Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Knowing your family health history may help your baby

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Family at Thanksgiving dinnerRecently I had an appointment with a new healthcare provider and had to complete a health history form at my first visit. It was 3 pages long and took me about 20 minutes to do while in the waiting room. As I was sitting there, I realized that I didn’t know the answers to some of the questions, especially about my relatives.

Was this really that important?

In one word? Yes.

A family health history (FHH) form is a record of health conditions and treatments that you, your sisters, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great grandparents have had. It can help you figure out the medical problems that run in your family. Knowing your FHH may just save your life. It may also have a direct effect on your baby’s health.

How can a FHH form help your baby?

The FHH form will help your provider see if any of the conditions or diseases that run in your family will affect your baby. For example, premature birth can run in families. And, certain conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure put you at a higher risk to have a premature baby.

If you and your partner complete a FHH form and share it with your prenatal provider, you may learn about the health of your baby before she is born. The earlier in your pregnancy that your provider is aware of health conditions, the sooner your provider can decide on treatments for you.

It would be even better if you could complete and share this information with your provider before pregnancy, at a preconception checkup. This way, your provider can help you become as healthy as possible before pregnancy.

Use our FHH form

Here is a form that you can print out and complete.  Print one copy for yourself and one for your partner/spouse. We suggest you take it with you to family gatherings (Thanksgiving anyone?) and ask your relatives to help you fill in the blanks. You may very well find out information about diseases and conditions that run in your family and put you at risk. Early detection is often key in successfully managing a disease.

Here are tips on how to gather information from relatives.

Knowing your risk for certain conditions and that your provider is on top of treatment options, should put your mind at rest. And, knowing you are doing your best to take care of your baby’s health should make you feel even better.

So, when you sit down to apple pie, start a conversation, and fill in your FHH form. The information you share with your family may make a positive difference in everyone’s lives.

Have questions? Text or email us at

Pregnancy after a preemie

Friday, November 13th, 2015

You may know that having had a premature baby increases your risk to give birth early in your next pregnancy. No one knows for sure what causes a woman to have a premature baby. However, it is important to understand what factors may make you more likely to give birth early and understand how you may be able to reduce your risk.

When you are ready to think about having another baby after you have had a preemie, here are some things to consider:

When to get pregnant again

Getting pregnant too soon after having a baby increases your chance of giving birth early. If possible, wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. This gives your body time to recover.

Manage preexisting health conditions

Having diabetes or high blood pressure puts you at a higher risk to have a premature baby. Talk to your health care provider about how to best manage these conditions before you get pregnant again. And weighing too much or too little can also be a risk factor. Try to get to a healthy weight before you get pregnant again.

Prevent infections

Having an infection during pregnancy may increase your chance of giving birth early. Always wash your hands thoroughly and practice good hygiene. This won’t prevent all infections, but it can help. Also, get tested for STDs before you become pregnant.

Treatments for preterm labor

Some women may be able to receive progesterone treatment or cerclage in their next pregnancy to reduce their chances of giving birth early again. Talk to your provider to see if these treatments may be right for you.

In the video below, Dr. Siobhan Dolan discusses who may be a good candidate for progesterone treatment:

If you are planning on getting pregnant again, make sure you talk to your health care provider about what you may be able to do to reduce your risk of premature birth. Together, the two of you can make a plan so that hopefully your next pregnancy can be closer to 40 weeks. You can also go to our online community Share Your Story to talk to other women who gave birth early and are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant again.

Have questions? Text or email us at

Thinking about becoming pregnant? Are you worried about your diabetes?

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Diabetes and pregnancyDiabetes can cause problems during pregnancy, such as premature birth, birth defects and miscarriage. But don’t panic; with some planning ahead, you can become as healthy as possible before you become pregnant.

When you eat, your body breaks down sugar and starches from food into glucose to use for energy. Your pancreas (an organ behind your stomach) makes a hormone called insulin that helps your body keep the right amount of glucose in your blood.  When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use insulin well, so you end up with too much sugar in your blood.

Too much sugar can cause serious health problems, like heart disease, kidney failure and blindness. High blood sugar can be harmful to your baby during the first few weeks of pregnancy when his brain, heart, kidneys and lungs begin to form. It’s really important to get treatment for diabetes to help prevent problems like these.

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant and have diabetes, here are a few tips:

  • Manage your diabetes to get your blood glucose levels in to your target range. Try to get it under control 3-6 months before you start trying to become pregnant.
  • Take a multivitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
  • Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking to make sure that they are OK to continue taking when you do get pregnant. He or she may want to change some medications now, before you get pregnant.
  • Eat healthy foods and keep moving.
  • Get support and guidance. Talk with your provider, a diabetes educator or a dietician about how to manage your diabetes.

Not sure if you are at increased risk of developing diabetes? Read our post to find out.

Remember: If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, now is the time to talk to your doctor about getting as healthy as you can before you conceive. Take small steps now toward a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Have questions? Text or email us at

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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