proper temperature and never eat cooked food that has been out of the refrigerator longer than two hours. Ready to cook a meal? We have your guide from prep to storage.

Don’t share cups, foods or utensils with your children

Keep these items out of your mouth. Children’s saliva may contain cytomegalovirus or CMV, a kind of herpesvirus that women can pass to their baby during pregnancy. CMV can cause problems for some babies, including a birth defect called microcephaly. CMV is also found in urine and other bodily fluids so be sure to wash your hands every time after changing diapers, wiping runny noses, and picking up toys.

Stay away from wild or pet rodents

This includes mice, hamsters and guinea pigs. They may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also called LCMV) that can be harmful to you and your baby. LCMV can cause severe birth defects and miscarriage. To help prevent LCMV, keep pet rodents in a separate part of your home, wash your hands after petting and caring for them. Ask your partner or a friend to care for the pet and clean its cage. If your home has wild rats or mice, use pest control.

Let someone else clean the litter box

Dirty cat litter might contain a harmful parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. If you have toxoplasmosis within 6 months of getting pregnant, you may be able to pass it to your baby during pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis can cause pregnancy complications such as preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks) and stillbirth. The earlier in pregnancy you get infected, the more serious the baby’s problems may be after birth.

So have a friend, partner or family member clean your cat’s litter box during your pregnancy. If you are changing the litter yourself, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands well afterward. You can also come in contact with the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis through eating raw or undercooked meat, unwashed fruits and veggies, touching utensils and cutting boards used to prepare raw meat, fruits and veggies or by touching dirt or sand. So we recommend avoiding sand boxes as well.

Practicing good hygiene daily can help you stay healthy and prevent the spread of infection.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

It’s time to celebrate the old and welcome in the new! All of us at the March of Dimes and News Moms Need want to wish you and your family a very happy and healthy year ahead.

We will be on vacation between December 29, 2017 through January 1, 2018. We will return to answer your questions on January 2, 2018. Please contact your health care provider, go the the hospital, or call 911 if you believe that you are in preterm labor or have a medical emergency. The following pages on our website may be helpful to you:

Signs and symptoms of preterm labor

Pregnancy complications

Labor and birth

The newborn intensive care unit (NICU)

Loss and grief

 

Cheers! with alcohol-free alternatives

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Tis the holiday season, and often that means lots of parties and gatherings, usually involving alcohol. But if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you need to steer clear of alcoholic beverages. No amount of alcohol has been proven safe at any time during pregnancy. However, here are some delicious substitutions.

One of the easiest drink alternatives is simply mixing a fruit juice with seltzer water. If you use cranberry or pomegranate juice, you’ll have a “mocktail” with a festive red color. Add a twist of lime, and serve it in a martini glass or champagne flute. This is one of my favorite drinks every day. You can really play around with this basic recipe, changing juices and garnishes to your specific taste—and cravings.

Also, there are so many flavored seltzers available that you can have a lot of fun mixing and matching juices and seltzers to create some really unique combinations. If you freeze the fruit juice in ice cube trays, you can then add them to your favorite flavored seltzer. The combinations are really endless. And when it is time to ring in the New Year, ginger ale or sparkling cider make great alternatives to a glass of champagne. You can read our past post on Bodacious Beverages for some more great recipes.

Although alcohol may not be on the menu this holiday season, you can still share a toast with family and friends. Cheers!

Recovery after birth: common discomforts vs. warning signs

Monday, December 18th, 2017

During pregnancy, your body changed a lot. Now that your baby is here, your body is changing again. As you heal after birth, it’s normal to feel some discomforts, like soreness and fatigue. However, other symptoms may be a sign that you need follow-up medical care.

Some common postpartum symptoms can include perineum soreness, afterbirth pains, cesarean section recovery, vaginal discharge, breast engorgement, nipple pain, swelling, hemorrhoids, constipation, urinary problems and sweating.

Chances are that you’ll be healthy after giving birth. But some moms may have some health problems, like:
• Cesarean wound infection
• Deep vein thrombophlebitis (DVT), a kind of blood clot
• Endometritis, an infection in the uterus (womb)
• Mastitis, a breast infection
• Postpartum bleeding
 Postpartum depression (PPD)

Call your provider if you have any of these warning signs:
• Bleeding that’s heavier than your normal menstrual period or that gets worse
• Discharge, pain or redness that doesn’t go away or gets worse. These could be from a c-section incision (cut), episiotomy or perineal tear (a tear that happens between the vagina and rectum).
• Feelings of sadness that last longer than 10 days after giving birth
• Fever higher than 100.4 F
• Pain or burning when you go to the bathroom
• Pain, swelling and tenderness in your legs, especially around your calves
• Red streaks on your breasts or painful lumps in your breast
• Severe pain in your lower belly, feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up
• Vaginal discharge that smells bad

If something feels wrong, call your health care provider. Many of these issues can be easily treated. But the key is to receive treatment before they cause a more serious problem.

If you have bleeding that can’t be controlled, chest pain, trouble breathing or signs of shock (chills, clammy skin, dizziness, fainting or a racing heart) seek help immediately through your provider or by calling 9-1-1.

Just as pregnancy is different for every woman, recovery is too. Be sure to bring up any concerns you have with your health care provider.