Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Cleft lip and cleft palate: causes and prevention

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Cleft lip and cleft palate happen when a baby’s lip or mouth doesn’t form completely during pregnancy. Cleft lip is an opening in a baby’s upper lip. Cleft palate is an opening in the roof of a baby’s mouth. Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects. About 1 or 2 in 1,000 babies (less than 1 percent) are born with cleft lip and palate each year in the United States.

Cleft lip and palate happen very early in pregnancy. Your baby’s lips form between 4 and 7 weeks of pregnancy, and the palate forms between 6 and 9 weeks of pregnancy. Cleft lip and palate don’t have to happen together — a baby can have one without the other.

What causes cleft lip and cleft palate?

We’re not sure what causes cleft lip and cleft palate. They may be caused by a combination of factors, like genes and things in your everyday life, like certain medicines you take. Risk factors include:

  • Having a family history of cleft lip and cleft palate
  • Smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy
  • Having diabetes before pregnancy
  • Taking certain anti-seizure medicines during the first trimester of pregnancy, like topiramate or valproic acid
  • Being obese during pregnancy.

How can you reduce your baby’s risk for cleft lip and palate?

Here’s what you can do to reduce your baby’s risk:

  • Take folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent certain birth defects in your baby. Before pregnancy, take a vitamin supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. During pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid in it every day.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Get a preconception checkup. This is a checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure your healthy when you get pregnant.
  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and talk to your provider about gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your provider to make sure any medicine you take is safe during pregnancy. Don’t stop taking any medicine without talking to your provider first.
  • Get early and regular prenatal care. This is medical care you get during pregnancy to make sure you and your baby are doing well.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Make sure all your vaccinations are up to date, especially for rubella (also called German measles). Wash your hands often.

Visit marchofdimes.org for more information.

Choosing the right birth control for you

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Planning your pregnancy helps you be in control of having a baby when you’re ready. But until you’re ready to start your family, birth control can help keep you from getting pregnant. There are different types of birth control. Talk to your health care provider to help you choose the right birth control method for you.

Your provider can help you understand how different methods work, how well they prevent pregnancy and if they have side effects. Other things to think about when choosing birth control include how it may affect your health, your need to prevent sexually transmitted infections (also called STIs) and when you want to have a baby.

Here are some birth control options:

Intrauterine devices (also called IUDs). An IUD is a small, plastic T-shaped device that your provider puts in your uterus. IUDs are one of the most effective types of birth control. There are two types: hormonal and copper. Hormonal IUDs contain progestin, which is a form of the hormone progesterone. Hormonal IUDs can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 5 years, depending on what brand you choose. Copper IUDs don’t contain progestin. The copper on the IUD prevents pregnancy because it makes it hard for a sperm and egg to meet. Copper IUDs can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years.

Implants. An implant is a tiny rod that your provider inserts in your arm. The implant releases progestin to help prevent pregnancy. The rod is about the size of a matchstick. It’s hard to notice once it’s inserted in your arm. Implants can prevent pregnancy for about 3 years.

The pill (also called oral contraceptive). You take one birth control pill every day. Some pills have progestin only, and some have a combination of progestin and estrogen (called combined pills). If you’re older than 35, smoke or have blood clots, you may not be able to take combined pills because you may be at risk for heart disease and thrombophilias.

Condoms. Male and female condoms help prevent pregnancy by keeping your partner’s sperm from getting into your body. They also help protect you from STIs. Condoms are one of the most popular types of birth control. Most male condoms are made of latex (rubber), but some are made of lambskin and other non-latex kinds of plastic. Condoms made of lambskin may not prevent STIs. A female condom (also called an internal condom) is made of plastic or rubber and goes inside your vagina.

Abstinence. To abstain from sex means you are making a choice not to have sex. This method is the only one that is 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. It also can prevent STIs if you avoid all types of sexual activities.

Birth control, counseling and follow-up care is a preventive service covered by most health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, at no extra cost to you. Learn more about recommended preventive services that are covered under the Affordable Care Act at Care Women Deserve.

For more information visit:

Dad’s health is important for his future baby

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

International Men’s Health Week is June 11-17. Celebrate it by encouraging the men in your life to take steps to improve their preconception health. Yes, men’s health before pregnancy is important too.

Being healthy is beneficial to a man and his future family. Dad’s health before pregnancy is very important. Here are a few things men can do if they are thinking about having a baby in the future:

  • Get an annual medical checkup. During this wellness visit, his health care provider checks for him for health conditions, like high blood pressure and certain infections. Men can discuss their family health history and find out about medical problems that run in families. Certain medical problems may affect his future baby.
  • Avoid harmful substances in the workplace and at home. Men’s sperm may be affected when exposed to certain substances, like mercury, lead and pesticides. If your partner is exposed to substances like these at work, ask him to change his clothes before going home. This can help protect you from these substances before and during pregnancy.
  • Get to a healthy weight. Being overweight increases the chances of health problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure and possibly some cancers. In addition, obesity is associated with male infertility. Men can get to a healthy weight by eating healthy foods and being active every day.
  • Stop smoking, using harmful drugs and drinking too much alcohol. All these behaviors can negatively affect men’s fertility. And they can affect you and your baby, too. For example, a pregnant woman who is exposed to secondhand smoke has a higher chance of having a baby with low birthweight than women not exposed. The smoke from cigarettes also increases health problems in babies, like ear infections, respiratory problems and sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS).
  • Prevent sexually transmitted infections (also called STIs). An STI is an infection you can get from having unprotected sex or intimate physical contact with someone who is infected. STIs can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies and cause problems like premature birth, birth defects, miscarriage and stillbirth. Ask your partner to get tested for STIs.

For more information about a man’s wellness checkup and preconception health, visit:

Your health is a priority

Monday, May 14th, 2018

From May 13 to May 19, we celebrate National Women’s Health Week.

We take this time as an opportunity to empower and remind all women that their health is and should always be a priority.

There are steps you can take to be as healthy possible all throughout your life.

 

Here are 6 steps you can take to get started:

  1. Schedule a well-woman check-up every year. Whether you’re in your 20s, 30s or 40s, an annual well-woman visit is a great way to keep track of your health and help prevent, identify and treat health problems. This is also a great time to discuss your family health history, family planning goals, and personal habits.
  2. Take a vitamin supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day, even if you’re not trying to get pregnant.
  3. Do something active every day. You don’t need a gym membership to exercise. Walking, dancing, and even doing housework are good ways to stay active.
  4. Eat healthy foods. Eating healthy foods can help your body stay healthy and strong. It can also help you get to and maintain a healthy weight.
  5. Pay attention to your mental health. Make sure you get enough sleep and learn to manage stress.
  6. Don’t smoke, and avoid unhealthy behaviors, like texting while driving, and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.

A well-woman visit is a preventive service covered by most health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, at no extra cost to you. Learn more about recommended preventive services that are covered under the Affordable Care Act at Care Women Deserve.

Visit the Office of Women’s Health page to find out what other steps you can take for good health.

What you need to know about infertility

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

April 22-28 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Many couples struggle with infertility. In the United States, about 10 to 15 percent of couples have infertility problems. This can cause a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety.

How do you know if you or your partner have an infertility problem?

If you have been trying to get pregnant for several months without any luck, you may start wondering if that’s normal. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year of unprotected sex. Infertility problems affect both men and women. About one-third of the cases are due to female factors, and male factors account for one-third of the cases. The rest of the cases are a combination of factors or the causes cannot be identified. There are many factors that can affect fertility, such as:

What can you do?

If you and your partner have been trying to get pregnant for 3-4 months, don’t give up and keep trying. You may just need a little more time. Talk to your provider if you’re worried that it’s taking too long. You and your partner should schedule a visit with your provider if:

  • You are a woman who is younger than 35 and have not been able to get pregnant after trying for 12 months.
  • You are a woman who is 35 years old or older and have not been able to get pregnant after trying for 6 months

Your provider may do some tests to help identify if there’s a problem. You can also learn more about certain lifestyle changes that can help you and your partner lower the risk of having fertility problems.

For more information:

 

Your preconception to-do list

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

You know that staying healthy during your pregnancy is important. But did you know that having a healthy baby actually starts before you get pregnant? Preconception health is your health before pregnancy. Being healthy before pregnancy can help improve your chances of getting pregnant  and it can help to reduce the chances of complications during your pregnancy. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, make sure you start to focus on your health at least 3 months before you start trying to conceive. Here are some things you can do:

Schedule a preconception checkup: This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. It helps your health care provider make sure you’re healthy and that your body is ready for pregnancy. Your provider can identify, treat, and sometimes prevent health conditions that may affect your pregnancy.

Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. If you take it before and during early pregnancy, it can help protect your baby from birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects.

Review your family healthy history: Your family health history is a record of any health conditions that you, your partner and everyone in your families have had. Your family health history can help you and your provider look for health conditions that may run in your family. Use the March of Dimes Family Health History Form to gather information.

Get to a healthy weight: You’re more likely to have health problems during pregnancy if you’re overweight or underweight. Talk to your provider about what is a healthy weight for you.

Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use street drugs: All of these can make it harder for you to get pregnant and they’re harmful to your baby when you do get pregnant. Tell your provider if you need help to quit.

Review medications that you take: Some medications are not safe to use when you’re pregnant but there may be other alternatives.  Don’t stop taking any prescription medicine without your provider’s OK. Stopping certain medicines, like medicines for asthma, depression or diabetes, can be more harmful to you or your baby than taking the medicine. Talk to your provider about the medications you take.

Get treatment for health conditions: This includes making sure chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure are under control. Your provider can also check for infections, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some STIs can be passed to your baby during pregnancy or a vaginal birth.

Get vaccinated: Make sure you are caught up on all of your vaccinations before pregnancy. Infections like chickenpox and rubella (also called German measles) can harm you and your baby during pregnancy.

Stay safe from viruses and infections: Wash your hands well (especially after contact with any bodily fluids or raw meats), avoid undercooked meats, let someone else change the litter box, and don’t share food, glasses, or utensils with young children.

 

Pregnancy loss: Will it happen again?

Friday, March 9th, 2018

The loss of a pregnancy or a baby is one of the most difficult experiences. Whether you had a miscarriage, stillbirth or your baby died soon after birth, it’s normal to have mixed feelings about a future pregnancy. Some women may want to start trying getting pregnant as soon as possible, while others may prefer to wait. Will it happen again? – is a common question many women ask themselves when thinking about getting pregnant again.

Trying to get pregnant again after a baby’s death may be really stressful for you. Here are few things you can do:

  • Share your feelings with your partner about getting pregnant again. Your partner may feel differently about getting pregnant again, but you and your partner are the only ones who can decide what’s right for you.
  • Try to be hopeful. Remind yourself that every pregnancy and baby are different. Just because you’ve had a baby die doesn’t mean it will happen in your next pregnancy.
  • If you work, talk to your boss about how to reduce the stress at your job.
  • Talk to your provider or a counselor about ways you can reduce stress.
  • Go to your preconception checkup to make sure you’re healthy. Being healthy when you get pregnant can help you have a healthy pregnancy.
  • Eat healthy foods, drink lots of water and do something active every day. Try to get a full night’s sleep.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful drugs.

How long to wait before getting pregnant again?

For most women, it’s best to wait at least 18 months (1½ years) from the end of one pregnancy before getting pregnant again. This gives your body enough time to recover before your next pregnancy.

Not all women can wait 18 months between pregnancies. Talk to your provider about how long to wait between pregnancies if:

  • You’re older than 35.
  • You’ve had a miscarriage or stillbirth. Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

When you’re ready to try again

The best thing you can do to help you have a healthy pregnancy next time is to take good care of yourself. Before your next pregnancy:

  • Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.
  • Take a vitamin supplement every day with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it. Folic acid is a vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. If you take it before pregnancy and during early pregnancy, it can help protect your baby from birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects, birth defects of the mouth called cleft lip and palate and some heart defects.
  • Get to a healthy weight. Eat healthy foods and do something active every day. Talk to your provider about the right weight for you.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful drugs. Talk to your provider if you need help to quit.

For more information

  • From hurt to healing (free booklet from the March of Dimes for grieving parents)
  • Share Your Story (March of Dimes online community for families to share experiences with prematurity, birth defects or loss)

Weight gain and pregnancy: what’s right for you

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy is important. It can help protect your health and the health of your baby.

Why is weight gain during pregnancy important?

If you gain too little weight during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other women to have a premature baby or a baby with low birthweight.

If you gain too much weight during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other women to:

  • Have a premature baby. Premature babies may have health problems at birth and later in life.
  • Have a baby with fetal macrosomia. This is when your baby is born weighing more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Having a baby this large can cause complications, like problems during labor and heavy bleeding after birth.
  • Need a c-section.
  • Have trouble losing weight after your baby’s birth. This can increase your risk for health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

How much weight should you gain during pregnancy?

This depends on your health and your body mass index (also called BMI) before you get pregnant. BMI is a measure of body fat based on your height and weight. To find out your BMI, go to www.cdc.gov/bmi. Your provider will use your BMI before pregnancy to determine how much weight you should gain during pregnancy.

In general, if you’re pregnant with one baby:

  • If you were underweight before pregnancy, you want to gain about 28 to 40 pounds during pregnancy.
  • If you were at a healthy weight before pregnancy, you want to gain about 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.
  • If you were overweight before pregnancy, you want to gain about 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy.
  • If you were obese before pregnancy, you want to gain about 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy.

If you’re overweight or obese and are gaining less than the recommended amounts, talk to your provider. If your baby is still growing well, your weight gain may be fine.

Gaining weight slowly and steadily is best. Don’t worry too much if you don’t gain any weight in the first trimester, or if you gain a little more or a little less than you think you should in any week. You may have some growth spurts—this is when you gain several pounds in a short time and then level off. Don’t ever try to lose weight during pregnancy.

Just thinking about getting pregnant?

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, remember that it’s best to start your pregnancy at a healthy weight. You can make sure you’re at a healthy weight at your well-woman checkup (which can also be your preconception checkup). Did you know that your well-woman checkup is a preventive service and is covered by most insurance plans with no extra costs to you? Learn more about recommended preventive services that are covered under the Affordable Care Act at Care Women Deserve.

Can you get pregnant while on your period?

Monday, February 12th, 2018

This is a question we often receive through AskUs@marchofdimes.org. What you may find surprising is that the answer is yes, you can get pregnant while having sex during your period.

Let’s back up for a minute.

Each month your ovaries release an egg about 14 days before the first day of your period. This is called ovulation. When you and your partner have unprotected sex around the time of ovulation, his sperm swim to meet your egg.

When the egg and sperm meet, it’s called fertilization. The fertilized egg (also called an embryo) moves through your fallopian tubes and attaches to the wall of your uterus where it grows and develops into a baby. When the embryo attaches to the uterus, it’s called implantation.

You can get pregnant if you have unprotected sex any time from 5 days before and the day of ovulation.

What if you have sex during your period?

It’s possible for women with a very short menstrual cycle or a very long period to become pregnant by having sex during their period. Many women have cycles that are 28 days or longer. (Your cycle length is measured from the first day of your period and all the days after, until your next period.) But others have shorter cycles, or longer periods, so ovulation can happen right after your period ends. Since sperm can live in your reproductive tract for up to 5 days before ovulation, it’s possible that you could have sex during your period and conceive when you ovulate days later.

If you’re not ready to get pregnant, use birth control until you’re ready. Talk to your health care provider about the right birth control for you.

Congenital heart defects: how do you know if your baby has one?

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Nearly 1 in 100 babies (about 1 percent or 40,000 babies) is born with a heart defect in the United States each year. About 4,800 babies each year are born with critical congenital heart defects or CCHD.

CCHD is a group of the seven most severe congenital heart defects. Many heart defects don’t need treatment or can be fixed easily. But some, like CCHD, can cause serious health problems or death. Babies with CCHD need treatment within the first few hours, days or months of life.

Severe congenital heart defects usually are diagnosed during pregnancy or soon after birth. Less severe heart defects often aren’t diagnosed until children are older.

During pregnancy

Your provider may use a test called fetal echo to check your baby’s heart. This test makes a picture of your baby’s heart while still in the uterus (womb). You can have this test as early as 18 to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

You may need a fetal echo if:

• Your provider finds a possible problem, like your baby has an abnormal heart rhythm, during an ultrasound.
• You have a medical condition, like diabetes or lupus, that may play a role in congenital heart defects.
• You have a family history of congenital heart defects or heart disease.
• Your baby has a chromosomal condition, like Down syndrome, Turner syndrome or VCF.

After birth

Your baby may be tested for CCHD as part of newborn screening before he leaves the hospital after birth. Newborn screening checks for serious but rare conditions at birth. It includes blood, hearing and heart screening. All states require newborn screening, but they don’t all require screening for CCHD. Ask your provider if your state tests for CCHD. Or check for what your state covers.

Babies are screened for CCHD with a test called pulse oximetry (also called pulse ox). This test checks the amount of oxygen in your baby’s blood using a sensor attached to his finger or foot.

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 your baby shows any of these signs or symptoms, call her health care provider right away. Your baby’s provider can use additional tests to check for heart defects.