Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Moving through pregnancy: tips to stay active

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Pregnant woman walkingMoving, staying active and gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy can help keep you and your baby healthy. For most women, being active during pregnancy is a good thing. But you don’t need to head to the gym to increase activity. With a few daily changes to your routine, you’ll be moving more in no time.

Healthy pregnant women need at least 2½ hours of exercise each week which is about 30 minutes each day. This may sound like a lot, but don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all at once. Instead, get moving by doing a few minutes of activity throughout your day.

Here are some tips to help you reach your fitness goals:

  • Park farther away in the parking lot when you visit stores or go grocery shopping.
  • Set a timer on your phone to get up, stretch and walk around your house or office once every hour.
  • If you are watching TV, take the time to stretch out your arms and legs.
  • Walk and talk while you are on the phone, whether it be outside or around your house.
  • When walking around the office, grocery store or parking lot, walk the long way instead of taking shortcuts.
  • Plan fun outdoor weekend activities. Apple picking season is in full-swing – take a walk around the orchard while you pick some apples.
  • Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
  • Calling or emailing your co-worker at work? Get up and take a walk over to chat instead.

Tomorrow is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day. The goal is “to encourage women to take control of their health; to learn the facts they need to make smart healthy choices, and to make time for regular physical activity.” By making small changes to your day, you can reach your fitness goals. Be on the lookout for events planned in your local area.

Read our article to understand why physical activity is good for most pregnant women and to learn which activities are safe.

Before Rover meets Junior

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Bella sleepingAs you bring your baby home from the hospital for the first time, you want to keep her safe and healthy around your pet. You may feel anxious about how your pet will respond to your family’s newest addition.

Here are some tips to think about before bringing your baby home.


Before your baby comes home

  • If you are still pregnant, it may be helpful to teach your dog some basic obedience skills, which will help his behavior when your baby comes home. Introduce new rules as needed. If you don’t want your dog on the furniture, or to jump on you when you walk in the door as you hold your baby, introduce that rule now.
  • Your schedule will drastically change once your baby is home and you may not be able to feed or walk your pet when he expects. Try changing your pet’s feeding or walking schedule beforehand. For example, if you regularly feed your pet at 7am sharp, try feeding him at a different time in the morning. Or it may be easier to purchase an automatic feeder which will dispense food at a certain time every day.
  • Take a piece of clothing or a blanket with your baby’s scent on it and put it in your pet’s bed so he can get used to the smell.

Once you and your baby are discharged

  • Have everyone else go in the door first so your pet can express his excitement at seeing people. Then put a leash on him just in case he does not have a good first reaction to your baby.
  • Slowly introduce your pet to your baby. Try holding your baby and allowing your pet to sniff her feet to get her scent.
  • Never leave your pet unsupervised near your baby.
  • Keep your pet out of your baby’s sleeping area to reduce the risk of hair or pet allergens irritating your baby’s airway.
  • Once your baby is old enough to lie outside of her crib, place her on a blanket or mat to keep pet fur and dust from irritating your baby during playtime. Keep your pet away from your baby during floor time.
  • Watch for aggressive behavior from your pet. Get help from an animal behavior expert if you see your pet acting out toward your baby.

Health Benefits

Besides your pet being a loving companion, some research suggests that a baby living in a home with a dog has fewer colds, ear infections and the need for antibiotics in their first year of life than babies raised in pet-free homes. The research suggests that homes with cats may have health benefits for babies too. However, researchers think that dogs provide more exposure to dirt and allergens, which strengthen a baby’s immune system.


Although there may be health benefits, you need to keep the negative health effects in mind, too. Furry pets and even short-haired animals are the most common and powerful causes of allergy symptoms. And cats tend to be more allergenic than dogs. My brother was mildly allergic to our dog, but he loved him so much that my parents did not want to give away our dog. We made sure to brush our dog’s fur often and vacuum frequently to decrease my brother’s exposure to the allergens.

If your child has an allergy to your pet, keep the animal out of her bedroom, sweep, dust and vacuum frequently. You can also fit your forced-air heating or air-conditioning system with a central air cleaner, which will remove a lot of the pet allergens from your home. If you are not sure whether your pet is the cause of your child’s allergy, ask your child’s pediatrician about allergy testing.

Do you have any tips to share? How did it go when you brought your baby home?

Have questions? Text or email us at A Health Education Specialist is available to answer your questions.

It’s time to get your flu shot…again

Friday, September 25th, 2015

midwife with pregnant womanInfluenza (also called flu) is a serious disease. It’s more than just a runny nose and sore throat. The flu can make you very sick, and it can be especially harmful if you get it during and right after pregnancy. Flu season is fast approaching and it’s time to schedule your flu shot now.

Who needs a flu shot?

Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccine. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop full protection against the flu. Getting the flu vaccine is especially important for children over 6 months, children with special needs, pregnant women and other high-risk groups.

I got a flu shot last year, why do I need another one?

Flu viruses change every year, so just because you got a flu shot last year, doesn’t mean that you are protected this year. The flu shot is designed to protect against the flu viruses that are predicted to be the most common during the flu season. Also, immunity from vaccination decreases after a year. This is why everyone needs a flu vaccine every season.

Are flu shots safe for pregnant women?

YES! All women who are pregnant should get a flu shot. It is safe to get the flu shot during pregnancy and it will protect you and your baby from serious health problems during and after pregnancy. However, remember that if you’re pregnant, you should not get the flu mist. It’s not safe to use during pregnancy.

Why is the flu so harmful during pregnancy?

The flu can be dangerous during pregnancy because:

  • Pregnancy affects your immune system. During pregnancy your immune system doesn’t respond as effectively to viruses and illnesses. This means you are more likely to catch the flu.
  • You are more likely to have serious complications. Health complications from the flu, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, can be very serious and even deadly.
  • Pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to have preterm labor and premature birth (before 37 weeks).

Where can I get a flu shot?

You can get the vaccine from your health care provider. Many pharmacies and work places also offer it each fall. You can use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find where the flu vaccine is available in your area.

The flu shot is the best way to protect you and your baby from the flu. You can learn more at

Have any questions? Email or text us at


You’re pregnant. Should you have a doula help you?

Monday, September 21st, 2015

pregnant woman smilingA doula can provide significant support to you and your partner throughout your journey to parenthood. Last week we talked about what a doula is and the support services they provide for pregnant women during pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum. If you are considering working with a doula, we want to help you make an informed decision.

Research has shown that continuous support from a doula may:

• Decrease the use of pain medications during labor and delivery
• Reduce the need for Pitocin, a labor-inducing drug
• Decrease the incidence of C-sections and the use of forceps
• Result in shorter labor and delivery with fewer complications
• Allow moms and partners to feel supported

In addition, women who had continuous support from doulas gave birth to babies who were less likely to have low five-minute Apgar scores.

Is there anything a doula can’t do?

A doula can be a great addition to your care team, however a doula cannot provide medical advice or replace your health care provider.

What about your partner?

A doula will not replace your partner. In fact, a doula can support your partner or family member to become as involved in the birth process as you desire. A doula can help teach your partner how to comfort and support you during the birth process.

Where can you find a doula?

• To find a certified doula near you, use DONA’s online locator or visit
• Ask your health care provider or child birth instructor for a referral or information on how to find a doula.
• Contact your local hospital or health department for a referral.
• Ask your social network or health care team about free or low cost doula services. Insurance coverage for doula fees vary by plan. Some doulas offer free services and many communities offer volunteer doula programs supported by federal and city funds.

Have any questions? email or text us at

What is a doula?

Monday, September 14th, 2015

mom-with-newborn-in-hospitalA doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides physical, emotional and informational support to a pregnant woman and her partner. A doula provides care for moms-to-be during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the postpartum period. She also helps women carry out their birth plans so that they have a positive childbirth and postpartum experience.  The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves.”

There are different kinds of doulas:

A birth doula understands the birthing process and the emotional needs of a woman in labor. If you are pregnant, a birth doula will help you develop a birth plan and assist in carrying out your plans during labor and delivery.

Your relationship with your doula will start with one or more meetings during your pregnancy. Once you start your contractions, she will stay with you throughout your labor to provide physical comfort, emotional support and help as you make informed decisions.

A postpartum doula can provide you with education, companionship and support after your baby is born. She can assist with newborn care, meal preparation, light household tidying and can help your family adjust to your newest addition. She will also be able to offer evidence-based (scientifically proven) information on feeding, soothing, coping skills and emotional and physical recovery from your labor and delivery.

A bereavement doula is a newer form of support. Although DONA does not offer a bereavement doula training program, many doulas are able to find other programs in their communities and online to receive certification. A bereavement doula can provide assistance, support, resources and referrals to families who are experiencing the loss of their baby.

A doula that provides bereavement support may be known by a different title, such as a Baby Loss Family Advisor. These professionals have been trained to help you navigate through the difficult days – from the moment you hear the news to preparing for the hospital experience and for when you return home.

Many birth and postpartum doulas are trained and certified through DONA International, toLabor, and CAPPA.

Now that you know what a doula is, tune in next week to learn if you should consider having one help you.

Have questions? Text or email us at


Is a glass of wine OK?

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Contemplative womanThere is no amount of alcohol that is proven to be safe during pregnancy. All types of alcohol are equally harmful for your baby, including wine, beer, wine coolers and mixed drinks. When you drink, the same amount of alcohol that is in your blood is also in your baby’s blood. The alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and to your baby through the umbilical cord.

Alcohol can seriously harm your baby’s development. It can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) which include a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and lifelong emotional and behavioral problems in a child. It can also cause miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth.

If you were drinking alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, the most important thing is that you completely stop drinking after learning of your pregnancy. The sooner you stop drinking, the better off you and your baby will be.

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 your baby. If you are having trouble stopping, help is available. Talk to your doctor or find a professional in your area using the Substance Abuse and Treatment Facility Locator. Or, for more information about how to stop drinking, visit us here.

MargaritaSeptember 9th is International FASD Awareness Day, and this year, NOFAS (the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) is dedicating the month of September to raising awareness.

Help us get the word out: FASDs are completely preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol during pregnancy. Read about Taylor’s personal struggle with FASD here.

Remember, if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, do not drink alcohol. And don’t smoke or take any drugs or medications without talking to your provider first. Be sure to get regular prenatal care and tell your health care provider about any concerns you may have.

Email or text us at with your questions.


Thinking about pregnancy? Think about vaccines.

Monday, August 10th, 2015

VaccineVaccines aren’t just for children. Adults need to get vaccinated too! And if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is very important to make sure that your vaccines are up-to-date.

Vaccines help protect your body from certain diseases. During pregnancy, you pass this protection on to your baby. This is very important because it helps to keep your baby safe during the first few months of life until he can get his own vaccinations.

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. 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 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 chickenpox or received the vaccine, tell your provider.

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 (chickenpox)

You should wait at least 1 month after getting any of these vaccinations before you try to get pregnant.

Important: 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.

Talk to your health care provider about vaccinations you need before, during or after pregnancy. And remember, getting vaccinated doesn’t just protect you–it protects your unborn baby as well.

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How vaccines work

Friday, July 31st, 2015

niam-logoVaccines protect you from diseases that can cause severe illness and even death. Vaccines work with your body’s immune system to help it recognize and fight these infections.

Usually when you are exposed to viruses or bacteria they cause infections that make you sick. To fight this infection, your immune system produces antibodies. These are special disease-fighting cells that attack the virus, destroy it, and make you better. In many cases, once you have made antibodies against a virus, you are then immune to the infection that it causes. This means that you cannot get sick from the same infection. For instance, if you had chickenpox as a child, you are immune to it later in life because your body has produced antibodies against the varicella virus (the virus that causes chickenpox). If you are exposed to the virus again, your antibodies recognize it and destroy it before it makes you sick.

Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to help you safely develop immunity to certain diseases. A vaccine uses a small piece of the virus or bacteria that causes the infection. Usually this virus is greatly weakened or it is killed. But it looks enough like the live virus to make your body react and make antibodies to attack the virus in the vaccine. This allows you to become immune to the disease without having to get sick first. For example, after you get the chickenpox vaccine, you will develop antibodies against the varicella virus, but you will not get chickenpox first. This factsheet from the CDC explains the body’s immune response to disease and how vaccines work in much more detail.

There are two main types of vaccines: weakened, live virus or inactivated, killed virus.

Vaccines that use weakened, live viruses include measles, mumps, rubella, rotavirus, flu mist, and chickenpox (varicella). Natural viruses reproduce thousands of times when they infect an individual. But weakened viruses can only reproduce about 20 times. This is not enough to make you sick, so they can’t cause disease. But even a few copies of the virus will cause your immune system to react and to make antibodies against the disease. The advantage of live, weakened vaccines is that typically you only need one or two doses (or shots) to provide immunity. However, live, weakened vaccines cannot be given to people with immune systems that don’t work as well as they should, because even such a small amount of virus could make them sick.

Vaccines that use inactivated or killed viruses include polio, hepatitis A, and the flu shot. The inactivated virus cannot reproduce and therefore cannot cause disease. But the immune system still makes antibodies to protect you against disease. The advantages of inactivated viruses are that the vaccine cannot cause the disease at all, and the vaccine can be given to people with weakened immune systems. The limitation of this method is that several doses of the vaccine are required before you are immune to the disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness month. It is important for people of all ages to protect their health with vaccines. In the upcoming weeks, we will be posting more information about vaccines for women who are thinking about getting pregnant, pregnant women, and babies.

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Maternal PKU

Friday, July 24th, 2015

newborn-screening-picture1PKU or phenylketonuria is a condition in which your body can’t break down an amino acid called phenylalanine.

In the US, about 3,000 women of childbearing age have PKU. A woman with PKU can have a healthy baby but it is very important that she stay on a special diet to control her phenylalanine intake while she is pregnant. According to MotherToBaby, babies born to mothers with untreated PKU (women who are not on the special diet) are commonly born smaller, have microcephaly (an abnormally small head), intellectual disabilities, behavior problems, facial features similar to those of fetal alcohol syndrome, and have higher risks of heart defects.

Managing PKU during pregnancy

If you have PKU and are planning to get pregnant, it is very important that you talk to your health care provider. Many people with PKU now maintain their special diets throughout life. But if you have not been following your PKU diet, it is best to return to your PKU meal plan at least 3 months before you try to get pregnant.

PKU meal plans are different for everyone because people with PKU can tolerate different amounts of phenylalanine. For this reason, it is very important that you talk to health care providers who are familiar with managing PKU during pregnancy. Blood tests throughout pregnancy can help to monitor your phenylalanine levels and make sure that they are not too high. And your prenatal care provider may order ultrasounds to monitor your baby’s growth.

Will my baby have PKU?

If you have PKU, your baby has a chance to have PKU. Your baby has to inherit a mutation for PKU from both parents to have PKU. Whether or not your baby will have PKU depends on if your partner has PKU or is a PKU carrier. (A PKU carrier has one copy of the PKU mutation but does not have PKU.)

  • If you and your partner both have PKU, your baby will have PKU.
  • If you have PKU and your partner is a carrier, than there is a 50% chance your baby will have PKU and a 50% chance your baby will be a PKU carrier.
  • If you have PKU but your partner does not carry the gene change for PKU, then your baby will be a PKU carrier but will not have PKU.

If you are not sure if your partner is a PKU carrier, there are tests available that can help you find out. A genetic counselor can better help you understand your chances of passing PKU to your baby.

All babies born in the United States are tested for PKU through the newborn screening program. Babies born with PKU are immediately placed on a special diet that significantly reduces the amount of phenylalanine they consume. Babies who have PKU may never show symptoms if they are transitioned to a low-phenylalanine diet soon after birth.

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Silent but dangerous bacteria

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Pregnant woman with doctorAbout 25% of pregnant women carry Group B streptococcus (also called Group B step or GBS). GBS may come and go quietly in your body without any symptoms, so you may not be aware that you are carrying it. GBS may never make you sick and we don’t know exactly how the bacteria is transmitted. But while GBS may not be harmful to you, it can be very harmful to your baby.

How can GBS affect you during pregnancy?

GBS lives in the rectum or vagina and can cause a bladder or urinary infection (UTI). Women who have symptoms can receive antibiotics from their provider. If you don’t have symptoms of an infection, you may not know you need treatment. Without treatment, a uterine infection during pregnancy can increase your chances of:

• Premature rupture of the members – When the amniotic sac breaks after 37 weeks of pregnancy but before labor starts
• Preterm labor – Labor that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy
• Stillbirth – When a baby dies in the womb before birth, but after 20 weeks of pregnancy

Is there any good news?

Yes, you can be tested for GBS. If you are pregnant, you will be tested for GBS at 35 to 37 weeks of pregnancy. Your provider will take a swab of your vagina and rectum and the sample will be sent to the lab. The process is simple and painless and results will be available in 1 to 2 days. If you go into preterm labor, your provider can use a quick screening test during labor to test you for GBS.

If the test is positive:

You will receive an antibiotic from your provider during labor and birth through an IV, which helps prevent your baby from getting the infection. Remind your health care provider at the hospital when you go to have your baby; this way you can be treated quickly. It may be helpful to make a note and stick it on top of your hospital bag so you remember as you walk out the door. If you have GBS and a scheduled cesarean birth (C-section) before labor starts and before your water breaks, you probably don’t need antibiotics.

With treatment, a woman has only a 1 in 4,000 chance of delivering a baby with group B strep, compared to a 1 in 200 chance if she does not get antibiotics during labor.

If you are worried about GBS, speak with your health care provider. Have questions? We are here; email