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.

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.

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.

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!

Wash your hands for National Handwashing Awareness Week

Friday, December 8th, 2017

The easiest way to stop the spread of germs is to wash your hands. You should wash your hands before and after many activities, such as when you are preparing foods or eating, after you use the bathroom, and after changing diapers or helping your child use the toilet. The simple act of washing your hands can help protect you and others from germs.

Is there really a benefit to washing hands?

You may not be able to see the germs on your hands, but they can lead to illness. Think of hand washing as your daily vaccine for staying healthy. If you’re pregnant or thinking about pregnancy, washing your hands can help protect you from viruses and infections, like CMV and toxoplasmosis. These viruses can cause problems during pregnancy.

Washing your hands is easy, just follow these easy steps:

  • Wet your hands with clean water and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to lather the soap. Be sure you get the back of your hands as well.
  • Scrub! And sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to be sure you are scrubbing long enough.
  • Rinse your hands well.
  • And dry.

If you don’t have soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Just be sure to check the label. Hand sanitizers are good in a pinch, but they don’t get rid of all types of germs, so hand washing is still the best way to stay healthy.

What’s the best way to protect against the flu this season?

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Answer: an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against this potentially serious disease. And the good news is that it’s safe to get the flu shot during pregnancy.

Is the vaccine effective at preventing the flu?

Each year the CDC conducts studies to determine how effective the flu vaccine is at protecting against flu illness. It is important to note that the vaccine effectiveness can vary from season to season and depending on who is being vaccinated.

What are the benefits?

  • The flu shot can keep you from getting the flu. And the vaccine can’t cause the flu.
  • It’s safe to get the flu shot any time during pregnancy. But it’s best to get it now because flu season is October through May.
  • Getting vaccinated during pregnancy can also protect your baby after he is born and before he is able to receive his own vaccination.
  • There are different flu viruses and they’re always changing, so each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect you against three of four flu viruses that are likely to make you sick.
  • Getting the vaccine is easy. You can get the shot from your health care provider, and many pharmacies and work places offer it each fall. Use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find out where you can get the flu vaccine.
  • Need more reasons to get your flu shot? We have 10 right here.

Should you get the flu vaccination?

Yes! Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. However there are exceptions. There are some people who cannot get the flu shot and others who should talk to their health care provider before getting the flu shot.

For more information on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, visit here.

Home from the NICU: how to handle visitors and trips outside

Monday, November 20th, 2017

You’ve finally brought your baby home from the NICU and you’re looking forward to taking her out into the world and introducing her to your friends and family. But before you send out a group text telling everyone to come on over, we have some tips to keep in mind.

Since babies who have stayed in the NICU have a greater chance of getting infections than other babies, you want to take steps to keep them healthy. Here are some things you can do:

  • Limit the number of people who come to your home.
  • Ask visitors to wash their hands before touching your baby.
  • Do not let visitors smoke in your home or near your baby.
  • Do not let adults or children who are sick, have a fever or who may have been exposed to an illness near your baby. Any adult who will have contact with your baby should get a pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine.
  • Do not take your newborn to crowded places like shopping malls and grocery stores.

This does not mean that you can’t invite people to your home or that you have to stay in your house for the first months after your baby comes home. It’s fine to take your baby for walks outside in nice weather and go visit friends or family members. Just make sure your baby is going to a smoke-free and illness-free home.

If you have questions about your child’s health or condition, especially if your baby has medical equipment at home, reach out to your baby’s health care provider. She will be the ideal person to advise you.

Life at home after the NICU can be challenging, but you may find that you have new strength. And there is much to celebrate. Share your baby’s birth story and get support from other families on Share Your Story. Your experience and story will resonate with others as well as provide you with encouragement as you create new memories at home.

What does it mean to have a short cervix?

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

A short cervix means the length of your cervix is shorter than normal. To be more specific, a short cervix is one that is shorter than 25 millimeters (about 1 inch) before 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Why is the length important?

If you have a short cervix, you have a 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) of having a premature birth, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. So if you have a short cervix and you’re pregnant with just one baby, your health care provider may recommend these treatments to help you stay pregnant longer:

  • Cerclage
  • Vaginal progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that helps prepare your body for pregnancy. It may help prevent premature birth if you have a short cervix and you’re pregnant with just one baby. You insert it in your vagina every day starting before or up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, and you stop taking it just before 37 weeks.

If your provider thinks you have a short cervix, she may check you regularly with ultrasound.

How do you know if you have a short cervix?

Checking for a short cervix is not a routine prenatal test. Your provider probably doesn’t check your cervical length unless:

  • She has a reason to think it may be short.
  • You have signs of preterm labor. This is labor that begins too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • You have risk factors for premature birth, like you had a premature birth in the past or you have a family history of premature birth (premature birth runs in your family).

What makes a cervix short?

Many things can affect the length of your cervix, including:

  • Having an overdistended (stretched or enlarged) uterus
  • Problems caused by bleeding during pregnancy or inflammation (irritation) of the uterus
  • Infection
  • Cervical insufficiency

Read about our own Health Education Specialist Juviza’s personal experience being pregnant with a short cervix and her new connection to the March of Dimes’ mission.

Prematurity Awareness Month has arrived and here’s how you can help

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Here at the March of Dimes November means Prematurity Awareness Month. Although we work all year round to fight preterm birth, this month we are working especially hard to get the word out about the serious problems of preterm birth and how you can help us end prematurity.

Each year in the U.S., 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely. And being born too soon is not only the leading cause of death for children under the age of five, but it can also lead to long-term disabilities. This is a heartbreaking reality for too many families. That is why we are hard at work funding groundbreaking research, education, advocacy and community programs to help give every mom the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy and every baby the chance to survive and thrive.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Join our Twitter chat with Show Your Love on November 16th at 12pm ET. Just use #PreemieChat
  • November 17th is World Prematurity Day. Share/Retweet/Repost March of Dimes social messages with your friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Change your profile picture on Facebook with our branded World Prematurity Day frame.
  • Add a #worldprematurityday profile picture to your Twitter account with the WPD Twibbon.
  • Add your voice and sign-up to automatically post a message of support and awareness of prematurity on your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts on World Prematurity Day.
  • Participate virtually in our Imagine a World event! Make a short video sharing what you imagine for future generations. Post your video on social media using #MODImagines. Together, we’re imagining a world where every baby has the chance to thrive!

Create a purple movement!

  • Wear your March of Dimes gear and share photos using #prematurityawarenessmonth and/or #worldprematurityday and @marchofdimes.
  • Light your front porch/home/office lobby/building. Purchase purple lights through Amazon Smile! For every light purchased Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of the price of your purchase to the March of Dimes. Go to smile.amazon.com, select March of Dimes and use the search term “purple lights.”
  • Host an information booth in a prominent spot, such as outside your cafeteria, to promote November as Prematurity Awareness Month to your employees or coworkers.
  • Spread your gratitude by celebrating, thanking and remembering anyone who has helped you and/or the people you care about who have been affected by our mission.

We have much more in store this month, so stay tuned as we work to spread the word about World Prematurity Month.