Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

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.

Your heart health and pregnancy

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

If you have a condition related to your heart, such as high blood pressure or heart disease, you may be worried about how it could affect a pregnancy. The good news is that by taking precautions and managing your health now, you and your health care provider can make sure you’re ready for pregnancy.

High blood pressure

A condition such as high blood pressure can cause preeclampsia and premature birth during pregnancy. High blood pressure can put extra stress on your heart and kidneys. This can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. But managing your blood pressure can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. If you have high blood pressure, reach out to your health care provider at a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to take care of health conditions that may affect your pregnancy.

You can also:

  • Get to a healthy weight. Talk to your provider about the weight that’s right for you.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Do something active every day.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking during pregnancy can cause problems for your baby, like premature birth. It’s also dangerous for people with high blood pressure because it damages blood vessel walls.

Heart disease

Women with heart disease can have a safe pregnancy with minimal risks. However during pregnancy, your heart has a lot more to do and this extra stress can be a concern.

If you have a congenital heart disease, the best thing you can do is to talk to both your cardiologist and obstetrician before you get pregnant. This will allow you to understand what risks (if any) are involved for your pregnancy. You can also determine if there are any concerns with your heart that need to be fixed prior to pregnancy such as any surgical repairs or medication changes.

Speaking of…

Be sure to ask your provider about any medications you are currently taking at your preconception checkup. Many heart conditions require medications to be controlled and your provider can help you choose one that’s safe for you and your baby.

Bottom line

Taking these steps now will allow you to manage any conditions before you conceive to make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.

Get vaccinated before you get pregnant

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

If you are planning a pregnancy, it is very important to make sure that you are up-to-date on all of your vaccinations. Vaccinations help protect you from infection and you pass this protection to your baby during pregnancy. This helps keep your baby safe during the first few months of life until he gets his own vaccinations.

Why do adults need vaccinations?

You probably got vaccinations as a child, but they don’t all protect you your whole life. Over time, some childhood vaccinations stop working, so you may need what’s called a booster shot as an adult. And there may be new vaccinations that weren’t available when you were young. Talk to your provider to make sure you’re fully protected with vaccinations.

What vaccinations do you need before pregnancy?

Before you get pregnant, you should make sure that you are up-to-date on all your routine adult vaccinations, including:

  • Flu. Get the flu vaccine once a year before flu season (October through May). There are many different flu viruses, and they’re always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four flu viruses that are likely to make people sick during the upcoming flu season. If you come down with the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications, such as pneumonia.
  • HPV. This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine.
  • MMR. This vaccine protects you against the measles, mumps and rubella.
  • Varicella. Chickenpox is an infection that causes itchy skin, rash and fever. It’s easily spread and can cause birth defects if you get it during pregnancy. It’s also very dangerous to a baby. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and you never had the chickenpox or the vaccine, tell your provider.

There are some vaccines that are not safe to get during pregnancy, so make sure you get them before you get pregnant. Once you get these vaccinations, you should wait at least one month before you try to get pregnant.

  • BCG (for tuberculosis)
  • Meningococcal
  • MMR
  • Typhoid
  • Varicella

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, schedule a preconception checkup, so your health care provider can make sure you are up-to-date with all of your vaccinations.

And if you just had a baby, it’s a good time to get caught up on any vaccinations that you missed before or during pregnancy. This can help protect you from diseases in future pregnancies. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s safe for you to get routine adult vaccines. Ask your health care provider if you have questions.

#ShowYourLove by being your healthiest self

Friday, January 12th, 2018

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Today’s guest post is from Suzanne Woodward, Communications Director at the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), to help raise awareness on the steps women can take to be as healthy as possible before having a baby.

Love it or hate it, January is a great time to reflect, set intentions, and start fresh. The bustle around “New Year, Healthier You” is a great opportunity to let yourself be motivated by and encourage others to take steps toward your health and life goals. What did you love about 2017 that you want to keep in your life? What new experiences or attitudes would you like to welcome into this New Year? What support do you need to make this happen? Is starting a family or growing your family in the cards for 2018? This is the cornerstone theme for the #ShowYourLoveToday consumer health and wellness campaign. Have you heard of it?

Show Your Love aims to help young adults live and grow to their full health potential. For themselves, their families and/or for their future families if they choose to have one.

Why is a health and wellness campaign called “Show Your Love?”
We know that women are busy – often caring for friends, family, colleagues and others before themselves. Taking the time to invest in yourself – to give yourself the same love and respect you give to others – is important. Because by showing love to YOURSELF, you are more likely to have the energy and focus you need to work toward your goals and life plans.

How can you show love for yourself?
You “show your love” in many ways. Some ideas could be taking time to walk, take the stairs not the elevator, pray/meditate, get more sleep, get a physical “tune up” with your health care provider, add a fruit and vegetable to your meal, drink less soda, take a vitamin, learn about your family’s health history, and protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (all called, STI), sunburn and insect bites. Maybe this is the  year that you will focus on stopping habits like tobacco and binge drinking that may help you cope with stress but don’t help you reach your goals. Take stock of the relationships in your life – do they build you up or take you down? Do you have people in your life who might want to join you in making positive changes?

If a baby is definitely NOT in your future for 2018, make sure that you are happy with your contraceptive plan whether that’s abstinence, an IUD or anything in between. If getting pregnant is on your list then you can show your love to your future baby this year too by taking care of you now.

How can you show love for others?
Some ideas could be as simple as encouraging your loved ones to make ONE healthier choice each day, asking about their goals, sharing your health and wellness tips, supporting their efforts to understand their health, telling YOUR story and influencing others (to name a few!). By showing your love for other, you show love for yourself.

Many health “resolutions” offer a two for one benefit. They are good for women AND lay the foundation for a healthy next generation too.

Whether you ARE planning to become pregnant or NOT in 2018, there are critical steps that can be taken TODAY to improve your own overall health and wellness AND increase the chance of a healthy baby. This January, the Show Your Love campaign is proud to partner with the March of Dimes to raise awareness about the 1 in 33 babies born with a birth defect. While not all birth defects are preventable, practicing self-care before becoming pregnant can reduce the risk of birth defects. Some key areas for birth defect prevention include:

You can find full health and wellness, life and/or reproductive planning checklists here. These checklists can support you with tips to get healthy before, during or after pregnancy.

Show Your Love is a virtual community of young adults striving to live healthier and encouraging each other along the way. Join our Ambassador Network (it’s free) and share your health journey/goals/messages. I will plug: it is a fun group, an easy way to connect and elevate your voice, and we have lots of cool incentives for healthy challenges. Follow and contribute to our conversation on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook using #ShowYourLoveToday.

Show Your Love is led by the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), a public-private partnership of 90+ national organizations working to advance preconception health. PCHHC is hosting a Tweet chat with the March of Dimes and Mother to Baby on January 30, 2-3pm ET. Join us on Twitter using: #Prevent2Protect.

We can’t wait to hear from YOU!

Want more information about PCHHC or Show Your Love? Email Suzanne at Suzannew@med.unc.edu. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.