Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New research on weight and pregnancy

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

scaleBeing overweight during pregnancy can cause complications for you and your baby. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have pregnancy problems such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, c-section and even a miscarriage or stillbirth. If you’re overweight or obese during pregnancy your baby is more likely to be born prematurely, have a birth defect, or have heart disease, diabetes or obesity later in life.

More and more research is being done on how your weight can affect your pregnancy. In a recent study, researchers looked at information on more than one million children born to Swedish women who were followed for nearly eight years. They found that the overall risk of cerebral palsy (a birth defect) was nearly double in babies born to women with severe obesity. CP is a group of conditions that affects the parts of the brain that control muscles and movement.

The study authors say that obesity does not cause CP, but that there is an association between obesity in pregnancy and cerebral palsy risk. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy and maintaining healthy habits throughout your pregnancy can help reduce this risk.

“There continues to be evidence of many different repercussions and outcomes associated with being overweight or obese,” said Dr. Siobhan Dolan, medical advisor at the March of Dimes. “All the data is pointing to the same issue — that it’s good to get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and to gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy,” she said.

What can you do?

If you are currently pregnant, now is not the time to lose weight. But there are things you can do to be as healthy as possible.

Here are some tips:

  • Get early and regular prenatal care. Go to every checkup, even if you are feeling fine.
  • Have a chat with your health care provider about gaining weight during your pregnancy. Every woman and every pregnancy is different – that’s why it’s important to talk to your provider about how much weight gain is right for you.
  • Eat healthy foods and do something active every day. Even getting up from your desk every hour at work and walking around the office can be helpful.

Have questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Developmental screenings are helpful for early diagnoses

Monday, April 10th, 2017

doctor-and-babyBefore your baby leaves the hospital, he receives a series of tests called newborn screening. These tests look for serious but rare conditions, including blood, hearing and heart disorders. If a problem is discovered through newborn screening, your baby may receive treatment and often avoid a more serious health problem. Early diagnosis is critical in detecting certain medical conditions.

Other screenings occur after your baby is home from the hospital

Between birth and age 3, your baby goes through incredible changes. He is growing and developing every day. To be sure that your baby is “on track,” your baby’s healthcare provider will check his developmental milestones at each well-baby visit.

These milestones are the major achievements in your child’s life. They include smiling, babbling, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, reaching grabbing, talking, walking and other accomplishments. Parents can check milestones, too. Here is a list of behaviors to look for at specific ages.

If either you or your baby’s provider are concerned that your baby is not progressing well, you can request a developmental screening. It is free as part of the federally funded early intervention program. Similar to newborn screening, this screening helps to identify potential health or developmental problems early.

If your child qualifies, the early intervention program may include services such as speech therapy, physical or occupational therapy, or even a special preschool setting. Early intervention can be enormously helpful in helping your child improve. And, the sooner you begin intervention, the sooner your baby can reach his full potential.

One example of a diagnosis where early intervention is particularly important is Autism. April is autism awareness month, a time to remember that this developmental disorder affects 1 in 68 children in the U.S. Officially called autism spectrum disorder or ASD, it is a developmental disability that can cause social, communication and behavior challenges – from mild to severe. This is why it is referred to as a “spectrum” disorder.

ASD can be difficult to diagnose because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to give a definite answer as to whether your child has it or not. Usually, children with ASD start showing signs or symptoms of the disorder in their toddler or preschool years, and some babies show signs in their first year of life. For this reason, taking your child for regular visits with his healthcare provider is particularly important so that his development can be monitored. If your child needs early intervention services, getting it early is key in helping him progress.

Bottom line

There is a wide range of “typical development” for children. But, if you are concerned about your child’s progress or feel he is delayed in reaching his milestones, talk to his healthcare provider sooner rather than later.

You can find more information in our series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

Remember – don’t delay with delays.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Spring is here and so are ticks

Friday, April 7th, 2017

pregnant women walkingI remember the anxiety I felt after discovering a tick attached to my skin. I was reaching my hands behind my head and found a tick at the top of my neck where my hairline begins. The tick had already bitten me and was enlarged with blood. I never even felt the bite. That’s the tricky part about ticks, they crawl onto you and are so small they may be hard to see and nearly impossible to feel.

Why are these little creatures so dangerous?

Ticks can spread Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by an infected black-legged tick (also called a deer tick). This type of tick usually lives in wooded areas, like forests, or in places with high grass and bushes. A tick with Lyme disease can spread Lyme by biting you and has to be on your body for about 2 days before you can get infected.

If you get infected with Lyme disease during pregnancy, it may cause complications, including:

  • An infection in the placenta. The placenta grows in your uterus (womb) and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
  • Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Congenital heart defects. These are heart conditions that are present at birth. They can affect the heart’s shape or how it works, or both.
  • Urinary tract defects. The urinary tract is the system of organs (like the kidneys and bladder) that helps your body get rid of waste and extra fluids. Urinary tract defects can cause pain, urinary tract infections, kidney damage and kidney failure.
  • Problems with your baby’s blood, like hyperbilirubinemia, which is when your baby’s blood has too much bilirubin in it. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that forms as red blood cells break down. Too much bilirubin can cause your baby to have jaundice. This is when your baby’s skin and the white parts of his eyes look yellow because his liver isn’t fully developed or working properly.

Untreated Lyme disease also may cause your baby to have a rash after he’s born.

How do you know if you have Lyme disease?

Early signs may include: headache, fever and chills, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes  (glands throughout the body that help fight infection), and/or a rash called erythema migraines (also called EM). This rash looks like a bull’s eye around where the tick bit you.

Later signs may include: being short of breath, dizziness, stiff neck, severe headache, EM rash, joint pain and swelling, and/or facial paralysis (when you can’t feel or move parts of your face.)

If you have any signs or symptoms of Lyme disease, or you find a tick attached to your skin, call your health care provider. You can get a blood test to see if you have Lyme disease. Antibiotics are available and most women who get treatment during pregnancy have healthy babies.

Prevent Lyme disease by protecting yourself from tick bites

  • Use an EPA registered insect repellant.
  • Shower and check your body and clothes for ticks after being outside.
  • If you find a tick on you, remove it with tweezers – be sure to grab the tick near its head. Slowly pull the tick up and off your skin and be sure not to squeeze or crush the tick. Check with your healthcare provider or local Department of Health as to whether you should bring it in to be examined and tested for Lyme disease.  If not, flush the tick down the toilet. After removing the tick, clean the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

For more information about Lyme disease and pregnancy, see our article.  

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

Postpartum depression – don’t suffer in silence

Monday, March 27th, 2017

img_postpartum_depIf you keep up with celebrity news, you may have read about model and TV series host Chrissy Teigen’s recent struggle with Postpartum Depression (PPD). Chrissy was feeling all sorts of symptoms without knowing the cause or that there could be an explanation.

Postpartum depression (also called PPD) is a kind of depression that you can get after having a baby. PPD is strong feelings of sadness that last for a long time. It is the most common complication for women who have just had a baby; in fact 1 in 9 women suffer from PPD, which is different from the “baby blues.” Many women don’t know why they are suffering or are hesitant to reach out for help.

One of Chrissy’s greatest attributes is her ability to be truthful and “tell it like it is.” In her essay that was published in Glamour, she writes “I also just didn’t think it could happen to me… But postpartum (depression) does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it. And that’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling.”

Signs of PPD

You may have PPD if you have five or more signs that last longer than two weeks:

Changes in your feelings:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day every day
  • Feeling shame, guilt or like a failure
  • Feeling panicky or scared a lot of the time
  • Having severe mood swings

Changes in your everyday life:

  • Having little interest in things you normally like to do
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Eating a lot more or a lot less than is normal for you
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions

Changes in how you think about yourself or your baby:

  • Having trouble bonding with your baby
  • Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby
  • Thinking about ending your life

If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above or think you may have PPD, call your health care provider. There are things you and your provider can do to help you feel better. Reach out for help and support today. For more information about PPD, see our article.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Where does all the weight gain go during pregnancy?

Friday, March 24th, 2017

Now that you’re pregnant, your body is changing to get ready for your baby. Gaining weight is an important part of pregnancy.

If you gain too little or too much weight during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other women to have certain complications such as a premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy).

You may be wondering – where does all the weight go? If you’re at a healthy weight before pregnancy and gain 30 pounds during pregnancy, here’s where you carry the weight:

pregnant woman on scale

  • Baby = 7.5 pounds
  • Amniotic fluid = 2 pounds. Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby in the womb.
  • Blood = 4 pounds
  • Body fluids = 4 pounds
  • Breasts = 2 pounds
  • Fat, protein and other nutrients = 7 pounds
  • Placenta = 1.5 pounds. The placenta grows in your uterus (also called womb) and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
  • Uterus = 2 pounds. The uterus is the place inside you where your baby grows

Gaining weight slowly and steadily is best. You may not gain any weight in the first trimester, or you may gain a little more or a little less than you think you should in any week. Try not to worry about it.

Gaining weight is necessary for your pregnancy, but gaining the right amount is also important. Talk to your prenatal care provider about the weight gain that is best for you and your body.

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

Zika travel guidance – an update and helpful tools

Monday, March 20th, 2017

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.

 

Zika and sperm – a new concern

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

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.

 

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

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

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.

Rare Disease Day is February 28th. What makes a disorder rare?

Monday, February 27th, 2017

rare-disease-dayAny disease, disorder, illness or condition affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. is considered rare. The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) says there are about 7,000 rare diseases and disorders which affect roughly 30 million Americans. That’s 1 in 10 people, and more than half of them are children.

Why is rare disease awareness so important?

It is often very hard to diagnose a rare disease and it can take a long time for a correct diagnosis to be made.

Then, even if someone receives a diagnosis, 95% of the conditions have no treatment or cure (which means that only 5% of affected people have a treatment option). As a result, many infants or children die from rare disorders.

Individuals living with a rare disease move through life without getting answers to their most basic questions.

Here are a few examples of rare diseases:

Agenesis of Corpus Callosum (ACC)

This rare disorder is present at birth. The corpus callosum, which connects the left and right sides of the brain, is partially or completely absent. The cause of this condition is usually not known but it can be inherited. Symptoms include delays in reaching developmental milestones, seizures, feeding problems and impairment of mental and social development. Treatment is based on supporting an individual’s symptoms, such as therapies that focus on left/right coordination. Early diagnosis and interventions offer the best chances of improvement.

Klippel-Feil syndrome (KFS)

KFS is a skeletal disorder with an abnormal union of two or more bones in the spinal column within the neck. This can cause some affected individuals to have an abnormally short neck with restricted movement. KFS seems to occur randomly for unknown reasons, although in some cases it may be inherited. Treatment is based on an individual’s specific symptoms, and may include surgery and physical therapy.

Progeria, or Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS)

According to NORD, progeria is a fatal, genetic condition of childhood that resembles premature aging. In most cases, it is not passed down in families. The gene change that causes the condition is almost always a chance occurrence that is extremely rare. “In 2012, the results of the first-ever clinical drug trial for children with progeria revealed that Lonafarnib, a type of farnesyltransferase inhibitor (FTI) originally developed to treat cancer, was shown to be effective for progeria. Other than Lonafarnib, which is not FDA-approved and thus only available through clinical drug trials, the treatment of HGPS is directed toward the specific symptoms that are apparent in each individual.”

Tay-Sachs

This condition is an inherited disease that affects a baby’s central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). The central nervous system controls how the body works. There is no cure for Tay-Sachs, and a baby with Tay-Sachs usually dies by the time he is 4 years old. We have information about this disease on our website.

NORD provides information on many rare diseases.

#RareDiseaseDay

Rare Disease Day is always on the last day of February each year. This year it’s on February 28th and the focus is on research. The slogan is “With research, possibilities are limitless.” And it’s true, research can help discover treatments and in some cases cures. Research can give hope to people living their day-to-day lives in search of answers.

See rarediseaseday.us or NORD for more info.

New research links premature birth to mom’s risk of heart disease later in life

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

preemie and momThis headline has raised concerns among women who have had a premature baby (birth before 37 weeks) – and for good reason.

In a published study, researchers analyzed data from more than 70,000 women to look at the association between premature delivery and future cardiovascular disease (CVD). They found that women who delivered a baby before 37 weeks gestation in their first pregnancy had a 40 percent greater risk of heart disease later in life, compared to women with term deliveries. This finding occurred even after accounting for pre-pregnancy sociodemographic, lifestyle, and CVD risk factors.

And there’s more.

Women who delivered before 32 weeks gestation had double the risk of CVD later in life compared to women with term deliveries.

So what does this mean for moms who gave birth early?

The results from the study are concerning, but researchers have stated that premature delivery may be an early warning sign of future heart problems, but not the cause of them. Factors such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, both of which can cause preterm labor, are already considered risk factors for future CVD. More research is needed to determine exactly how premature delivery and CVD are linked.

The March of Dimes funds research to help discover the causes of preterm labor and premature birth. In about half of cases, the cause is unknown. We hope that with our groundbreaking research, we will be able to help prevent premature birth and improve the health of mothers and babies throughout their lifetimes.

If you have questions or concerns about your future risk of CVD, speak with your health care provider.