Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Measles outbreak continues

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Measles picture from the Public Health Image LibraryAre you and your family immunized against measles?

On my way to work today, I heard that the number of measles cases in the United States has continued to rise. At last count, there were 78 cases in 11 states. Most of those cases originated at Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure theme park. Visitors who went to the parks in December 2014 who were infected with measles spread it to people who were unvaccinated.

What should you do?

If you or your child have not been vaccinated against measles, or if your child is under 12 months old, you need to take precautions. According to the California Department of Public Health: “Any place where large numbers of people congregate and there are a number of international visitors, like airports, shopping malls and tourist attractions, you may be more likely to find measles, which should be considered if you are not vaccinated. It is absolutely safe to visit these places, including the Disneyland Resort, if you are vaccinated.”

The only way to protect against measles is through immunization. The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against the measles disease, as well as the mumps and rubella diseases. Your baby gets the MMR vaccine in two doses: the first between 12 and 15 months, and the second between 4 and 6 years. Adolescents and adults should be up to date on vaccinations. If you are not sure if you have had the vaccine, talk with your health care provider.

Measles and pregnancy

If you are thinking of having a baby, and are not sure if you have been vaccinated, speak with your health care provider. A simple blood test can tell you what vaccines you may need. If you need to get the MMR vaccine, make sure you do so before becoming pregnant. Wait at least 1 month before trying to get pregnant after the shot. If you are already pregnant, get the MMR vaccine after you give birth.

Measles on the rise

Last year, the U.S. had a record number of measles cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states there have been 644 confirmed measles cases reported for 2014 in the United States. This is the highest number of cases since the U.S. declared that measles was eliminated in 2000. Measles is still common in other parts of the world. International travelers may carry it to the U.S. where they can spread the disease to other people who have not been vaccinated.

As many as one in 20 children with measles develop pneumonia. This is the most common cause of death from measles in young children, according to the CDC. For every 1,000 children with measles, one or two will die.  Children under 5 and adults over 20 are at higher risk for getting complications from the measles virus, including hospitalization and death.

Symptoms of measles typically start to appear one to two weeks after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include a runny nose, watery eyes, cough, a high fever and finally a rash. Measles is so contagious that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will most likely get the disease.

Special thanks to the CDC and the Public Health Image Library for permission to use the above photo of a boy’s face after three days with measles rash.

Painkillers and pregnancy don’t mix

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

pregnant2Did you know that a significant number of women of childbearing age fill prescriptions for narcotic painkillers each year? If a woman becomes pregnant while taking these medications, she is at an increased risk of having a baby with birth defects.

Opioid-based (narcotic) pain medications, such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine, are used to treat moderate to severe pain. Many women are unaware that the use of these medications during pregnancy, even when used as directed, may increase their chance to have a baby with a serious birth defect of the brain, spine, or heart. They also have an increased risk of preterm birth.  Use of opioid-based painkillers during pregnancy can also cause babies to suffer withdrawal symptoms when they are born. This is a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS, and it is a growing problem in U.S. birthing hospitals.

A new report from the CDC found that on average, about 28% of privately insured and 39% of Medicaid-enrolled women of child-bearing age filled a prescription for an opioid between 2008-2012.

Since half of all pregnancies are unplanned, women may be prescribed opioid-based pain medications before they know they are pregnant.  “This highlights the importance of promoting safer alternative treatments, when available for women of reproductive age. We must do what we can to protect babies from exposure to opioids,” stated Coleen A. Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, Director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD).

“If you are using an opioid painkiller, you should also be practicing effective birth control, “ says José F. Cordero, MD, MPH, a pediatrician, birth defects expert formerly at CDC, and member of the March of Dimes Board of Trustees. “If you decide to get pregnant or do become pregnant, tell your health care provider about all the medications you are taking, right away. You may be able to switch to a safer alternative.”

The CDC’s Treating for Two: Safer Medication Use in Pregnancy initiative offers information to women and their healthcare providers about medication use during pregnancy. Go here to get more information.

Birth Defects: What have we learned?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Birth defects prevention month CDC guest postSpecial thanks to Coleen Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, Director, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for today’s guest post.

Each January, in recognition of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we at CDC strive to increase awareness about birth defects and reflect upon all that we have learned so far.  We know what causes some birth defects, such as Down syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. However, for many birth defects, the causes are unknown.

The good news is that, through research, we’ve learned a lot about what might increase or decrease the risk for birth defects. For example, we know that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Taking certain medications, having uncontrolled diabetes, and smoking cigarettes are all things that can increase the risk for birth defects. We also know that getting enough folic acid, a B vitamin, starting at least one month before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy lowers the risk of having a baby with a major birth defect of the brain or spine.

Each of these research findings represents a building block, a step toward healthy birth outcomes. Understanding the potential causes of birth defects can lead to recommendations and policies to help prevent them. A great example of this is the research on folic acid, which led to the recommendation that all women who can become pregnant should get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This important research also contributed to the evidence needed to add folic acid to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals.

These building blocks start to form our foundation for understanding birth defects and help us identify what we still need to study in the future. While we have a learned a lot, much work remains. We at CDC continue to study the causes of birth defects, look for ways to prevent them, and work to improve the lives of people living with these conditions and their families.

To learn more about birth defects research, we invite you to join us at 1PM EST on January 20, 2015 for CDC’s live webcast titled “Understanding the Causes of Major Birth Defects: Steps to Prevention.” Experts in birth defects research will present an overview of current and historical efforts to understand the causes of major birth defects. They will also discuss the challenges in turning research findings into effective prevention. For more information on the upcoming session, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/cdcgrandrounds/.

This year, we encourage you to become an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention Month.  Post facts about birth defects marked by the hashtag #1in33 on social media or share your story and how birth defects affect you and your family. Join us in a nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes and their impact.

 

 

Make a PACT to prevent birth defects

Friday, January 9th, 2015

MOD woman eatingEach year in the United States, about 120,000 babies (1 in 33) are affected by birth defects. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chances of having a healthy baby.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month and this year’s theme is “Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects—Make a PACT for Prevention.” If you are thinking of having a baby, follow this PACT:

Plan ahead:
• Get as healthy as you can before becoming pregnant.
• Make sure you are taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Studies show that if all women in the United States took the recommended amount of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects (NTDs) could be prevented. Folic acid also may help prevent other birth defects, including cleft lip/palate and some heart defects.

Avoid harmful substances:
• Do not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use street drugs.
• Make sure you are aware of any harmful exposures at work or home and do your best to avoid them.

Choose a healthy lifestyle:
• Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean proteins.
• Exercise and stay physically active.
• Make sure you work with your health care provider to get any pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, under control and managed.

Talk to your doctor:
• Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy and make sure you go to all of your prenatal visits during pregnancy.
• Discuss all medications you are taking with your doctor. This includes both prescription meds and over-the counter medicines.
• Review your family health history.

So this year, make a PACT to prevent birth defects by following these healthy guidelines. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s website has more information.

Your daily folic acid dose

Monday, January 5th, 2015

folic acid vitaminIf you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, folic acid is important to help prevent certain birth defects. But did you know that even if you are not trying to get pregnant, folic acid is still good for your body?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that promotes cell growth. Your skin, hair and nails make new cells every day. Folic acid also plays an important role in helping red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. Some studies even show that folic acid may help protect you from heart disease.

Folic acid can be found in its natural form (called folate) in spinach, black beans, peanuts and orange juice. But it is really hard to get the amount you need from food.

The manufactured or synthetic form of folate is called folic acid. There are many synthetic forms of folic acid: fortified grains, pastas and breakfast cereals. “Fortified” means that folic acid has been added to the food. However, the easiest way to get your recommended folic acid dose, is to take a multivitamin containing at least 400 mcg of folic acid per serving (or 600 mcg if you are pregnant) every day.

As this week is National Folic Acid Awareness Week, it is a good time to check your diet and vitamin pills to be sure that you are getting the recommended amount of folic acid.

If you are like me, and don’t like swallowing pills, you can find a variety of chewable and gummy multivitamins at your local grocery, pharmacy or discount store to suit your tastes and needs. Just be sure to read the labels – some serving sizes, particularly the gummy vitamins, require you to take two tablets to meet your daily recommended dose.

So even if you are not planning on becoming pregnant anytime soon, with so many benefits, you have all the reason you need to start getting your daily recommended folic acid fix.

Cheers! with alcohol-free alternatives

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Mocktails for the holidayTis 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. 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!

Chickenpox, vaccinations and Angelina Jolie

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

VaccineAngelina Jolie coming down with chickenpox is a good reminder for all of us to keep our vaccinations up to date! Chickenpox, also called varicella, is caused by a virus. Its symptoms include an itchy rash, blisters and fever. And before the varicella vaccine, people usually got chickenpox during childhood. Now, most kids get the vaccine in the first few years of life.

As a kid, I remember getting chickenpox along with several others in my kindergarten class. And as itchy and uncomfortable as I was, I still didn’t get it as bad as my little sister did years later – in fact, she got it twice, but that’s rare! Come to think of it, my sister was slammed three times by the virus when she got shingles last year. That’s right – the virus that causes chickenpox can also cause shingles later in life.

For most of us who were “lucky” enough to catch chickenpox in childhood, we probably don’t have to worry about getting chickenpox in adulthood, like Mrs. Pitt. But if you’ve never had chickenpox or aren’t sure, talk to your provider about getting the varicella vaccine, especially if you’re thinking about getting pregnant. Having chickenpox during pregnancy may cause some babies to get congenital varicella syndrome, a group of birth defects. Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy, so it’s best to get the varicella vaccine before getting pregnant.

In the meantime, here’s hoping Angelina has a speedy recovery!

Are you ready to have another baby?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

pregnant woman and toddlerEveryone has a different opinion about how far apart in age their children should be. Some people like to have their babies very close together, while others like a little more time between each child. But there may be more to consider than just personal preference. A recent study found that women who wait less than 18 months between pregnancies are more likely to give birth before 39 weeks.

The study found that mothers who had less time between pregnancies were more likely to give birth before 39 weeks when compared to women whose pregnancies were 18 months apart or more. Women with pregnancy intervals of less than 12 months were more than twice as likely to give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks) when compared to women whose pregnancies were at least 18 months apart.

“Short interpregnancy interval is a known risk factor for preterm birth, however, this new research shows that inadequate birth spacing is associated with shorter overall pregnancy duration” states  Emily DeFranco, Assistant Professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio and the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and co-author of the study. She adds: “This study has potential clinical impact on reducing the overall rate of preterm birth across the world through counselling women on the importance of adequate birth spacing, especially focusing on women known to be at inherently high risk for preterm birth.”

So if you are thinking about having another baby, make sure you schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider.  The two of you can discuss any health concerns you may have as well as the time between your pregnancies.  Also, if you have had a premature baby in the past, make sure you discuss ways to reduce your risk of having another premature birth.

Holidays are a time for family

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Family at Thanksgiving dinnerAnd learning about family health history! I recently visited some relatives that I had not seen in years. After we caught up, they mentioned to me that colon cancer runs in that side of the family. This was news to me, as I did not know much about our family’s health history. At my next doctor’s appointment I told my doctor what I had learned from my relatives, and we made a plan on how to manage my health care going forward.

At Thanksgiving, you may be getting together with your family over a delicious turkey dinner. This is a great time to bring up your family’s health history. You may discover important information to keep in mind at your next doctor’s visit like I did.

On our website, we have a lot of helpful tips on how to talk to family and relatives, how to use the information they share, and what to do if some family members don’t want to talk about their health.  You can also use our Family Health History form to help you start a conversation with your family.

Knowing your family’s health history is helpful, especially if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. If you learn that your family has a health condition that gets passed from parent to child, you may want to see a genetic counselor. This is a person who is trained to help you understand how conditions run in families and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health.

Enjoy spending time with your family this Thanksgiving, and learn about each other’s health at the same time. You may discover a few new things that can help you make healthy decisions for your future.

Are you at risk for premature birth?

Friday, November 14th, 2014

preemie and momHave you had a premature baby in the past? Are you pregnant with twins or other multiples? Do you have problems with your cervix or uterus?  If so, you are more likely to give birth early.

We often get questions from women wondering whether they are at risk to have a premature baby. What makes some women give birth early? We don’t always know what causes preterm labor and premature birth. However, there are some things that we do know make it more likely. These things are called risk factors. Having a risk factor doesn’t mean that you will definitely have preterm labor or give birth early. But it may increase your chances.

These three risk factors make you most likely to have preterm labor and give birth early:
1. Prior premature birth: You’ve had a premature baby in the past.
2. Multiples: You’re pregnant with twins, triplets or more.
3. Cervical or uterine problems: Problems with the structure or function of your cervix or uterus.

Some other risk factors include:

Family history: This means someone in your family (like your mother, grandmother or sister) has had a premature baby. If you were born prematurely, you’re more likely than others to give birth early.

Weight: Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy or not gaining enough weight during pregnancy.

Maternal health conditions, including:
High blood pressure and preeclampsia
Diabetes
Thrombophilias (blood clotting disorders)
o Certain infections during pregnancy, like a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or other infections of the uterus, urinary tract or vagina.

Smoking: Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely than babies born to nonsmokers to be born prematurely.

Stress: High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems.

Maternal age: Being younger than 17 or older than 35 makes you more likely than other women to give birth early.

Race/ethnicity: We don’t know why race plays a role in premature birth; researchers are working to learn more about it.   In the United States, black women are more likely to give birth early, followed by Native American and Hispanic moms.

These are just a few of the risk factors for preterm labor or premature birth. You can see a complete list on our website.

There are some things that ALL women can do to reduce their risk of preterm labor and premature birth:
• Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or take street drugs.
• Make sure you go to all your prenatal care appointments, even if you’re feeling fine. This allows your doctor to detect any problems early.
• Try to get to a healthy weight before your get pregnant. Once you are pregnant, ask your doctor how much weight you should gain.
• Make sure any chronic health conditions are being treated and are under control.
• Protect yourself from infections by washing your hands with soap and water. Know what foods to avoid during pregnancy. Have safe sex. Don’t touch cat feces (waste).
• Try to reduce stress. Make sure you ask for help from family and friends.
• Once you have had your baby, it is best to wait at least 18 to 23 months before getting pregnant again. And make sure you schedule a preconception checkup before your next pregnancy.

If you have concerns about whether you may be at risk for giving birth early, see your health care provider. With guidance and care, you will have a better chance of having a healthy pregnancy.

Have questions? Send them to our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.