Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Thinking about pregnancy after premature birth

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Even if you do everything right, you can still have a premature birth. We don’t always know what causes premature birth, but we do know that if you’ve had a premature baby in the past, you’re at increased risk of having a premature birth in another pregnancy. If you have given birth early, here are some ways you may be able to reduce the chances of premature birth in another pregnancy:

Wait 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again

Waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies gives your body time to recover from one pregnancy so that is it ready for the next one. Use birth control so you don’t get pregnant again too soon. Talk to your provider about the best birth control option for you.

Schedule a preconception checkup

Being as healthy as possible when you get pregnant can help you have a healthy, full-term pregnancy. At your preconception checkup you and your provider can talk about:

Talk to your provider about progesterone shots

Progesterone is a hormone that helps your uterus grow and keeps it from having contractions. Progesterone shots may help prevent you from giving birth early again if:

  • You’re pregnant with just one baby.
  • You were pregnant before with just one baby and had spontaneous premature birth.

Get treatment for short cervix

Your cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. The cervix opens, shortens and gets thinner and softer so your baby can pass through the birth canal during labor and birth. Having a short cervix increases your risk for giving birth early. Talk to your provider about cerclage and vaginal progesterone.

Take low dose aspirin to help prevent preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a kind of high blood pressure some women get after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth. If not treated, it can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including premature birth. If you have risk factors for preeclampsia, like you’ve had it before or you have high blood pressure or other health conditions, your provider may want you to take low-dose aspirin during pregnancy.

Quit smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs and misusing prescription drugs.

All of these can put your health and your baby’s health at risk and make you more likely to give birth early. Quitting or getting help to quit is the best thing you can do. Talk to your provider about programs that can help.

Learn the signs of preterm labor

Learning the signs and symptoms of preterm labor doesn’t reduce your risk of premature birth. But if you know them and know what to do if you have them, you can get treatment quickly that may help stop your labor. If you have any signs or symptoms of preterm labor, call your provider right away or go to the hospital.

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

Hispanic Heritage Month

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

From September 15th through October 15th we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, a time where we recognize Hispanic culture, as well as achievements, and contributions Hispanics and Latinos have made to the United States.

According to the U.S. Census, there are approximately 57.5 million Hispanics in the United States– about 18% of the country’s total population and the largest ethnic or racial minority in the country. Despite this wonderful growth, there is concern over the health status of Hispanics/Latinos and their health outcomes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our community is at higher risk for diabetes. This is a disease that affects blood sugar. Over time diabetes can cause serious health problems and complications if not treated. Many things can increase the risk of diabetes (known as risk factors). Some factors cannot be controlled, such as family health history. But other factors, such as diet and physical activity, can be controlled. There are several things we can do to reduce the risk of this disease, live a healthy life, and celebrate our culture day by day. For example:

  • Having a medical checkup every year is the key to prevention. Talk to your healthcare provider if someone in your family has diabetes (for example, your grandparents, parents, or siblings). Ask your provider about your risk factors and ask them to give you a diabetes test.
  • Cook your favorite foods in a healthy way. Use vegetables and herbs to season your food. Peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro are some of the basic and common ingredients in Latin cuisine. These ingredients provide rich flavor to any meal, and can help you cook with less salt. Instead of desserts or cookies, eat fresh fruit.
  • You do not need to have a gym membership to be active. You can do things in your home or community. For example, dancing is an activity that helps you stay physically active. You can organize activities with other people who enjoy dancing, or you can dance at home with your children or with your partner.
  • Avoid smoking, and second hand smoke. Do not let people smoke in your car or at home. Be careful about how much alcohol you consume or avoid it all together. All of this can cause serious health problems and cause complications if you already have diabetes.

If you and your partner want to have a baby, these recommendations can be helpful as you plan your pregnancy. Diabetes can make it harder to get pregnant; it can affect the fertility of you and your partner. Additionally, during pregnancy, diabetes can increase your risk of having a premature baby. That is why it is important to think about the health of your future baby before getting pregnant.

If you have more questions on this topic, or any others related to preconception health and pregnancy, you can email us at: askus@marchofdimes.org or preguntas@nacersano.org. Our bilingual health educators can help guide you and provide you with a list of questions you can ask your health care provider if you are at risk of getting, or have, diabetes and want to have a baby.

Prenatal health and nutrition start before pregnancy

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Today’s guest post is written by Donna Dell of Mission Pharmacal on the findings of a survey, conducted in part by March of Dimes, on the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy.

Did you know that taking multivitamins or vitamins containing folic acid is an important component for a healthy mom and baby?

A recent survey conducted by the March of Dimes, in partnership with Mission Pharmacal, showed that only 34 percent of women ages 18-45 started taking a prenatal vitamin or multivitamin before they knew they were pregnant, and the number drops to 27 percent for Hispanic women and to 10 percent for African-American/black women.

Taking a multivitamin containing folic acid every day before and during pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine, also called neural tube defects. More than 120,000 babies — or three percent of all births — will be born with birth defects in the U.S. this year.

Here are some other key findings from the survey:

  • While, 97% of women reported taking prenatal vitamins or multivitamins during their last or current pregnancy, 36% of women of childbearing age said they are currently not taking any vitamin or mineral supplements at all.
  • 77% of all women worry that there may be changes to the healthcare system that may negatively impact access to prenatal care.
  • 43% of women who have been or are currently pregnant reported that cost affected when and whether they sought prenatal care for their pregnancy.
  • 84% of women who reported being familiar with folic acid either didn’t know (59%) or weren’t sure of the recommended amount of the nutrient is needed, in order to help have a healthy baby or pregnancy.

So, what are some steps you can take to support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby?

  • Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin containing at least 400 micro-grams (mcg) of folic acid every day before pregnancy to help prevent serious birth defects.
  • If you’re thinking of having a baby, see your health care provider for a preconception checkup and talk about prescription or over-the-counter vitamins.
  • Once you are pregnant, keep getting your folic acid by taking a prenatal vitamin every day containing 600 mcg.
  • Iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA and iodine have also been found to play a key role in a baby’s growth and development during pregnancy.
  • Folic acid comes in different forms other than vitamins. Look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” on the package label of foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, flour, pasta, and products made from corn masa, and white rice.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol, and stay up-to-date on vaccines.

Please visit marchofdimes.org for the latest health information, resources and tools for moms and babies.

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

Take care of your reproductive health

Monday, September 11th, 2017

If you’re planning to get pregnant in the future, it’s important that you take care of your reproductive health now.

Visit your health care provider regularly

Make sure you have an annual checkup with your provider. Your provider will most likely:

  • Give you a physical exam that includes taking your weight and checking your blood pressure
  • Give you a pelvic exam. This is an exam of the pelvic organs, like the vagina, cervix, uterus and ovaries, to make sure they’re healthy.
  • Do a Pap test. This is a medical test in which your provider collects cells from your cervix to check for cancer.

Protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

An STI is an infection that you can get from having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected. Many people with STIs don’t know they’re infected because some STIs have no signs or symptoms. Nearly 20 million new STI infections happen each year in the United States. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from STIs:

  • Don’t have sex. This is the best way to prevent an STI.
  • If you do have sex, have safe sex. Have sex with only one person who doesn’t have other sex partners. If you’re not sure if your partner has an STI, use a barrier method of birth control, like a male or female condom or a dental dam. A dental dam is a square piece of rubber that can help protect you from STIs during oral sex.
  • Get tested and treated. The sooner you’re treated, the less likely you are to have complications from your infection.
  • Ask your partner to get tested and treated. Even if you get treated for an STI, if your partner’s infected he may be able to give you the infection again.

If you’re not ready to get pregnant, use birth control

More than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Planning your pregnancy can help you have a healthy baby. If you’re planning to have a baby, you’re more likely to get healthy before you get pregnant and to get early and regular prenatal care during pregnancy. If you’re not ready for pregnancy, birth control options include:

  • Abstinence. This means you abstain from (don’t have) sex. Abstinence is the only birth control that’s 100 percent effective. This means it prevents pregnancy all the time.
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs). An IUD is a small, plastic T-shaped device that your provider puts in your uterus. Hormonal IUDs contain progestin and last for 3-5 years. Non-hormonal IUDs contain copper and can work for up to 10 years.
  • Implants. An implant is a tiny rod that contains progestin and is inserted into your arm. The rod is so small that most people can’t see it. Implants can last for about 3 years.
  • Hormonal methods. These methods, like implants, non-copper IUDs, the pill and the patch, contain hormones that prevent you from releasing an egg. Without the egg, you can’t get pregnant.
  • Barrier methods. Condoms and diaphragms are barrier methods because they work by blocking or killing your partner’s sperm so it can’t reach your egg.

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

What vaccines do you need before, during, and after pregnancy?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is very important to make sure that you are up-to-date on all of your vaccinations. Vaccines help protect you from infection and you pass this protection to your baby during pregnancy. This helps keep your baby safe during the first few months of life until he gets his own vaccinations.

Before pregnancy

These vaccines are recommended before you get pregnant:

  • Flu. Get the flu vaccine once a year before flu season (October through May). There are many different flu viruses, and they’re always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four flu viruses that are likely to make people sick during the upcoming flu season. If you come down with the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications, such as pneumonia.
  • HPV. This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine.
  • MMR. This vaccine protects you against the measles, mumps and rubella.
  • Varicella. Chickenpox is an infection that causes itchy skin, rash and fever. It’s easily spread and can cause birth defects if you get it during pregnancy. It’s also very dangerous to a baby. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and you never had the chickenpox or the vaccine, tell your provider.

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, schedule a preconception checkup, so your provider can make sure you are up-to-date with all of your vaccinations.

During pregnancy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:

  1. Flu shot if you didn’t get one before pregnancy. The flu mist isn’t safe to use during pregnancy.
  2. Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy at 27 to 36 weeks. The Tdap vaccine prevents pertussis (also called whooping cough). Pertussis is easily spread and very dangerous for a baby.

Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider to make sure any vaccination you get is safe.

After pregnancy

If you haven’t caught up on vaccinations before or during pregnancy, do it after your baby’s born.

If you didn’t get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, make sure to get it right after you give birth. Getting the Tdap vaccine soon after giving birth prevents you from getting pertussis and passing it on to your baby. Your baby should get his first pertussis vaccine at 2 months old.

Until your baby gets his first pertussis shot, the best way to protect him is to get the vaccine yourself and keep him away from people who may have the illness. Caregivers, close friends and relatives who spend time with your baby should also get a Tdap vaccine at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby. Babies may not be fully protected until they’ve had three doses of the Tdap vaccine.

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s safe to get routine adult vaccines, but ask your provider if you have concerns.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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.