Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Today is World Heart Day

Monday, September 29th, 2014

World Heart DayThis year the World Heart Federation is focusing on creating heart-healthy environments for you and your family. World Heart Day raises awareness of maintaining a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and tobacco use, and increasing physical activity.

World Heart Day is a good time to think about one of the most common birth defects – congenital heart defects. It affects 1 in 100 babies every year. These heart defects can affect the heart’s structure, how it works, or both.

Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming. Severe congenital heart defects are usually diagnosed during pregnancy or soon after birth. Less severe heart defects often aren’t diagnosed until children are older.

What can you do?

We’re not sure what causes most heart defects, but things that may play a role include diabetes and obesity (being very overweight).

If you are trying to become pregnant or you are currently pregnant:

• Do not smoke

• Do not drink alcohol

• Talk to your provider about any medicine you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicine, herbal products and supplements

• Maintain a healthy diet and exercise 30 minutes a day if you can

• Go to all your prenatal visits

After birth your baby may be tested for critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) as part of newborn screening before he leaves the hospital. All states require newborn screening, but not all require screening for CCHD. You can ask your provider if your state tests for CCHD or click here to see what your state covers.

After birth, signs and symptoms of heart defects can include:

• Fast breathing

• Gray or blue skin coloring

• Fatigue (feeling tired all of the time)

• Slow weight gain

• Swollen belly, legs or puffiness around the eyes

• Trouble breathing while feeding

• Sweating, especially while feeding

• Abnormal heart murmur (extra or abnormal sounds heard during a heartbeat)

If you see any of these signs, call your baby’s health care provider right away. For more information about congenital heart defects visit our website.

If you have questions, email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Health and safety while at work

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Pregnant woman at workWorking during pregnancy may have some challenges. It can be difficult to stay safe and comfortable at the workplace, manage your pregnancy symptoms all while tackling your work schedule and duties. Lots of women work long hours at physically demanding jobs. Others may be very sedentary, working at a desk looking at a computer screen for most of the day.  Here are some tips to help make your day safer and easier.

If you work on a computer or sit at a desk for most of the day, comfort is key. To avoid wrist and hand discomforts, neck and shoulder pains, backaches and eye strains, follow these tips:

• Take short breaks often and walk around your office or building.

• Adjust your chair, keyboard and other office equipment to be more comfortable.

• Use a small pillow or cushion for lower back support.

• Keep your feet elevated by using a footrest.

• Be sure to use the correct hand and arm positions for typing.

• Use a non-reflective glass screen cover on your computer monitor.

• Adjust the computer monitor for brightness and contrast to a setting that is comfortable for your eyes.

If you need to lift something, follow these tips:

• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

• Bend at your knees, but keep your back straight and rear end tucked in.

• Use your arms and legs. Lift with your arms (not back) and push up with your legs.

• When possible, lower the weight of the item (for example, break up the contents of one box into two or three smaller boxes).

Standing for long periods of time can also be cause for concern. That’s because blood can collect in your legs, which may lead to dizziness, fatigue and back pain. When standing:

• Place one foot on a small foot rest or box.

• Switch feet on the foot rest often throughout the day.

• Wear comfortable shoes.

It’s important that the work environment around you is safe for you and baby. If you have concerns, speak with your health care provider and your supervisor at work.

Learn more ways to stay safe at work.

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

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

International FASD awareness day is today

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

FASD awareness dayFASDs or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, are a group of conditions that can happen to your baby when you drink alcohol during your pregnancy.

There is no known safe level of alcohol during pregnancy. When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, so does your baby. The alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and to your baby through the umbilical cord and can seriously harm your baby’s development, both mentally and physically.

Alcohol can also cause your baby to be born too soon or with certain birth defects of the heart, brain or other organs.  He can also be born at a low birthweight or have:

• Vision and hearing problems

• Intellectual disabilities

• Learning and behavior problems

• Sleeping and sucking problems

• Speech and language delays

The good news is that FASDs are 100% preventable. If you avoid alcohol during your pregnancy, your baby can’t have FASDs or any other health conditions caused by alcohol.

If you have been drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it is never too late to stop. Your baby’s brain is growing throughout pregnancy, so the sooner you stop drinking the safer it will be for you and your baby.

For more information about alcohol during pregnancy and how to stop, visit us here.

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

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Morning sickness during pregnancy

Monday, September 8th, 2014

pregnant womanThe news of another royal baby on the way has caused a lot of excitement on both sides of the pond. But learning that the Duchess of Cambridge may once again be suffering from morning sickness in her second pregnancy makes me feel deeply for her. I had morning sickness in both of my pregnancies. I remember it being a lot harder to manage the second time around while working and caring for my first child.

Morning sickness is nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and vomiting that happens during pregnancy, usually in the first few months. It’s also called nausea and vomiting of pregnancy or NVP. Even though it’s called morning sickness, it can last all day and happen any time of day. Mild morning sickness doesn’t harm you or your baby. But if morning sickness becomes severe (called hyperemesis gravidarum), it can lead to weight loss and dehydration (not having enough water in your body). These problems can be harmful during pregnancy.

If you have mild morning sickness, there are some things you can do that may help you feel better, like:

• Keep snacks by your bed. Eat a few crackers before you get up in the morning to help settle your stomach.
Eat five or six small meals each day instead of three larger meals.
• Eat foods that are low in fat and easy to digest, like cereal, rice and bananas. Don’t eat spicy or fatty foods.
• Eat healthy snacks between meals. This helps keep your stomach from being empty and helps prevent feeling sick to your stomach. Try snacks that are high in protein, like milk or yogurt.
• Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
• Avoid smells that upset your stomach.
• Take your prenatal vitamin at night or with a snack. Sometimes vitamins can upset your stomach.

Talk to your health care provider if you have morning sickness. Your provider may prescribe a medicine to help relieve your nausea. It comes as a tablet that you take every day as long as you have symptoms.

If you have severe morning sickness, you may need treatment in a hospital with intravenous (IV) fluids. These are fluids that are given through a needle into a vein. Signs of severe morning sickness include:

• Vomiting more than 3 to 4 times a day
• Vomiting that makes you dizzy, lightheaded or dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include feeling thirsty, having a dry mouth, having a fast heart beat or making little to no urine.
• Losing more than 10 pounds in pregnancy

Read our article on morning sickness to learn more. Or watch our videos on mild morning sickness and severe morning sickness.

Join our Twitter chat on pregnancy

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Pregnancy chatAre you pregnant? Do you have questions about pregnancy? Join us on Thursday, August 28th at 2pm EDT for a Twitter chat and get your questions answered.

We will be joining the National Institute of Child Health and Human development (@NICHD_NIH) and the Federal Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health (@FDAWomen) to discuss:

• common pregnancy myths
• how to reduce health problems during pregnancy
• how long your pregnancy should last
• important info about labor and delivery

Jump in the conversation any time to ask questions or tell us your story.  Follow #pregnancychat.

We hope to see you then!

If you have questions, feel free to email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Depression during pregnancy: what you need to know

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

sad woman with coffee mugDepression is a serious medical condition. It is an illness that involves the body, mood and thought. It affects the way a person feels about themselves and the way they think about their life. So many people were shocked and saddened by the news about Robin Williams. But unfortunately, depression is far more common than many of us realize. And regrettably, many people still feel that depression is a sign of weakness and do not recognize it as the biological illness that it is.

As many as 1 out of 5 women have symptoms of depression during pregnancy. For some women, these symptoms are severe. Women who have been depressed before they conceive are at a higher risk of experiencing depression during pregnancy than other women.

Signs of depression
Depression is more than just feeling sad or “blue.” There are physical signs as well. Other symptoms include:
• Trouble sleeping
• Sleeping too much
• Lack of interest
• Feelings of guilt
• Loss of energy
• Difficulty concentrating
• Changes in appetite
• Restlessness, agitation or slowed movement
• Thoughts or ideas about suicide

It may be hard to diagnose depression during pregnancy. Some of its symptoms are similar to those normally found in pregnancy. For instance, changes in appetite and trouble sleeping are common when you are pregnant. Other medical conditions have symptoms similar to those of depression. A woman who has anemia or a thyroid problem may lack energy but not be depressed. If you have any of the symptoms listed, talk to your health care provider.

Treatment options
Since depression is a serious medical condition, it poses risks for you and your baby. But a range of treatments are available. These include therapy, support groups and medications.

It is usually best to work with a team of health care professionals including:
• Your prenatal care provide
• A mental health professional, such as a social worker, psychotherapist or psychiatrist
• The provider who will take care of your baby after birth

Together, you and your medical team can decide what is best for you and your baby.

If you are on medication and thinking about getting pregnant, talk to your doctor. You will need to discuss whether you should keep taking the medication, change the medication, gradually reduce the dose or stop taking it altogether.

If you are taking an antidepressant and find that you are pregnant, do not stop taking your medication without first talking to your health care provider. Call him or her as soon as you discover that you are expecting. It may be unhealthy to stop taking an antidepressant suddenly.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any signs of depression, please talk to your health care provider or someone you trust. Help is available and you can feel better.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Vaccinations protect against HPV

Friday, August 8th, 2014

immunizationsHuman papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. There are about 40 types of HPV. Some types of HPV cause genital warts in both men and women. Others can increase a woman’s chance of cervical cancer and can cause other types of cancer in both men and women. However, a vaccine is available that can help prevent HPV infection.

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Sexually transmitted diseases are infections that you can get from having sex with someone who is infected. You can get a STD from vaginal, anal or oral sex. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. According to the CDC, “HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.” At this time, about 79 million Americans are infected with HPV and approximately 14 million people become infected each year.

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and many people do not know they were ever infected. If HPV does not go away, however, then it is possible to develop genital warts or cancer. Unfortunately there is no way to know if you will develop cancer or other health problems if you have HPV.

Get vaccinated
One of the easiest ways you can reduce your risk of getting HPV is to get vaccinated. Two vaccines against HPV are available in the US. The vaccines are recommended for girls and boys between the ages of 11 to 12 years old.  Vaccination is also recommended for teen girls and young women through age 26 and teen boys through age 21, if they did not get the vaccine when they were younger.

Both vaccines protect against the two types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. One vaccine also protects against two additional types of HPV that cause most genital warts. The HPV vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy.

If you have HPV and get pregnant, you can get genital warts or develop abnormal cell changes on your cervix. These changes can be found during routine cervical cancer screening, such as a Pap smear. At your first prenatal checkup, your doctor will do a Pap smear to check for cervical cancer and other tests for vaginal infections.

Vaccinations before, during and after pregnancy

Friday, August 1st, 2014

vaccine1If 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 your body from infection. 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.

Vaccinations also protect you from getting a serious disease that could affect future pregnancies. You probably got vaccinations as a child. But they don’t always protect you for your entire life. Or there may be new vaccinations that weren’t available when you were young. Over time, some childhood vaccinations stop working, so you may need what’s called a booster shot as an adult.

Before pregnancy

Here are some vaccines that are recommended before pregnancy:

• Flu. Get the flu shot once a year during the flu season (October through May). It protects you and your baby against both seasonal flu and H1N1, a kind of flu that spread around the world in 2009. 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. Measles can be harmful to pregnant women and cause miscarriage.

• Tdap. This vaccine prevents pertussis (also called whooping cough). Pertussis is easily spread and very dangerous for a baby. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, ask your provider about getting the Tdap vaccine.

• 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.

During pregnancy

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

1. Flu vaccine if you weren’t vaccinated before pregnancy

2. Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy at 27 to 36 weeks

Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy. Do not get these vaccines during pregnancy:

• BCG (tuberculosis)

• Memingococcal

• MMR

• Nasal spray flu vaccine (called LAIV). Pregnant women can get the flu shot, which is made with killed viruses.

• Typhoid

• Varicella

After pregnancy

If you didn’t get the Tdap vaccine before or during pregnancy, you can 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. This vaccine is also recommended for caregivers, close friends, and relatives who spend time with your baby. Your baby should get his first pertussis vaccine at 2 months old. Babies may not be fully protected until they’ve had three doses.

Here’s a link to a chart to help you know when you can get certain vaccinations if you need them. Talk to your health care provider about vaccinations you need before, during or after pregnancy.

Scleroderma and pregnancy

Friday, June 27th, 2014

June is National Scleroderma Awareness Month. Scleroderma is a group of diseases that result in the abnormal growth of connective tissue. Connective tissue is tissue that supports your skin and internal organs, like your kidneys, lungs and heart. Scleroderma is a chronic condition meaning that it lasts for a long time and can affect many aspects of your life.

If you have scleroderma, your body makes too much of a connective tissue protein called collagen. When too much collagen builds up in your body, it causes your skin and connective tissues to get hard or thick. Scleroderma can lead to pain and swelling in your muscles and joints. There are two main kinds of scleroderma: localized and systemic. Both can be mild to severe, with periods of remission (wellness) and flares (illness).

Localized scleroderma only affects certain parts of your body, like your skin, skin tissues and sometimes muscles. Localized scleroderma doesn’t harm major organs and often gets better or goes away over time without treatment. But sometimes it can be severe and cause lasting skin changes.

Systemic scleroderma can affect the whole body, including your skin, tissues, blood vessels and major organs, like your heart, lungs and kidneys.

If you have scleroderma and you’re thinking about getting pregnant,  you should schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. If you have localized scleroderma, it may not affect your pregnancy at all. But systemic scleroderma can cause problems with your heart, lungs or kidneys. These complications are most likely to appear during the first three years of scleroderma symptoms, and can cause health difficulties for you and your baby during pregnancy. For this reason, it’s best not to get pregnant during the first three years of symptoms.

If you have systemic scleroderma, you may be more likely than other pregnant women to have:

• Preeclampsia and other kinds of high blood pressure,

• Poor growth in your baby,

• Premature birth,

• Cesarean birth (C-section).

Right now, there is no specific treatment that stops the body from making too much collagen. However, doctors use several types of medication to control the symptoms. But not all of these are safe to use during pregnancy. Some can cause birth defects if a woman takes them while she is pregnant. That is why it is so important to discuss your condition with your doctor before pregnancy.

During pregnancy a woman with scleroderma may be treated by multiple doctors, including a rheumatologist as well as a high-risk obstetrician. Depending on her individual symptoms, a pregnant woman may need to see a few other providers to treat specific complications. Fortunately though, with today’s medical care, many women with scleroderma can have successful pregnancies.

What you need to know about CMV

Friday, June 13th, 2014

washing handsJune is National Congenital CMV Awareness Month. It is important that all women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant know about CMV.

What is CMV?

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common viral infection that most of us get at some point in our lives, frequently during childhood. It is usually harmless and does not cause any symptoms. But if a woman becomes infected with CMV for the first time, while she is pregnant, she can pass the virus to her baby. This can lead to serious illness, lasting disabilities or even death.

Why is CMV a concern during pregnancy?

CMV is the most common congenital (present at birth) infection in the United States. Fortunately, most babies born with CMV never have symptoms or problems caused by the infection.

However, some babies born with CMV develop one or more conditions during the first few years of life, such as hearing loss, vision loss, learning disabilities, and intellectual disabilities.

A woman who contracts CMV for the first time during pregnancy has about a 1-in-3 chance of passing the virus on to her fetus. She can pass CMV on to her baby at any stage of pregnancy. However, studies suggest that babies are more likely to develop serious complications when their mother is infected in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

How do you get CMV?

You can get CMV by coming into contact with bodily fluid from a person who carries the virus. You may be more likely than other people to get CMV if you have young children at home, work with young children, or work in health care. Most people with CMV have no signs or symptoms, so if you’re a health care or child care worker talk to your doctor about getting tested for CMV before pregnancy to see if you’ve already been exposed to the virus.

How can you prevent CMV?

You can help prevent CMV infection by doing the following:

• Wash your hands well, especially after being in contact with children and body fluids. Wash your hands after changing diapers, wiping noses and picking up toys.

• Carefully throw away used diapers and tissues.

• Don’t kiss young children on the mouth or cheek.

• Don’t share food, glasses, cups, forks or other utensils with young children or with anyone who may have CMV.

Is the March of Dimes conducting research on CMV?

Yes! March of Dimes grantees and other researchers are developing and testing vaccines that may help protect babies against CMV. Recent March of Dimes grantees have been studying how this virus multiplies and spreads in the unborn baby, in order to develop effective drugs that can help prevent disabilities in infected babies.