Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Prevent infections to protect your baby

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

January is Birth Defects Prevention month. Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. This means that a baby is born with a birth defect about every 4 ½ minutes. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth and can cause problems in overall health, in how the body develops or works. Some infections before and during pregnancy can have serious consequences, including causing certain birth defects. Not all birth defects can be prevented. But there are some things that you can do before and during pregnancy to protect yourself and your baby.

Practice good hygiene

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.
  • Take precautions when preparing food.
  • Make sure to wash hands after changing diapers or wiping runny noses. Don’t share cups or utensils with young children.
  • Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards, and turtles.
  • Do not clean a cat litter box during pregnancy.

Talk to your health care provider     

  • Talk to your provider about what you can do to prevent infections, such as Zika.
  • Discuss how to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Make sure you are getting the right amount of folic acid. Most women should be taking 400mcg of folic acid before pregnancy.

Get vaccinated

  • Your provider can make sure that you are up to date on all your routine adult vaccinations before you get pregnant.
  • The CDC recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy: the flu shot and the pertussis vaccine (Tdap) at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Pertussis (also called whooping cough) is an extremely contagious disease that causes violent coughing and is dangerous for a baby. Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, to protect their baby.

Prevent insect bites

  • Take precautions to protect yourself from animals known to carry diseases and insects that may carry infections, such as Zika.
  • Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Be sure to discuss any travel plans with your provider.
  • When mosquitoes are active, prevent mosquito bites using an EPA-registered bug spray containing one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or IR3535.
  • Wear appropriate clothing when outside, such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt, pants, shoes, & socks.
  • Don’t have sex with a male or female partner who may be infected with Zika virus or who has recently traveled to a Zika-affected area.

And don’t forget that there are many other steps that you can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:

Wash your hands for National Handwashing Awareness Week

Friday, December 8th, 2017

The easiest way to stop the spread of germs is to wash your hands. You should wash your hands before and after many activities, such as when you are preparing foods or eating, after you use the bathroom, and after changing diapers or helping your child use the toilet. The simple act of washing your hands can help protect you and others from germs.

Is there really a benefit to washing hands?

You may not be able to see the germs on your hands, but they can lead to illness. Think of hand washing as your daily vaccine for staying healthy. If you’re pregnant or thinking about pregnancy, washing your hands can help protect you from viruses and infections, like CMV and toxoplasmosis. These viruses can cause problems during pregnancy.

Washing your hands is easy, just follow these easy steps:

  • Wet your hands with clean water and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to lather the soap. Be sure you get the back of your hands as well.
  • Scrub! And sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to be sure you are scrubbing long enough.
  • Rinse your hands well.
  • And dry.

If you don’t have soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Just be sure to check the label. Hand sanitizers are good in a pinch, but they don’t get rid of all types of germs, so hand washing is still the best way to stay healthy.

What’s the best way to protect against the flu this season?

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Answer: an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against this potentially serious disease. And the good news is that it’s safe to get the flu shot during pregnancy.

Is the vaccine effective at preventing the flu?

Each year the CDC conducts studies to determine how effective the flu vaccine is at protecting against flu illness. It is important to note that the vaccine effectiveness can vary from season to season and depending on who is being vaccinated.

What are the benefits?

  • The flu shot can keep you from getting the flu. And the vaccine can’t cause the flu.
  • It’s safe to get the flu shot any time during pregnancy. But it’s best to get it now because flu season is October through May.
  • Getting vaccinated during pregnancy can also protect your baby after he is born and before he is able to receive his own vaccination.
  • There are different flu viruses and they’re always changing, so each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect you against three of four flu viruses that are likely to make you sick.
  • Getting the vaccine is easy. You can get the shot from your health care provider, and many pharmacies and work places offer it each fall. Use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find out where you can get the flu vaccine.
  • Need more reasons to get your flu shot? We have 10 right here.

Should you get the flu vaccination?

Yes! Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. However there are exceptions. There are some people who cannot get the flu shot and others who should talk to their health care provider before getting the flu shot.

For more information on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, visit here.

Collecting your family health history

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

While you’re gathered with your family this holiday, remember that Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to record your family’s health history. Your family health history is a record of any health conditions and treatments that you, your partner and everyone in both of your families have had. It can help you find out about medical problems that run in your family that may affect your pregnancy and your baby.

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.

How to collect your family health history

Talk to your family. You can use our family health history form to help you. Print out a few copies and pass them around to your family over Thanksgiving. Have family members add as much information as they can about their health and the health of their parents, grandparents and other family members. Try to get a form from everyone in your family and your partner’s family.

Ask questions. Ask relatives what diseases they have had and when they were diagnosed. Make sure you ask about conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, intellectual disabilities, cancer, and repeat pregnancy loss. Also, find out about your ethnic background is. Knowing what countries or regions your ancestors came from is important because some diseases, like sickle cell and Tay-Sachs, run in people from certain backgrounds or parts of the world.

Update the information regularly. Keeping track of your health history never stops. Add to it as your family grows and changes. To help make sure that your history is up to date, keep copies of:

How to use your family health history

Once you’ve got it, share it! Show it to:

  • Your provider at your preconception checkup or your first prenatal care appointment. Your provider uses it to see if health conditions run in your family. This can help him figure out if you’re likely to pass a condition to your baby during pregnancy.
  • Your family members. It’s great information for everyone in your family. It’s really helpful for someone who’s pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant.

If you learn that your family has a health condition that gets passed from parent to child, you may want to see a genetic counselor. This is a person who is trained to help you understand about how genes, birth defects and other medical conditions run in families, and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health. Your provider can help you find a genetic counselor, or you can contact the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

Thinking about pregnancy after premature birth

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Even if you do everything right, you can still have a premature birth. We don’t always know what causes premature birth, but we do know that if you’ve had a premature baby in the past, you’re at increased risk of having a premature birth in another pregnancy. If you have given birth early, here are some ways you may be able to reduce the chances of premature birth in another pregnancy:

Wait 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again

Waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies gives your body time to recover from one pregnancy so that is it ready for the next one. Use birth control so you don’t get pregnant again too soon. Talk to your provider about the best birth control option for you.

Schedule a preconception checkup

Being as healthy as possible when you get pregnant can help you have a healthy, full-term pregnancy. At your preconception checkup you and your provider can talk about:

Talk to your provider about progesterone shots

Progesterone is a hormone that helps your uterus grow and keeps it from having contractions. Progesterone shots may help prevent you from giving birth early again if:

  • You’re pregnant with just one baby.
  • You were pregnant before with just one baby and had spontaneous premature birth.

Get treatment for short cervix

Your cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. The cervix opens, shortens and gets thinner and softer so your baby can pass through the birth canal during labor and birth. Having a short cervix increases your risk for giving birth early. Talk to your provider about cerclage and vaginal progesterone.

Take low dose aspirin to help prevent preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a kind of high blood pressure some women get after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth. If not treated, it can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including premature birth. If you have risk factors for preeclampsia, like you’ve had it before or you have high blood pressure or other health conditions, your provider may want you to take low-dose aspirin during pregnancy.

Quit smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs and misusing prescription drugs.

All of these can put your health and your baby’s health at risk and make you more likely to give birth early. Quitting or getting help to quit is the best thing you can do. Talk to your provider about programs that can help.

Learn the signs of preterm labor

Learning the signs and symptoms of preterm labor doesn’t reduce your risk of premature birth. But if you know them and know what to do if you have them, you can get treatment quickly that may help stop your labor. If you have any signs or symptoms of preterm labor, call your provider right away or go to the hospital.

Hispanic Heritage Month

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

From September 15th through October 15th we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, a time where we recognize Hispanic culture, as well as achievements, and contributions Hispanics and Latinos have made to the United States.

According to the U.S. Census, there are approximately 57.5 million Hispanics in the United States– about 18% of the country’s total population and the largest ethnic or racial minority in the country. Despite this wonderful growth, there is concern over the health status of Hispanics/Latinos and their health outcomes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our community is at higher risk for diabetes. This is a disease that affects blood sugar. Over time diabetes can cause serious health problems and complications if not treated. Many things can increase the risk of diabetes (known as risk factors). Some factors cannot be controlled, such as family health history. But other factors, such as diet and physical activity, can be controlled. There are several things we can do to reduce the risk of this disease, live a healthy life, and celebrate our culture day by day. For example:

  • Having a medical checkup every year is the key to prevention. Talk to your healthcare provider if someone in your family has diabetes (for example, your grandparents, parents, or siblings). Ask your provider about your risk factors and ask them to give you a diabetes test.
  • Cook your favorite foods in a healthy way. Use vegetables and herbs to season your food. Peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro are some of the basic and common ingredients in Latin cuisine. These ingredients provide rich flavor to any meal, and can help you cook with less salt. Instead of desserts or cookies, eat fresh fruit.
  • You do not need to have a gym membership to be active. You can do things in your home or community. For example, dancing is an activity that helps you stay physically active. You can organize activities with other people who enjoy dancing, or you can dance at home with your children or with your partner.
  • Avoid smoking, and second hand smoke. Do not let people smoke in your car or at home. Be careful about how much alcohol you consume or avoid it all together. All of this can cause serious health problems and cause complications if you already have diabetes.

If you and your partner want to have a baby, these recommendations can be helpful as you plan your pregnancy. Diabetes can make it harder to get pregnant; it can affect the fertility of you and your partner. Additionally, during pregnancy, diabetes can increase your risk of having a premature baby. That is why it is important to think about the health of your future baby before getting pregnant.

If you have more questions on this topic, or any others related to preconception health and pregnancy, you can email us at: askus@marchofdimes.org or preguntas@nacersano.org. Our bilingual health educators can help guide you and provide you with a list of questions you can ask your health care provider if you are at risk of getting, or have, diabetes and want to have a baby.

Prenatal health and nutrition start before pregnancy

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Today’s guest post is written by Donna Dell of Mission Pharmacal on the findings of a survey, conducted in part by March of Dimes, on the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy.

Did you know that taking multivitamins or vitamins containing folic acid is an important component for a healthy mom and baby?

A recent survey conducted by the March of Dimes, in partnership with Mission Pharmacal, showed that only 34 percent of women ages 18-45 started taking a prenatal vitamin or multivitamin before they knew they were pregnant, and the number drops to 27 percent for Hispanic women and to 10 percent for African-American/black women.

Taking a multivitamin containing folic acid every day before and during pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine, also called neural tube defects. More than 120,000 babies — or three percent of all births — will be born with birth defects in the U.S. this year.

Here are some other key findings from the survey:

  • While, 97% of women reported taking prenatal vitamins or multivitamins during their last or current pregnancy, 36% of women of childbearing age said they are currently not taking any vitamin or mineral supplements at all.
  • 77% of all women worry that there may be changes to the healthcare system that may negatively impact access to prenatal care.
  • 43% of women who have been or are currently pregnant reported that cost affected when and whether they sought prenatal care for their pregnancy.
  • 84% of women who reported being familiar with folic acid either didn’t know (59%) or weren’t sure of the recommended amount of the nutrient is needed, in order to help have a healthy baby or pregnancy.

So, what are some steps you can take to support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby?

  • Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin containing at least 400 micro-grams (mcg) of folic acid every day before pregnancy to help prevent serious birth defects.
  • If you’re thinking of having a baby, see your health care provider for a preconception checkup and talk about prescription or over-the-counter vitamins.
  • Once you are pregnant, keep getting your folic acid by taking a prenatal vitamin every day containing 600 mcg.
  • Iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA and iodine have also been found to play a key role in a baby’s growth and development during pregnancy.
  • Folic acid comes in different forms other than vitamins. Look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” on the package label of foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, flour, pasta, and products made from corn masa, and white rice.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol, and stay up-to-date on vaccines.

Please visit marchofdimes.org for the latest health information, resources and tools for moms and babies.

Take care of your reproductive health

Monday, September 11th, 2017

If you’re planning to get pregnant in the future, it’s important that you take care of your reproductive health now.

Visit your health care provider regularly

Make sure you have an annual checkup with your provider. Your provider will most likely:

  • Give you a physical exam that includes taking your weight and checking your blood pressure
  • Give you a pelvic exam. This is an exam of the pelvic organs, like the vagina, cervix, uterus and ovaries, to make sure they’re healthy.
  • Do a Pap test. This is a medical test in which your provider collects cells from your cervix to check for cancer.

Protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

An STI is an infection that you can get from having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected. Many people with STIs don’t know they’re infected because some STIs have no signs or symptoms. Nearly 20 million new STI infections happen each year in the United States. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from STIs:

  • Don’t have sex. This is the best way to prevent an STI.
  • If you do have sex, have safe sex. Have sex with only one person who doesn’t have other sex partners. If you’re not sure if your partner has an STI, use a barrier method of birth control, like a male or female condom or a dental dam. A dental dam is a square piece of rubber that can help protect you from STIs during oral sex.
  • Get tested and treated. The sooner you’re treated, the less likely you are to have complications from your infection.
  • Ask your partner to get tested and treated. Even if you get treated for an STI, if your partner’s infected he may be able to give you the infection again.

If you’re not ready to get pregnant, use birth control

More than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Planning your pregnancy can help you have a healthy baby. If you’re planning to have a baby, you’re more likely to get healthy before you get pregnant and to get early and regular prenatal care during pregnancy. If you’re not ready for pregnancy, birth control options include:

  • Abstinence. This means you abstain from (don’t have) sex. Abstinence is the only birth control that’s 100 percent effective. This means it prevents pregnancy all the time.
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs). An IUD is a small, plastic T-shaped device that your provider puts in your uterus. Hormonal IUDs contain progestin and last for 3-5 years. Non-hormonal IUDs contain copper and can work for up to 10 years.
  • Implants. An implant is a tiny rod that contains progestin and is inserted into your arm. The rod is so small that most people can’t see it. Implants can last for about 3 years.
  • Hormonal methods. These methods, like implants, non-copper IUDs, the pill and the patch, contain hormones that prevent you from releasing an egg. Without the egg, you can’t get pregnant.
  • Barrier methods. Condoms and diaphragms are barrier methods because they work by blocking or killing your partner’s sperm so it can’t reach your egg.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

What vaccines do you need before, during, and after pregnancy?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is very important to make sure that you are up-to-date on all of your vaccinations. Vaccines 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.

Before pregnancy

These vaccines are recommended before you get pregnant:

  • 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.

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

During pregnancy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:

  1. Flu shot if you didn’t get one before pregnancy. The flu mist isn’t safe to use during pregnancy.
  2. Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy at 27 to 36 weeks. The Tdap vaccine prevents pertussis (also called whooping cough). Pertussis is easily spread and very dangerous for a baby.

Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider to make sure any vaccination you get is safe.

After pregnancy

If you haven’t caught up on vaccinations before or during pregnancy, do it after your baby’s born.

If you didn’t get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, make sure to 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. Your baby should get his first pertussis vaccine at 2 months old.

Until your baby gets his first pertussis shot, the best way to protect him is to get the vaccine yourself and keep him away from people who may have the illness. Caregivers, close friends and relatives who spend time with your baby should also get a Tdap vaccine at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby. Babies may not be fully protected until they’ve had three doses of the Tdap vaccine.

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s safe to get routine adult vaccines, but ask your provider if you have concerns.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Fertility myths – we’ve got the facts

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

negtestWe’ve heard of many different theories about fertility and becoming pregnant through AskUs. We’ve rounded up some of the ones we hear most often to help you weed through fact and fiction.

Q: Can folic acid help me get pregnant?

A: If you are trying to become pregnant, it is a good idea that you take a multivitamin that contains at least 400mcg of folic acid. This will help to prevent certain birth defects if you become pregnant. Folic acid, however, is not known to help with fertility in women. So, if you are having trouble becoming pregnant, folic acid is not something that will help you to conceive.

Q: I have an irregular period, can I get pregnant?

A: If you don’t have a regular period, there are other ways you can determine when you are ovulating, such as using your basal body temperature, cervical mucus and an ovulation prediction kit. For more tips, visit here.

Q: “Does drinking caffeine or smoking cigarettes affect my fertility?”

A: You may have heard that too much caffeine can cause miscarriage (when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy). Some studies say this is true, and others don’t. Until we know more about how caffeine can affect pregnancy, it’s best to limit the amount you get to 200 milligrams each day. This is about the amount in 1½ 8-ounce cups of coffee or one 12-ounce cup of coffee. Be sure to check the size of your cup to know how much caffeine you’re getting.

Smoking can affect your fertility and make it harder for you to get pregnant. Need help quitting? We’ve got resources.

Q: If I have sex a few days before ovulation will I conceive a girl?

A: Gender is determined at the moment of conception. During ovulation the ovaries release a mature egg that begins to travel to the uterus through the fallopian tubes. Sperm travel through the uterus to fertilize the egg within the fallopian tube. Only a single sperm fertilizes an egg. Both the sperm and the egg contain 23 chromosomes that will combine to make up the zygote which contains a total of 46 chromosomes. At conception, your baby’s gender, eye color, hair color, and much more has already been determined.

Of the 46 chromosomes that make up your baby’s genetic material, two chromosomes–one from your egg and one from your partner’s sperm–determine your baby’s gender. A woman’s egg contains only X sex chromosomes. A man’s sperm, however, may contain either an X or Y sex chromosome. If, at the instant of fertilization, a sperm with an X sex chromosome meets your egg (another X chromosome), your baby will be a girl (XX). If a sperm containing a Y sex chromosome meets your egg, your baby will be a boy (XY). It is always the father’s genetic contribution that determines the sex of the baby.

There are many old wives tales about choosing the sex of your baby but none of them have been proven.

Q: Will my birth control cause infertility?

A: The type of birth control you use may affect how soon you can get pregnant once you stop using it. To check your specific birth control, visit here.

Using birth control will not hurt your chances of becoming pregnant in the future. All reversible birth control methods will help prevent pregnancy while you’re using them, but they do not have long-lasting effects on your ability to get pregnant when you stop.