Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Pass the turkey, gravy, and the family health history form

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

thanksgiving-turkey21Thanksgiving, or any other family gathering, is a great time to share good times, delicious food, and family memories. It is also a great time to learn about your family health history.

Taking your family health history can help you make important health decisions. It can help you learn about the health of your baby even before he’s born! Knowing about health conditions before or early in pregnancy can help you and your health care provider decide on treatments and care for your baby.

By understanding the health issues that run in your family, you can take positive steps for a healthier future. Since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving as National Family History Day.  Here are a couple of ways you can easily gather your FHH:

So, somewhere between dinner and dessert, start a conversation with your relatives, and find out about your family health history.  The info you learn may make a huge difference in all of your lives, and in your baby’s life!

 

Three factors you can control to help prevent premature birth

Monday, November 7th, 2016

preemie and momAlthough there are certain risk factors for premature birth that a woman is not able to change, the good news is that there are three risk factors that most women can do something about.

Researchers at the March of Dimes Ohio Collaborative Prematurity Research Center are making big strides. According to their published study, up to one-quarter of preterm births (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) might be prevented if we focused on three risk factors – birth spacing, weight before pregnancy and weight gain during pregnancy.

What did the research show?

The study looked at the records of 400,000 single births and found that more than 90% of the women had one of these three risk factors. The women in the study who had less than a year between pregnancies, were underweight before pregnancy and gained too little weight during pregnancy had the highest rates of preterm births – 25.2%, according to the researchers. The good news is that women may have more control over these risk factors than other factors, which can influence preterm births.

Birth spacing

Birth spacing is the period of time between giving birth and getting pregnant again. It’s also called pregnancy spacing or interpregnancy interval (also called IPI). Getting pregnant too soon can increase your next baby’s chances of being born prematurely, as well as being born at a low birthweight or small for gestational age (SGA). It’s best to wait at least 18 months after having a baby before getting pregnant again. If you’re older than 35 or have had a miscarriage or stillbirth, talk to your provider about how long to wait.

Weight before pregnancy

Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy is important. Women who are overweight or underweight are more likely to have serious pregnancy complications, including giving birth prematurely. How do you know if you’re at a healthy weight? Schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. This is the best time to discuss your weight and make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.

Weight gain during pregnancy

Gaining too much or too little weight can be harmful to you and your baby. It’s important to gain the right amount of weight for your body. Your provider can help you determine how much weight you need to gain during pregnancy.

Bottom line

There is still much we do not know about the causes of premature birth. But, knowing some things that a woman can do to decrease her chance of giving birth early, is good news.

Check out the cutting edge research our Ohio Collaborative is working on.

Due to changing hormones during pregnancy, dental care should be a priority

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Smiling pregnant woman lying on couchPregnancy is a time of many changes to your body. Some are exciting and amazing, while others are not as much fun. Did you know that because your hormone levels increase, your gums and teeth may change during pregnancy? You’re more likely to have some dental health problems that you did not have before you became pregnant.

Changes in hormone levels can affect your body’s response to dental plaque bacteria, causing swelling, sensitivity and tenderness in your gums. Most pregnant women have some bleeding of their gums, especially while brushing or flossing. Your gums are more likely to become inflamed or infected. Gum inflammation is called “gingivitis;” it’s an early form of periodontal disease, which can ultimately result in tooth loss or other oral health problems.  Other dental issues that may occur include loose teeth, tooth decay or loss, and lumps or non-cancerous tumors which form on gums in-between teeth. Also, you may notice that your mouth produces more saliva.

Here’s what can do if you are pregnant:

Step up your oral care routine; fight plaque at home every day.

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush thoroughly twice a day. If you have a lot of sensitivity, try using toothpaste designed for sensitive gums. If your gums hurt after brushing, apply ice to soothe the pain.

Make sure the toothpaste and mouthwash you use fight gingivitis. Read product labels as many toothpastes and mouthwashes do not contain gingivitis fighting ingredients. A toothpaste containing stannous fluoride is a great choice as it not only fights cavities and sensitivity, but also helps reduce gingivitis. Floss once a day to clean in between your teeth. If you’re vomiting (so sorry), be sure to rinse your mouth with water or clean your teeth afterward to get rid of extra stomach acids in your mouth.

Cut down on sweets

Candy, cookies, cake, soft drinks and other sweets can contribute to gum disease and tooth decay. Instead, have fresh fruit or make other healthy choices to satisfy your sweet tooth. Watch out for some dried fruits, like raisins and figs, that can stick in the crevasses of your teeth. They’re delicious but contain lots of natural sugar, so remember to brush!

Get regular dental care

If left unchecked, some conditions, like gingivitis, may lead to more serious gum disease. Be sure to have a dental checkup early in pregnancy to help your mouth remain healthy. You may even want to see your dentist more often than usual. Although it’s best to have your teeth cleaned and checked for any trouble spots before pregnancy, being pregnant is no reason to avoid your dentist.

Don’t put off dental work until after delivery

Decaying teeth can cause infection that could harm your baby. If you think you need a dental filling, don’t panic. Go get it checked out. Always be sure to tell your dentist that you’re pregnant and how far along you are in your pregnancy.

Bottom line

A good daily oral care routine, keeping up with seeing your dentist, and regular visits to your prenatal care provider are all essential parts of a healthy pregnancy.

Looking for more information? Learn how pregnancy affects your dental health and check out if you are at risk for gum disease.

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

March of Dimes does not endorse specific brands or products.

If my first baby has a congenital heart defect, what are the chances my second baby will have one, too?

Friday, September 30th, 2016

pregnant mom with childThis is a question we received through AskUs@marchofdimes.org from a mom who is pregnant with her second baby. Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common types of birth defects and if you already have a child with a CHD, you may wonder if your second child will have the same defect. The answer, though, is not a simple “yes” or “no.”

We don’t know the cause of most congenital heart defects. For some babies, their heart defects were caused by changes in their chromosomes or genes (which are passed from parents to children). Researchers have found about 40 gene changes (also called mutations) that cause heart defects. About 30 in 100 babies (30 percent) with a heart defect also have a chromosomal condition or a genetic condition. So if you, your partner or one of your other children has a congenital heart defect, your baby may be more likely to have one, too.

But CHDs are also thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other factors, such as things in your environment, your diet, any medications you may be taking, and health conditions you may have. Conditions like diabetes, lupus, rubella and even obesity can play a role in causing CHDs.

So what is your risk?

The chance of having another child with a CHD depends on many factors. It is best to meet with your health care provider and a genetic counselor who can better assess your risk. A genetic counselor is a person who is trained to help you understand how genes, birth defects and other medical conditions run in families, and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health.

Still have questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

New report says babies born to healthy mothers get a boost for a healthier life

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

pregnant women walkingIf you’re thinking about pregnancy, now is the time to get moving. Staying active is just as important before conceiving as it is during pregnancy. In a new report released today, more than 60% of women in the U.S. are not meeting recommended activity guidelines and 22.5% are not active at all.

Eating nutritious foods and getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy, may help you and your baby avoid certain problems during pregnancy. In fact getting to a healthy weight beforehand is one step you can take to lower your risk of premature birth. Babies born before 37 weeks may have more complications or need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born full term. Premature birth is the greatest contributor to infant death and a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities.

According to the AHR report (America’s Health Rankings– Health of Women and Children Report), “Babies born to healthy mothers and families start off on a promising path to health that has the potential to last a lifetime.” Furthermore, the report states that “markers of prenatal and childhood health are also significant predictors of health and economic status in adulthood.”

In addition, physical activity is not just good for your body, it can also:

Not sure where or how to start?

Walking is a great activity to get your heart rate going and your legs moving. Swimming, dancing and yoga are other activities that help you stay active and more importantly, are fun to partake in. Why not sign up for a local walk or fun-run this weekend or ask your local Y or family club about access to their pool. Many yoga studios will also let you try your first class for free. With all these benefits and available options you have lots of reasons to get moving.

If you’re having a hard time fitting some activities into your day, you might consider taking your social or business meetings on the go – literally. I met a friend for dinner yesterday and before we sat down to eat we took a long walk around the park. At work, sometimes we walk around the parking lot instead of sit in a conference room for our meetings.

If you become pregnant, you may need to modify your activity. For example, you won’t want to do any exercise that may increase your risk of falling (skiing, biking, horseback riding, gymnastics) or bumping your belly (ice hockey, kickboxing, soccer or basketball).  Read our article and watch our video to understand why physical activity is good for most pregnant women, and to learn which activities are safe.

Now that fall is here why not change your routine with the season. Have helpful tips? Please share them with us.

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

 

Babies and bug spray

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

CDC's insect repellent application on kidsYou’ve heard about the Zika virus in certain parts of the United States, Puerto Rico and other countries, such as Brazil. One of the ways to combat Zika is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Babies and children need protection, too, but certain precautions should be taken.

 

Here are the CDC’s guidelines:

  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
  • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
  • Always follow instructions (on the label) when applying insect repellent to children.
  • Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
    • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.

What about “natural” or non-EPA registered repellants?

We do not know the effectiveness of non-EPA registered insect repellents, including some natural repellents.

  • To protect yourself against diseases like chikungunya, dengue, and Zika, CDC and EPA recommend using an EPA-registered insect repellent.
  • Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. The EPA’s search tool can help you find the one that is best for you or your child, depending on different factors.

Other things you can do:

  • You can protect your baby or child from insect bites by dressing him in pants and shirts with long sleeves, shoes and socks.
  • Cover the crib, bassinet or stroller with mosquito netting.
  • Take steps to reduce mosquitoes inside and outside of your home by using screens or staying indoors where there is air conditioning.
  • Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, (kiddie) pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers more tips on using repellents safely.

They also note that the following products are not effective repellents:

  • Wristbands soaked in chemical repellents
  • Garlic or vitamin B1 taken by mouth
  • Ultrasonic devices that give off sound waves designed to keep insects away
  • Bird or bat houses
  • Backyard bug zappers (Insects may actually be attracted to your yard).

 Remember:

  • Always follow the product label instructions.
  • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
    • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
  • Permethrin should not be applied to skin – apply it to your child’s clothing only.

See our article on Zika for more information on how to keep your family safe.

Questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

How I Got the Zika Virus and How You Can Too: Protecting Yourself and Your Family

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Aedes aegypti mosquitoToday’s guest post is written by Bethany Kotlar, MPH, of Mother To Baby -Georgia. Her personal experience with the Zika virus is important to share with others.

As a teratology information specialist, I counsel women and their families on medications, chemicals, herbal remedies, and illnesses that could harm developing babies. So as the Zika Virus, a viral infection that can cause severe birth defects including microcephaly (a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected, and may indicate a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy), spread from the Polynesian Islands, to South America, to the Caribbean, I made sure to educate myself on everything we know about the virus, reading article after article and keeping up to date on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) recommendations to avoid infection, knowing that eventually I would need this information to counsel a pregnant woman or her family. I never imagined I would use this information to try to prevent becoming infected myself, and that I would fail.

One week in February I opened an email from my in-laws with the subject “30th Birthday Plan.” My husband’s 30th was a few weeks away, and I was excited to see what they had planned. As I read the email detailing a week-long sailing trip in the Caribbean I felt blessed, and honestly a little scared. I rushed to the CDC’s page on Zika to look up whether the islands we were visiting had outbreaks. Sure enough-16 Caribbean islands, including the two we were visiting, had Zika outbreaks. At first I didn’t want to go, which set off an intense inner debate racked with guilt. “How could I say no to a surprise trip for my husband, especially one planned and paid for by my in-laws?” I thought, and in the next second, “But what if I get Zika? I work with pregnant women, I can’t expose them!” Finally, my Dad stepped in. “You’re too adventurous to let Zika scare you away from a vacation.” he said. “Fine,” I thought, “I’ll go, but I’m going to be careful.”

I was careful. Despite the gentle teasing from my in-laws, I insisted on sleeping indoors with the windows closed, even though it was more comfortable outside. I wore bug spray with 30% DEET when I thought mosquitos would be out. I got three or so bites at dinner one night, and three more at the end of our trip. As we headed home I mentally patted myself on the back; “Only six bites,” I thought, “pretty sure I didn’t get Zika!” I was so sure that three days after our trip when I developed a head-to-toe rash I was certain it was an allergic reaction, but after three doses of Benadryl did nothing, I googled Zika-related rashes. Dead ringer. Symptoms of the Zika Virus include rash, joint and muscle pain, red eye, fever, and headache, and boy did I have them. I rushed in to see an infectious disease doctor, who came to the same conclusion. “My money’s on Zika,” he said. Suddenly everyone wanted a piece of me; my blood was sent to the county board of health, Emory’s lab, and a lab in Washington for testing.

A call from the county board of health confirmed what my aching joints hinted at: I tested positive. My first thought was to thank my lucky stars that I have access to safe, reliable birth control. My second was to start worrying about those around me. I had brunch with a pregnant friend before I had symptoms-could I have given her Zika? Thankfully, the answer is no (more on that below)! I was amazed at how a short vacation and six bites could give me Zika. I thought about all the people going to the Caribbean for vacation. How many of them are pregnant or could become pregnant while traveling? Would they wear bug spray? Would they recognize the symptoms? How many are men who could get Zika and then unknowingly transmit it to their sexual partner? How many people are walking around not knowing they were infected? I called my friend and begged her to wear insect repellant for the rest of her pregnancy.

As of July 27, 2016, 1,658 cases of Zika, including 433 pregnant women have been confirmed in the continental United States; 4 cases of local transmission have been reported in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in Florida. There are likely far more cases since most people don’t have symptoms, so never get tested. Zika is mostly spread through mosquito bites, but can also be spread through sex, blood transfusions, or from a mother to baby during pregnancy. We don’t know how long the incubation period (the time between when you get infected and when you see symptoms) is, but it is likely a few days to weeks. For most people the virus stays in the blood for about a week, but some people still have the virus in their bodies for as long as two months. Currently, the only Zika outbreak in the continental United States is in a small area of Dade County, Florida, however, the mosquitoes that can carry Zika are found in some areas of the US, making a Zika outbreak in the U.S. very possible. You can follow these steps to protect yourself:

1.  If you are pregnant or could be pregnant (planning a pregnancy or not using birth control), don’t travel to a country with an active Zika outbreak. You can find a list of current outbreaks here.

2.  If your partner has traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and you are pregnant, use condoms correctly every time you have sex for the rest of your pregnancy. Why, you might ask? Because Zika can stay in semen longer than in blood, but we don’t know exactly how long it stays there. To be as safe as possible, the CDC recommends using condoms for 6 months.

3.  If your partner has traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and has symptoms of Zika (rash, fever, headache, joint pain, and conjunctivitis) use condoms correctly whenever you have sex and avoid pregnancy for at least six months. If he does not have symptoms, use condoms and avoid pregnancy for at least two months.

4.  If you have traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and you are not pregnant, avoid pregnancy for at least two months. The Zika virus can also be transmitted from a woman to her sexual partner. Because of this, use condoms and/or a dental dam when you have sex for two months. Do not share sex toys.

5.  If you are currently pregnant, avoid mosquito bites as much as possible by wearing bug spray outdoors (bug spray with at least 30% DEET is preferable; for information on the safety of DEET during pregnancy, see here), wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, closing windows or using windows with screens, and removing any standing water from around your house. Two things to remember: the mosquitos that spread Zika are daytime biters and like to be indoors, and they can breed in pools as small as a bottle-cap.

MTB-headshot_BethanyKotlarIf you have questions about the Zika virus or you have been infected or exposed and want free up-to-date information about what this could mean for a current or future pregnancy, you can contact a MotherToBaby expert by phone at (866) 626-6847, by text at (855) 999-3525, or by live chat or email by visiting www.mothertobaby.org.

Bethany

You can also send your questions to the March of Dimes at AskUs@marchofdimes.org and view our web article on Zika. Thanks again to Bethany for sharing her story.

Note: since the writing of this blog post, more cases of Zika have been reported in Florida. The CDC website has updated, detailed information.

 

Do adults really need vaccines?

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Doctor with pregnant woman during check-upJennifer and Will hope to start a family later this year. Do either of them need vaccines before trying to conceive?

Sophia is pregnant with her second child. She remembers getting a couple of vaccines when she was pregnant with her first child. Does she need to get them again?

Lorraine and Bob just became grandparents and hope to do a lot of babysitting. Do they need any vaccines before being with their granddaughter?

The answers to all of the above? YES!

Children are not the only ones who need vaccines. Adults need them, too. As you can see from the above scenarios, vaccines are necessary before, during and after pregnancy.

Before pregnancy

Make sure your vaccinations are current so that they protect you and your baby during pregnancy. Then, ask your provider how long you need to wait before you try to get pregnant.

Are you up to date on your MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine?  This one is important because rubella is a contagious disease that can be very dangerous if you get it while you are pregnant.  In fact, it can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects. The best protection against rubella is the MMR vaccine, but you need it before you get pregnant.  Then, you should avoid trying to get pregnant for at least four weeks after getting the vaccine.

During pregnancy

When you get vaccines, you aren’t just protecting yourself—you are giving your baby some early protection too. CDC recommends you get a whooping cough and flu vaccine during each pregnancy to help protect yourself and your baby.

  • Whooping cough (or Tdap) vaccine – Get this at 27 – 36 weeks of pregnancy. You need to get the Tdap vaccine in each and every pregnancy. This ensures that you pass your protection on to your baby, which will help keep him safe until he is able to get his own pertussis vaccination at 2 months of age.
  • Flu – A flu shot during pregnancy protects you from serious complications and protects your baby for up to 6 months after birth. You need a flu shot every year, as the flu strain changes year to year.

After pregnancy

Although getting vaccines during pregnancy is very important, you also need to think about those individuals who will be near your baby.

At the very least, fathers, grandparents, caregivers and anyone who is going to be in contact with your baby should be immunized against pertussis (whooping cough) and flu. They should get the Tdap and flu vaccines at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby. This strategy of surrounding babies with people who are protected against a disease such as whooping cough is called “cocooning.”

However, cocooning might not be enough to prevent your baby from getting sick. This is because cocooning does not provide any direct protection (antibodies) to your baby, and it can be difficult to make sure everyone who is around your baby has gotten their whooping cough vaccine. Therefore, it is even more important that you get your vaccines while you are pregnant.

A baby is not able to start getting most of his vaccines until he is at least two months old. For example, aside from the Hepatitis B vaccine that is given to your baby in the hospital, the first of 5 doses of the DTap (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine is given at 2 months of age. The flu vaccine is not given until 6 months, and the MMR, varicella (chickenpox), and hepatitis A vaccines are not given until 12 months.

If you haven’t received all your vaccinations before or during pregnancy, talk to your provider after giving birth to see about getting caught up to protect yourself and your baby.

What are “boosters?”

Even if you got all of your vaccinations during your life, some vaccines need “boosters” because they wear off over time. Talk with your health care provider to see whether you need them. With a little preparation and forethought, you and your baby will be protected against diseases that could be dangerous or even deadly.

Test your knowledge

Take the CDC’s Vaccines and Pregnancy Quiz for a fun way to learn what vaccines you need before and during pregnancy. It is quick and easy, and you’ll learn something whether you get the answers right or wrong.  No judgment! And check out their new Pregnancy and Vaccination page.

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

Why should men care about Zika?

Monday, July 25th, 2016

couple with laptopWe have received a number of questions at AskUs@marchofdimes.org asking why men need to be concerned about Zika.

The quick answer is because Zika can be sexually transmitted.

Zika infection usually stays in your blood for a few days to a week, but it has been found in an infected man’s semen more than 3 months after symptoms started. Semen contains sperm, which is what fertilizes an egg to get a woman pregnant. We don’t know how long Zika stays in a woman’s vaginal fluid or genital tract. If a man is infected with Zika and has sex with a pregnant woman, he can pass the virus to her and then it is possible for her to pass it to her unborn baby.

How can a man prevent a Zika infection?

  • Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Men whose partners may be pregnant or trying to conceive, should avoid travel to a Zika-affected area unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Prevent mosquito bites. If a man does travel to a Zika-affected area, he should avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Continue to use insect repellant for at least 3 weeks after return, to help prevent Zika from spreading to others.
  • Use a condom. When he returns from his trip, it is important to use a condom every time he has sex to prevent passing Zika to his partner. The length of time that you should use condoms depends on your personal situation and concerns. Talk to your provider.

What if a man thinks he may have been infected with Zika?

  • Recognize the symptoms. Illness usually begin 2 to 7 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. You can be sick with Zika for several days to a week. Signs and symptoms include:
    • Headache
    • Fever (You may or may not have a fever if you have Zika.)
    • Joint or muscle pain
    • Pink eye (also called conjunctivitis) or pain behind the eyes
    • Rash
    • Throwing up
  • Most people who have Zika don’t feel sick or have symptoms. If you think you may have Zika, talk to your health care provider. You can find out if you have Zika with a blood or urine test.
  • If you have Zika, or THINK you may have Zika, be careful not to infect your partner. Use condoms.

What can you do if you’re planning to get pregnant?

  • If a man has been tested for and has Zika, wait at least 6 months after his first sign or symptom of Zika before trying to get pregnant.
  • If a woman has been tested for and has Zika, wait at least 8 weeks from her first sign or symptom before trying to get pregnant.
  • If you or your partner may have Zika but neither of you have signs or symptoms and neither of you has been tested, wait at least 8 weeks from when you think you may have been exposed to Zika before trying to get pregnant.

The CDC recommends that you wait this long to be sure you and your partner aren’t infected with Zika when you try to get pregnant.

See our article for more details about the Zika virus, including how to stay safe.

Have questions? Send them to our Health Education Specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Updated 8/18/16

Flu protection for your baby for the first 8 weeks

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

2014d037_0986A new study shows that not only will getting a flu shot during pregnancy protect yourself and your newborn against the flu after delivery, it will protect her for up to 2 months after birth.

Researchers looked at over 1,000 infants born to women who received a flu shot during their pregnancy to assess how well the vaccine worked. They found that the vaccine was most effective during the first eight weeks after birth at a rate of 85.6 percent.

Infants are at higher risk for getting the flu. Because the flu vaccine isn’t recommended for newborns, getting the vaccine during your pregnancy is the best way to protect your little one until she can receive her own vaccine at six months of age.

If you get the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications. And if your baby gets the flu after birth, it can make her seriously sick. But the flu vaccine is not recommended for babies under 6 months of age. Therefore, the best way to protect your baby after birth is to get a flu shot during pregnancy.

Have an older baby or child? Be sure to read our blog post that talks about getting your child a flu shot (not the nasal mist) this year.

Have questions? Our health education specialists are here to answer them. Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.