Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Fertility myths – we’ve got the facts

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

negtestWe’ve heard of many different theories about fertility and becoming pregnant through AskUs. We’ve rounded up some of the ones we hear most often to help you weed through fact and fiction.

Q: Can folic acid help me get pregnant?

A: If you are trying to become pregnant, it is a good idea that you take a multivitamin that contains at least 400mcg of folic acid. This will help to prevent certain birth defects if you become pregnant. Folic acid, however, is not known to help with fertility in women. So, if you are having trouble becoming pregnant, folic acid is not something that will help you to conceive.

Q: I have an irregular period, can I get pregnant?

A: If you don’t have a regular period, there are other ways you can determine when you are ovulating, such as using your basal body temperature, cervical mucus and an ovulation prediction kit. For more tips, visit here.

Q: “Does drinking caffeine or smoking cigarettes affect my fertility?”

A: You may have heard that too much caffeine can cause miscarriage (when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy). Some studies say this is true, and others don’t. Until we know more about how caffeine can affect pregnancy, it’s best to limit the amount you get to 200 milligrams each day. This is about the amount in 1½ 8-ounce cups of coffee or one 12-ounce cup of coffee. Be sure to check the size of your cup to know how much caffeine you’re getting.

Smoking can affect your fertility and make it harder for you to get pregnant. Need help quitting? We’ve got resources.

Q: If I have sex a few days before ovulation will I conceive a girl?

A: Gender is determined at the moment of conception. During ovulation the ovaries release a mature egg that begins to travel to the uterus through the fallopian tubes. Sperm travel through the uterus to fertilize the egg within the fallopian tube. Only a single sperm fertilizes an egg. Both the sperm and the egg contain 23 chromosomes that will combine to make up the zygote which contains a total of 46 chromosomes. At conception, your baby’s gender, eye color, hair color, and much more has already been determined.

Of the 46 chromosomes that make up your baby’s genetic material, two chromosomes–one from your egg and one from your partner’s sperm–determine your baby’s gender. A woman’s egg contains only X sex chromosomes. A man’s sperm, however, may contain either an X or Y sex chromosome. If, at the instant of fertilization, a sperm with an X sex chromosome meets your egg (another X chromosome), your baby will be a girl (XX). If a sperm containing a Y sex chromosome meets your egg, your baby will be a boy (XY). It is always the father’s genetic contribution that determines the sex of the baby.

There are many old wives tales about choosing the sex of your baby but none of them have been proven.

Q: Will my birth control cause infertility?

A: The type of birth control you use may affect how soon you can get pregnant once you stop using it. To check your specific birth control, visit here.

Using birth control will not hurt your chances of becoming pregnant in the future. All reversible birth control methods will help prevent pregnancy while you’re using them, but they do not have long-lasting effects on your ability to get pregnant when you stop.

Have more questions? Text or email mailto:AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Q and A for CMV

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

bellyYou may have heard of CMV because it’s the most common virus passed from mothers to babies during pregnancy.

Cytomegalovirus, also called CMV, is a kind of herpesvirus. There are many different kinds of herpesviruses – some of which are sexually transmitted diseases, but others can cause cold sores or infections like CMV.

Q. Who gets it?

A. Many people get CMV at some point in their lives, most often during childhood. Most people with CMV have no signs or symptoms but some may have a sore throat, a fever, swollen glands, or feel tired all the time.

Q. Is CMV dangerous?

A. It can be  – CMV can pass to your baby at any time during pregnancy, labor and delivery and even while breastfeeding. If you have CMV during pregnancy, there is a 1 in 3 chance it will pass to your baby. Eighty percent of babies born with CMV never have symptoms or problems caused by the infection. But about fifteen percent of babies develop a disability such as hearing loss, vision loss or an intellectual disability like trouble learning or communicating.

Q. Can you find out if you or your baby have CMV?

A. Yes. You can have a blood test done during pregnancy to test for CMV. And you can have prenatal tests to see if your baby has CMV. After birth, your baby’s bodily fluids like her urine and saliva can be tested for CMV. Some babies with CMV will have signs or symptoms at birth, but many will appear healthy so testing is important.

Q. Is there any treatment?

A. Yes. If your baby was born with CMV, she may be treated with antiviral medicines to kill the infection. Scientists are working to develop a vaccine for CMV.

In the meantime, remember to always wash your hands well after being in contact with body fluids, when changing diapers or wiping noses, and carefully throw diapers and tissues away. Don’t kiss young children on the mouth or cheek and don’t share food, glasses and eating utensils with children or anyone who may have CMV. These precautions can help you protect yourself and your baby.

Q. If you had CMV in a previous pregnancy, what are the chances you may get it again in another pregnancy? See this post for answers.

If you think you may have (or had) CMV, be sure to talk to your prenatal care provider. See our article to learn more about CMV including treatments.

Questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Get outdoors but know how to protect yourself

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Family walking outdoorsTomorrow is National Get Outdoors Day. Now that the weather has warmed up, getting outside is a welcomed change in most parts of the country.

But getting outdoors has its own set of challenges – from bug bites to sunburn. Here’s a quick rundown on how to stay safe when heading outdoors, especially if you’re pregnant.

Bugs that bite and spread diseases

Ticks – In many areas of the country, especially wooded areas or places with high grass, Lyme disease is spread by ticks. Untreated Lyme disease can have cause complications during pregnancy.

Mosquitos – If you’re traveling, be sure to check the CDC’s map to see if the Zika virus is active in the area where you are heading. The Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites and through body fluids like blood or semen. If you’re pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, don’t visit a Zika-affected area. Zika virus during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.

What should you do?

Use an insect repellant (a product that keeps insects from biting you), like bug spray or lotion, that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (also called EPA). All EPA-registered bug sprays and lotions are checked to make sure they’re safe and work well.

Make sure the product contains one or more of these substances that are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, IR3535 and 2-undecanone. If the product contains DEET, make sure it has at least 20 percent (20%) DEET.

Don’t put bug spray or lotion on your skin under clothes. If you use sunscreen, put it on before the spray or lotion.

If you have children: Most bug sprays and lotions are safe to use on babies 2 months and older, but don’t use products that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years. Don’t put the spray or lotion on your baby’s hands or near her eyes or mouth. Don’t put the spray or lotion on cut, sore or sensitive skin.

Protect yourself from the sun

Nothing will stop your outdoor fun faster than a nasty sunburn. Sunscreen is important whenever you are outside, especially if you are pregnant. During pregnancy your skin is more sensitive to sunlight than it was before pregnancy. The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation (UV) which can increase the risk of skin cancer, give you a bad burn and increase signs of aging.

What can you do?

Before heading outside, lather up with a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Use only products that have UVA and UVB or Broad Spectrum protection products. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading outdoors and reapply every 2 hours.

If you’re sensitive to sunscreens, try one with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as they are not as irritating to the skin. You can also cover up by wearing long sleeves and pants, and a wide brimmed hat.

Don’t use products that combine bug repellant with sunscreen. It’s important to reapply sunblock every two hours. If you use a combination product, you’ll be reapplying the bug repellant chemicals as well – not good. Too much bug repellant can be toxic. So, to be on the safe side, keep these products separate, or use the combination product once, and then apply sunblock only every two hours afterward.

Don’t choose a product with retinyl palmitate, especially if you are pregnant. This type of vitamin A has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer and is associated with birth defects.

Check the expiration date and don’t use it if it is expired. If your sunscreen does not have a date, write one on your bottle after purchasing. Sunscreens retain their original strength for three years.

Here are tips for keeping your baby safe while outdoors.

With a little planning and care, you can get outdoors and enjoy yourself tomorrow. Enjoy!

 

Need a few ways to get to a healthier you? We’ve got them!

Monday, May 15th, 2017

#MCHchat 5.16.17This week is National Women’s Health Week.

Join our Twitter chat tomorrow from 12 – 1pm EST, to learn about ways to feel good and be your best self.

Use #MCHChat to join the conversation!

In the meantime, here are some ways to jump start getting to a healthier you.

The good thing about summer coming is the warm weather. There is nothing I love more than going out for a walk on my lunch break. I get my blood moving and it’s a chance to listen to an audio book, catch up with a friend or just take in the scenery. When I get back to my desk I feel refreshed and ready to tackle the next project.

Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about getting out and exercising though, it’s about your whole self. This includes your body and your mind. Things like getting enough sleep at night and managing your stress levels are related to your health. Even wearing your seatbelt and avoiding texting while driving will help you take steps to a healthier lifestyle.

What are a few ways you can make a big difference in your life?

  • Schedule a checkup with your health care provider for a well-woman visit. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant soon, this is a perfect time to schedule a preconception visit. You’ll want to be as healthy as possible before getting pregnant.
  • Keep tabs on how your mind and emotions are doing – are you stressed? sad? anxious? Your provider can help you figure out ways to manage all that life throws your way.
  • Make a grocery list before you go to the store – this will help you plan meals and avoid making unhealthy impulse purchases.
  • Take advantage of the nice weather! Go for a walk or bike ride.
  • Are you a smoker? You can get help to quit – ask your provider for resources or call 1-800-Quit-Now.

Small steps can lead to big changes

If making healthy changes feels overwhelming, take it one item at a time. This week, call your provider and make your well-woman appointment. Next week try to add on something else, like a 10 minute walk during lunchtime.

Small changes can lead to big leaps in getting to a healthier you. Take it day by day, and week by week.

 

Prevent syphilis in your baby

Monday, May 8th, 2017

doctorCongenital syphilis (present at birth) can cause serious lifelong health conditions, or even death, for a baby. Unfortunately, the number of congenital syphilis cases in the United States increased 46 percent between 2012 and 2015.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), also known as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can get it by having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with syphilis. You can also get it by having direct contact with an infected person’s syphilis sore which may be on a person’s lips, in their mouth or on their genitals.

If a woman has syphilis and gets pregnant, she needs to be treated for syphilis. If she doesn’t receive treatment, syphilis can pass to her baby.

The good news is that congenital syphilis is preventable:

  1. Protect yourself first. Either don’t have sex or have safe sex by using a condom or other barrier method.
  2. Go to all your prenatal care checkups; your provider will test you for syphilis.
  3. If you have syphilis, your provider will begin treatment. The sooner you receive treatment, the less likely you and your baby may have complications from the infection.
  4. Ask your partner to be tested (and treated) for syphilis, so that you don’t get infected or re-infected.

If you’re not sure whether you have syphilis, or think you may have been exposed to it, contact your healthcare provider.

See our article for more details about protecting yourself and your baby from syphilis. Our article includes diagnosis and treatment information, too.

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

Allergies and pregnancy – can you get relief safely?

Monday, May 1st, 2017

allergies2It seems that everyone I know is struggling with allergy symptoms right now. The chief complaints are itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, and generally feeling like a marshmallow invaded your head. Spring looks so beautiful but taking a deep breath outside can make you miserable!

There are many over-the-counter remedies and prescription medications available to help with symptoms, but if you’re pregnant it may not be wise to use any of them.

Here’s the low-down…

Pros and cons of possible allergy relief remedies during pregnancy

First of all, check with your health care provider before you take any over-the-counter medicine, supplement or herbal product to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby. Your provider will weigh the risks and benefits of taking any medication during pregnancy.

  • As a general rule, nasal saline (salt water) is good to use as it keeps your nasal passages moist and helps you blow away the allergens that accumulate in your nose. Avoid nasal steroids though, unless prescribed by your prenatal provider.
  • Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, usually should be avoided, especially during the first trimester, as there is a possible association between its use and certain birth defects in babies. There are too many brand name decongestants to list here. Your best bet is to ask your prenatal provider about a medication before you take it.
  • Antihistamines, such asdiphenhydramine, doxylamine and chlorpheniramine, block your reaction to an allergen. You may know them by their brand names, such as Benadryl, Nytol, Unisom, Triaminic, and others. Some are considered safe to use during pregnancy, with the ok of your provider.
  • Read labels. Many symptom relief medications contain more than one ingredient. Also, these meds are meant for short-term, not long-term use. Your prenatal provider is the perfect person to ask if/when/how long you should be on any particular medication.

How about allergy tests and shots?

  • If you’re thinking about being tested for allergies, either test before you become pregnant, or wait until after your baby is born. Allergy skin testing is not done during pregnancy due to a small risk that a severe reaction can occur. Reactions such as hives, swelling of your tongue and throat and even loss of consciousness may occur. During pregnancy, a severe reaction may be harmful to your baby.
  • If you are currently receiving allergy shots (known as immunotherapy), be sure you let your allergist know you are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant. He may decide to continue the shots, adjust your dosage or stop them entirely during your pregnancy.

Other suggestions

  • Decreasing exposure to allergy triggers is key in helping you breathe easier. Some allergy healthcare providers recommend keeping windows and doors shut and running an air conditioner to keep the indoor air as free from outdoor allergens as possible. You may find it helpful to run a small air purifier in the bedroom at night to help you sleep.
  • Breathing steam or taking a warm shower may also help to decongest your nasal passages.

Bottom line

Every woman and every pregnancy is different; your provider will know the remedy that is best for you. The good news is that once you give birth, you will have more options available to you to combat Mother Nature’s pollen parade.

Have questions? If you are wondering about taking a specific medication during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, you can text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

How long will it take for me to get pregnant?

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Contemplative womanThe answer to this question depends on many factors and is very personal. Some people get pregnant the first month they try. For others, it takes longer. If you have been trying to conceive for a few months, you may just need more time. Most couples who try to get pregnant do so within one year. It may not happen immediately, but the odds are it will happen soon.

But if you have been trying to get pregnant for more than a year (or six months if you are 35 or over) and have not conceived, your health care provider may suggest you consult a reproductive endocrinologist. A reproductive endocrinologist is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) who specializes in diagnosing and treating infertility.

Infertility means that the body’s ability to perform the basic function of reproduction is impaired. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 8 couples of childbearing age have difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term.

There are many possible causes of infertility. If you do see a reproductive endocrinologist, both you and your partner will most likely need to undergo testing. Infertility affects men and women equally. And 25% of infertile couples have more than one factor that contributes to their infertility.

Risk factors

There are a number of risk factors for infertility. Many of them are the same for both men and women. They include:

  • Age. As you get older, your fertility will start to decline. Each woman is born with a set number of eggs. As you get older, you have fewer and fewer eggs, and the eggs you have aren’t easily fertilized by a man’s sperm. All this makes it harder for you to get pregnant. And men over age 40 may be less fertile than younger men.
  • Weight. Women who weigh too much or too little can have difficulty conceiving. And a man’s sperm count can be affected if he is overweight.
  • Smoking. Smoking reduces fertility for both men and women.  According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), up to 13% of female infertility is caused by cigarette smoking and women who smoke have an increased risk of miscarriage.
  • Alcohol use. There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. If you are trying to get pregnant, avoid alcohol. Heavy alcohol use in men can decrease both sperm count and motility (the ability of the sperm to swim towards the egg and fertilize it).

Treatment options

There are several kinds of fertility treatments. You, your partner, and your reproductive endocrinologist can decide which treatment gives you the best chance of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. Treatments include:

  • Surgery to repair parts of your or your partner’s reproductive system. For example, you may need surgery on your fallopian tubes to help your eggs travel from your ovaries to your uterus.
  • Controlled ovarian stimulation (also called COS). COS uses certain medicines to help your body ovulate and make healthier eggs.
  • In vitro fertilization (also called IVF). IVF is the most common kind of assisted reproductive technology (ART). In IVF, an egg and sperm are combined in a lab to create an embryo which is then transferred to the uterus.

You may be concerned that consulting a reproductive endocrinologist means you will need IVF.  Usually, this is not the case. In fact, 85-90% of infertility cases are treated with conventional therapies.

If you’ve been struggling to conceive, talk to your health care provider to learn about what you can do.

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

What can you do?

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

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

Zika 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.