Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

World BD day gets word out globally

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Sick babyThe twitter-sphere was all aglow yesterday for the first-ever World Birth Defects Day. In fact, 3,378,673 people were reached worldwide! Yup. It’s not a typo.

Twelve leading global organizations including the March of Dimes, along with scores of other foundations, hospitals, health care providers, government agencies, parents and individuals with birth defects took to Twitter to raise awareness. People in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Panama, Philippines, Rwanda, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, and individuals from all over the United States participated. As the day progressed, #worldbdday tweets continually popped up on my computer screen. In case you missed it, here is a snapshot of important messages.

Birth defects are surprisingly common

Did you know that every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the US?

In the US, about 1 in 5 babies die before their 1st birthday due to birth defects.

Birth defects affect 1 in 33 infants worldwide.

More than 8 million babies worldwide are born each year with a serious birth defect.

There are thousands of different birth defects, and about 70% of the causes are unknown.

The most common birth defects are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome.

In the US, a baby is born with a congenital heart defect every 15 minutes.

More than 300,000 major birth defects of the brain and spine occur worldwide each year.

Many birth defects are discovered after the baby leaves the hospital or within the 1st year of life.

More than 3.3 million children under 5 years of age die from birth defects each year.

Babies who survive & live with birth defects are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities & lifelong challenges.

Early intervention services may help babies w/ BDs; get your child help by starting early.

Birth defects are costly. Financial and emotional costs of birth defects take a toll on families and communities worldwide.

Learn how to decrease your risk of having a baby with birth defects

Taking folic acid before & early in pregnancy can help to reduce the risk for BDs of the brain & spine.

Smoking during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of certain BDs. It’s never too late to quit.

We can’t prevent all birth defects. We CAN prevent FASD! (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders)

FASDs are 100% preventable.

Alcohol can cause your baby to have BDs (heart, brain & other organs). Don’t drink if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.

Being overweight before pregnancy can increase the risk for some birth defects.

Not all BDs are preventable, but women can take steps toward a healthy pregnancy.

Make a PACT: plan ahead, avoid harmful substances, choose a healthy lifestyle, and talk to your doctor.

Raise awareness

Awareness of birth defects & the importance of care for children with these lifelong conditions is key.

The mission of the March of Dimes is to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

March of Dimes has invested more than $50 million in birth defects research in the last 5 years.

Genetics has long been a main theme of March of Dimes research.

MOD grantees have discovered genes that cause or contribute to a number of common birth defects, including fragile X syndrome, cleft lip and palate, and heart defects.

These discoveries pave the way for treatments and preventions for these birth defects.

 

For more information, email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. See other topics in the series on Delays and Disabilities- How to get help for your child, here.

Staying active during pregnancy – winter edition

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Staying active in the winterBbrrr it’s cold outside and those warm blankets on the couch are calling my name. It’s tough to get motivated to go outside and be active during these cold and snowy days of winter. I want to stay under the blankets! But for healthy pregnant women, exercise can keep your heart, body and mind healthy.

Healthy pregnant women need at least 2.5 hours of being active each week. This is about 30 minutes each day. If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all at once. Instead, do something active for 10 minutes three times a day.

Stay safe

The safety of any activity depends on your health and fitness level. Not all pregnant women should exercise, especially if you have a condition such as heart or lung disease. As each woman and pregnancy is different, it is essential that you check with your prenatal health care provider first before engaging in any fitness program. The information provided here is meant as a guide.

How to get started

Pick things you like, such as walking, swimming, hiking or dancing. Brisk walking for 30 minutes or more is an excellent way to get the aerobic benefits of exercise, and you don’t need to join a health club or buy any special equipment. There are a variety of activities that you can participate in throughout your pregnancy.

Try an indoor class such as a low-impact aerobics class taught by a certified aerobics instructor. You can also try a yoga class designed for pregnant women. If you have a gym membership already, walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I usually go to the gym when my favorite TV show is on so I can walk and watch at the same time. Swimming is also a great way to get your heart rate up, and the water feels great, especially as your belly grows. See if a YM/YWCA or other community club near you has a pool.  If the weather outside is moderate and the sidewalks are clear, bundle up and head out for a walk in the fresh air. Staying home, though, may be the only way to avoid all the snow and freezing temperatures, so go ahead and turn on your favorite music and dance around your house or get moving to a DVD from the library. You can even add light resistance bands to help you maintain strength and flexibility. With any activity, remember to drink water to stay hydrated.

What to avoid

You should avoid any activities that put you at high risk for injury, such as downhill skiing. Stay away from sports in which you could get hit in the belly, such as kickboxing or soccer and any sport that has a lot of jerky, bouncing movements. After the third month of pregnancy, avoid exercises that make you lie flat on your back as it can limit the flow of blood to your baby. Also, avoid sit-ups or crunches.

Be aware

When you exercise, pay attention to how you feel. If you suddenly start feeling out of breath or overly tired, listen to your body and slow down or stop your activity. If you have any serious problems, such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headaches or chest pain, stop exercising and contact your health care provider right away.

Final tips

Exercise is cumulative – meaning every little bit of activity in a day adds up to the total that you need. Being active in small chunks of time, several times a day is a great way to get your activity quota in. Use tricks such as parking farther away in a parking lot and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Pretty soon you will meet your optimal daily activity level and you will feel more energized.

For more information on exercise during pregnancy, visit our website.

March 3rd is the first ever World Birth Defects Day

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

WBDD_LogoFamilies frequently write to the March of Dimes and share a story about their child’s struggle with a birth defect. Often, they ask what else they can do to help raise awareness. Well, here is a great way to get involved.

Help us mark the first World Birth Defects Day by participating in social media activities and sharing a story about the impact of birth defects on you and your family.

The March of Dimes and 11 other international organizations, including the CDC and the WHO, have created the first-ever World Birth Defects Day on March 3rd. We hope to raise awareness of this serious global problem and advocate for more prevention, care and research to help babies and children.

Birth defects affect 1 in 33 infants worldwide. Half of these birth defects will be detected soon after birth; the other half will be diagnosed during the first year of life. Birth defects are a major cause of death in infants and young children. Babies who survive are at an increased risk for life-long disabilities.

We need you.

On March 3rd, share your story about the impact of birth defects on you, your child or someone you know. With our partners, we’ll be urging governments, non-governmental organizations, policymakers, researchers, and health care providers around the world to help us work together toward a healthier future for children.

What can you do?

1.  Post an announcement on your blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social media platform.

2.  Register to be a part of the World Birth Defects Day Thunderclap. A message will be sent out at 9:00 a.m. EST on March 3 to help raise awareness.

3.  Join the Buzzday on Twitter on March 3rd. Plan to send one or more messages using the #WorldBDDay tag at some point during the day. Retweet both promotional and day-of messages to build our buzz for the day.

We look forward to having you join the conversation. Together, we can make strides to improve knowledge and raise awareness.

For more information, email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. See other topics in the series on Delays and Disabilities- How to get help for your child, here.

Pregnancy in women with congenital heart disease

Monday, February 9th, 2015

heart and stethoscopeMost women who have congenital heart disease and decide to get pregnant will have a safe pregnancy with minimal risks. However, there are many factors that may need to be considered. During pregnancy, your heart has much more work to do. It has to beat faster and pump more blood to both the mother and the baby. If you are a woman who has congenital heart disease, then this extra stress on your heart may be a concern. Considering these issues before pregnancy and being prepared for potential complications can help you feel more confident and more in control throughout your pregnancy.

Preconception planning
The most important thing you can do if you are a woman with congenital heart disease is to talk to both your cardiologist and obstetrician before you get pregnant. This will allow you to understand what risks (if any) are involved for your pregnancy. You can also determine if there are any concerns with your heart that need to be fixed prior to pregnancy—for instance, do you need to alter any medications or have any surgical repairs? Doing all of this before pregnancy will allow you to make sure your heart and your overall health is ready for pregnancy.

Some medications carry a risk for birth defects. These include ACE inhibitors and blood thinners. Therefore, if you are taking these medications and want to have a baby, it is important to talk to your doctor about their safety and potential alternatives that may work for you. However, you should never stop taking any medications without your doctor’s approval.

You may also want to meet with a genetic counselor to review the risks of passing congenital heart disease on to your baby. This risk will vary depending on the cause of the heart disease.

Pregnancy
During pregnancy you and your doctors will want to minimize any risks for both you and your baby. You will need to have regular follow-ups with both your obstetrician and cardiologist. It is important that your doctors work together and coordinate your care. Some women will need to be followed by a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (an obstetrician who manages high-risk pregnancies).

Although most women with congenital heart disease have safe pregnancies, symptoms of heart disease can increase, especially during the second and third trimesters when the heart is working much harder. This may mean additional visits to both your cardiologist and obstetrician.

Typically if you have a personal or a family history of congenital heart disease, your obstetrician will offer you a fetal echocardiogram at around 18-20 weeks of pregnancy. This is a specialized ultrasound that allows your doctor to check out the anatomy of your baby’s heart and look for major structural changes. Not all heart defects can be identified through fetal echo though.

Delivery
It may surprise you to learn that most women with congenital heart disease can have a normal vaginal delivery. You and your doctor will want to discuss pain management options and have a plan in place. You may need additional monitoring both during and after delivery. This can include oxygen monitoring as well as EKGs (electrocardiogram—a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart).

If you have congenital heart disease work with both your obstetrician and cardiologist so that you can have the best outcome possible. As with most chronic medical conditions, planning for your pregnancy will allow you to make informed decisions about what is best for you and your baby.

 

Thinking of getting pregnant? Get your blood pressure checked.

Friday, February 6th, 2015

blood pressureWhen was the last time you had your blood pressure checked? Nearly one in three adults has high blood pressure or hypertension. And yet, many of us do not even know that we have it. High blood pressure can be especially dangerous for both mom and baby during pregnancy. If you have high blood pressure and are thinking about getting pregnant, it is very important that you talk to your health care provider and get it under control as soon as possible.

Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries (blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body). When the pressure in the arteries becomes too high, it is called high blood pressure or hypertension.

If you are 20 pounds or more overweight or if you have a family history of hypertension, you are at an increased risk to have high blood pressure yourself.

If you do have high blood pressure, there are a few lifestyle changes that you can make to get it under control, and to help prepare your body for pregnancy:
• Eat healthy foods and reduce your intake of salt, cholesterol, and saturated fats
• Exercise regularly
• Get to a healthy weight
• Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.

Not all medications for high blood pressure are safe to continue during pregnancy. If you are taking any prescriptions to manage your hypertension, make sure you discuss them with your doctor. You should never stop taking any medications without talking to your provider first.

About 8 percent of women have problems with high blood pressure during pregnancy. Although most health problems can be managed with regular prenatal care, pregnant women with high blood pressure are more likely than women without high blood pressure to have these complications:
• Low birthweight: when a baby weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. High blood pressure can narrow blood vessels in the uterus and your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients, causing him to grow slowly.
• Premature birth: birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. A pregnant woman with severe high blood pressure or preeclampsia may need to give birth early to avoid serious health problems for her and her baby.
• Placental abruption: the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth. It can separate partially or completely. If this happens, your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients.

Work with your provider before and during your pregnancy to control your blood pressure. Making a few changes now can help you to have a safer, healthier pregnancy.

Does your baby have the right car seat?

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

rear-facing car seatFinding the right car seat can be a challenge. There are so many different kinds and sizes, how do you know which car seat is right for your child’s age and weight? What should you do if you have a baby born prematurely? This guide can help:

Step 1: Find the right car seat

• Should you get a rear facing car seat? Forward facing? Booster seat? Click here to learn the kind you need as your child grows. This handy visual guide is also helpful; just click on each box for details.
• Next, find a car seat based on your child’s height and weight.
• Car seats are also rated on ease of use. This info may be helpful to narrow down the kind of seat to buy.

Step 2: Correctly install your car seat

A car seat that is not installed correctly can be hazardous to your child.

• Learn proper car seat installation based on the kind of seat you have.
• Click here to learn about the inch test and pinch test – two simple ways to see if the seat is installed properly.
• And, did you know child seat safety inspectors can check your child’s car seat to make sure it is safely installed? (I didn’t!) Check it out.

Step 3: Register your car seat

• You can receive updates and notices about possible recalls by registering your car seat. Here’s how.

Preemies and tiny babies

If you have a premature or low birth weight baby, take time to read these special recommendations and our blog post on tips for tiny babies.

The right car seat, installed and used correctly is a MUST to keep your child safe.

How can we prevent birth defects?

Friday, January 30th, 2015

speak to your health care providerBirth defects are common, costly, and critical.
Common: Every 4 ½ minutes in the United States, a baby is born with a birth defect.
Costly: Hospital costs for children and adults with birth defects exceeds $2.6 billion. That does not include outpatient expenses.
Critical: Birth defects cause 1 in every 5 deaths during the first year of life. They can result in lifelong challenges and disabilities.

As Birth Defects Prevention Month draws to a close, let’s recap what we know and look at steps that can be taken to prevent them.

Preconception and pregnancy planning
We know that it essential for a woman to take an active role in planning her pregnancy.  If you are thinking of having a baby or if you may want to have children sometime in the future, it is important to make a PACT: plan ahead, avoid harmful substances, choose a healthy lifestyle, and talk to your doctor. You can read more here.

Changing a few behaviors now can make a big difference when you are ready to have a baby. It is best to get any preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, under control before pregnancy. Some medications, such as opioid-based prescription pain medications, are not safe to use when you are pregnant. All of these concerns can be discussed with your doctor during a preconception checkup.

Folic acid fortification
It is well known that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day can help to reduce the risk of neural tube defects or NTDs (disorders of the brain and spine). Since the US mandated folic acid fortification of enriched cereal grain products in 1998, the rates of NTDs have decreased by 35%.  That means that there are 1,300 fewer NTDs each year as a result of fortification. And that translates into an annual cost savings of approximately $508 million.

Surveillance
State surveillance systems record the number of babies born with a birth defect each year. The information gained from these surveillance systems furthers research on the causes of birth defects. The data also helps researchers to better understand which populations are at highest risk for specific birth defects. This information can then be used by public health professionals, policymakers, and health care providers to implement prevention strategies.

Research
The March of Dimes is funding research to understand the causes of birth defects and to develop new ways to prevent and treat them. Some March of Dimes grantees are studying basic biological processes of development. A more advanced look at the process of development will help reveal what can go wrong along the way. Others researchers are conducting clinical studies aimed at finding ways to prevent or treat specific birth defects.

Birth Defects Prevention Month may be coming to an end, but there is still a lot of work to do. Go to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to learn more.

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.