Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Allergies and pregnancy – can you get relief safely?

Monday, May 1st, 2017

allergies2It seems that everyone I know is struggling with allergy symptoms right now. The chief complaints are itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, and generally feeling like a marshmallow invaded your head. Spring looks so beautiful but taking a deep breath outside can make you miserable!

There are many over-the-counter remedies and prescription medications available to help with symptoms, but if you’re pregnant it may not be wise to use any of them.

Here’s the low-down…

Pros and cons of possible allergy relief remedies during pregnancy

First of all, check with your health care provider before you take any over-the-counter medicine, supplement or herbal product to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby. Your provider will weigh the risks and benefits of taking any medication during pregnancy.

  • As a general rule, nasal saline (salt water) is good to use as it keeps your nasal passages moist and helps you blow away the allergens that accumulate in your nose. Avoid nasal steroids though, unless prescribed by your prenatal provider.
  • Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, usually should be avoided, especially during the first trimester, as there is a possible association between its use and certain birth defects in babies. There are too many brand name decongestants to list here. Your best bet is to ask your prenatal provider about a medication before you take it.
  • Antihistamines, such asdiphenhydramine, doxylamine and chlorpheniramine, block your reaction to an allergen. You may know them by their brand names, such as Benadryl, Nytol, Unisom, Triaminic, and others. Some are considered safe to use during pregnancy, with the ok of your provider.
  • Read labels. Many symptom relief medications contain more than one ingredient. Also, these meds are meant for short-term, not long-term use. Your prenatal provider is the perfect person to ask if/when/how long you should be on any particular medication.

How about allergy tests and shots?

  • If you’re thinking about being tested for allergies, either test before you become pregnant, or wait until after your baby is born. Allergy skin testing is not done during pregnancy due to a small risk that a severe reaction can occur. Reactions such as hives, swelling of your tongue and throat and even loss of consciousness may occur. During pregnancy, a severe reaction may be harmful to your baby.
  • If you are currently receiving allergy shots (known as immunotherapy), be sure you let your allergist know you are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant. He may decide to continue the shots, adjust your dosage or stop them entirely during your pregnancy.

Other suggestions

  • Decreasing exposure to allergy triggers is key in helping you breathe easier. Some allergy healthcare providers recommend keeping windows and doors shut and running an air conditioner to keep the indoor air as free from outdoor allergens as possible. You may find it helpful to run a small air purifier in the bedroom at night to help you sleep.
  • Breathing steam or taking a warm shower may also help to decongest your nasal passages.

Bottom line

Every woman and every pregnancy is different; your provider will know the remedy that is best for you. The good news is that once you give birth, you will have more options available to you to combat Mother Nature’s pollen parade.

Have questions? If you are wondering about taking a specific medication during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, you can text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

How long will it take for me to get pregnant?

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Contemplative womanThe answer to this question depends on many factors and is very personal. Some people get pregnant the first month they try. For others, it takes longer. If you have been trying to conceive for a few months, you may just need more time. Most couples who try to get pregnant do so within one year. It may not happen immediately, but the odds are it will happen soon.

But if you have been trying to get pregnant for more than a year (or six months if you are 35 or over) and have not conceived, your health care provider may suggest you consult a reproductive endocrinologist. A reproductive endocrinologist is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) who specializes in diagnosing and treating infertility.

Infertility means that the body’s ability to perform the basic function of reproduction is impaired. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 8 couples of childbearing age have difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term.

There are many possible causes of infertility. If you do see a reproductive endocrinologist, both you and your partner will most likely need to undergo testing. Infertility affects men and women equally. And 25% of infertile couples have more than one factor that contributes to their infertility.

Risk factors

There are a number of risk factors for infertility. Many of them are the same for both men and women. They include:

  • Age. As you get older, your fertility will start to decline. Each woman is born with a set number of eggs. As you get older, you have fewer and fewer eggs, and the eggs you have aren’t easily fertilized by a man’s sperm. All this makes it harder for you to get pregnant. And men over age 40 may be less fertile than younger men.
  • Weight. Women who weigh too much or too little can have difficulty conceiving. And a man’s sperm count can be affected if he is overweight.
  • Smoking. Smoking reduces fertility for both men and women.  According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), up to 13% of female infertility is caused by cigarette smoking and women who smoke have an increased risk of miscarriage.
  • Alcohol use. There is no safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy. If you are trying to get pregnant, avoid alcohol. Heavy alcohol use in men can decrease both sperm count and motility (the ability of the sperm to swim towards the egg and fertilize it).

Treatment options

There are several kinds of fertility treatments. You, your partner, and your reproductive endocrinologist can decide which treatment gives you the best chance of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. Treatments include:

  • Surgery to repair parts of your or your partner’s reproductive system. For example, you may need surgery on your fallopian tubes to help your eggs travel from your ovaries to your uterus.
  • Controlled ovarian stimulation (also called COS). COS uses certain medicines to help your body ovulate and make healthier eggs.
  • In vitro fertilization (also called IVF). IVF is the most common kind of assisted reproductive technology (ART). In IVF, an egg and sperm are combined in a lab to create an embryo which is then transferred to the uterus.

You may be concerned that consulting a reproductive endocrinologist means you will need IVF.  Usually, this is not the case. In fact, 85-90% of infertility cases are treated with conventional therapies.

If you’ve been struggling to conceive, talk to your health care provider to learn about what you can do.

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

New research on weight and pregnancy

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

scaleBeing overweight during pregnancy can cause complications for you and your baby. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have pregnancy problems such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, c-section and even a miscarriage or stillbirth. If you’re overweight or obese during pregnancy your baby is more likely to be born prematurely, have a birth defect, or have heart disease, diabetes or obesity later in life.

More and more research is being done on how your weight can affect your pregnancy. In a recent study, researchers looked at information on more than one million children born to Swedish women who were followed for nearly eight years. They found that the overall risk of cerebral palsy (a birth defect) was nearly double in babies born to women with severe obesity. CP is a group of conditions that affects the parts of the brain that control muscles and movement.

The study authors say that obesity does not cause CP, but that there is an association between obesity in pregnancy and cerebral palsy risk. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy and maintaining healthy habits throughout your pregnancy can help reduce this risk.

“There continues to be evidence of many different repercussions and outcomes associated with being overweight or obese,” said Dr. Siobhan Dolan, medical advisor at the March of Dimes. “All the data is pointing to the same issue — that it’s good to get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and to gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy,” she said.

What can you do?

If you are currently pregnant, now is not the time to lose weight. But there are things you can do to be as healthy as possible.

Here are some tips:

  • Get early and regular prenatal care. Go to every checkup, even if you are feeling fine.
  • Have a chat with your health care provider about gaining weight during your pregnancy. Every woman and every pregnancy is different – that’s why it’s important to talk to your provider about how much weight gain is right for you.
  • Eat healthy foods and do something active every day. Even getting up from your desk every hour at work and walking around the office can be helpful.

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

U.S. study shows fewer babies are dying in their first year of life

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. A new report released by the CDC shows that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. dropped 15% from 2005 to 2014. In kangaroo-care-242005 the rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2014, the rate dropped to 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births.

While the study did not look at the underlying causes of the decline, it did report valuable information:

  • Infant mortality rates declined in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The other 17 states saw no significant changes.
  • Declines were seen in some of the leading causes of infant death including birth defects (11% decline), preterm birth and low birthweight (8% decline), and maternal complications (7% decline).
  • The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) declined by 29%.
  • Infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives.
  • Infants born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

“On the surface, this seems like good news. But it is far from time to celebrate,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes. “What is concerning, though, is that the inequities between non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians and the Caucasian population have persisted.” Dr. Jarris adds, “This report highlights the need to strengthen programs that serve low income and at-risk communities, especially those with the highest infant mortality rates.”

The infant mortality rate is one of the indicators that is often used to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants.

What can you do?

Having a healthy pregnancy may increase the chance of having a healthy baby. Here are some things you can do before and during pregnancy:

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

Zika and sperm – a new concern

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

spermThe latest news about the Zika virus is that there is a potential risk that some semen donated to sperm banks in South Florida might be contaminated with Zika.

Here’s why:

  • Zika can remain in semen for several months;
  • men who donated semen may not have shown signs or symptoms of Zika yet they could have been infected with the virus;
  • semen is not tested for Zika, unlike blood and tissue donations.

Therefore, it is possible that an infected man may have unknowingly donated semen contaminated with the Zika virus.

Where is the risk?

Although the Zika virus has been identified in Miami-Dade County, the risk of it spreading to other neighboring areas is possible, since individuals in this part of the state often travel to and from Broward and Palm Beach counties.

CDC says “This analysis has led to CDC identifying that since June 15, 2016, there has been a potential increased Zika risk for residents in Broward and Palm Beach counties because of local travel to areas of active transmission in Florida and challenges associated with defining sources of exposure.” The increased risk in the overall numbers of people exposed to the virus means that donor sperm may be at risk, too.

What does this mean to women trying to become pregnant by donor sperm?

Semen contains sperm, which is necessary for a woman to become pregnant. Although the risk of Zika transmission is small, if a woman wishes to become pregnant or currently is pregnant by donor sperm from these areas in Florida, she should speak with her healthcare provider. There have not been any confirmed cases of the Zika virus infecting a pregnant woman from donor sperm, but the possibility exists that it could occur.

The CDC emphasizes that Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause brain problems, microcephaly, and congenital Zika syndrome, a pattern of conditions in the baby that includes brain abnormalities, eye defects, hearing loss, and limb defects.

See our website for more information on Zika during pregnancy, microcephaly, and congenital Zika syndrome.

The CDC website offers detailed guidance for people living or traveling to South Florida.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Do you need carrier screening?

Friday, March 10th, 2017

preconception healthRecently the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) updated their recommendations for carrier screening.

A gene is a part of your body’s cells that stores instructions for the way your body grows and works. Genes come in pairs—you get one of each pair from each parent.

Sometimes the instructions in genes change. This is called a gene change or a mutation. Parents can pass gene changes to their children. Sometimes a gene change can cause a gene to not work correctly. Sometimes it can cause birth defects or other health conditions.

For certain conditions, if you inherit a gene change from just one parent, you have the gene change but not the disease. When this happens, you’re called a carrier. A carrier of a genetic mutation does not have any symptoms of the disease or condition. But, if their partner carries a change in the same gene, then they are at risk to have a baby with the condition.

If you and your partner both carry the gene change for a condition, your baby may get two gene changes (one from each of you) and have the disease. If both you and your partner are carriers (you both have the gene change), there is:

A 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby can have the disease

A 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby won’t have the disease and won’t be a carrier

A 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) that your baby won’t have the disease but will be a carrier

Who should get carrier screening?

Carrier screening is simply a blood test. The updated recommendations for carrier screening include:

  • All pregnant women should be offered information about carrier screening. They may then choose to have some screening or none at all.
  • Ideally, carrier screening should be done before pregnancy.
  • If a woman is a carrier for a specific condition, her partner should be offered carrier screening as well.
  • If both parents are found to be carriers of a specific disorder, they should meet with a genetic counselor. This will allow them to better understand the condition, the possible risks to their children, and how other family members may be affected.

What conditions should be tested for?

ACOG now recommends ALL WOMEN be offered carrier screening for the following conditions:

  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA): SMA is a disease that attacks nerve cells in the spinal cord. These cells communicate with your muscles. As the neurons die, the muscles weaken. This can affect walking, crawling, breathing, swallowing, and head and neck control.
  • Cystic fibrosis (CF): CF is a condition that affects breathing and digestion. It’s caused by very thick mucus that builds up in the body. This thick and sticky mucus builds up in the lungs and digestive system and can cause problems with how you breathe and digest food.
  • Hemoglobinopathies: These are blood conditions that are caused by problems with hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in the blood that carries oxygen. There are different kinds of hemoglobin in the blood, and there are many kinds of hemoglobin disorders. Some are caused when hemoglobin doesn’t form correctly or when your body doesn’t make enough hemoglobin.

Additional carrier screening should be offered for other conditions based on family history. If you are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant already, make sure you talk to your health care provider about the new guidelines and discuss any questions or concerns you may have.

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

TTC? Should you change your diet?

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

woman having breakfastIf you’re trying to conceive (TTC) or thinking about getting pregnant soon, don’t wait until you get a positive pregnancy test to make changes to your diet and lifestyle. Start now.

Did you know that when you get a positive pregnancy test result, you’re already 3 – 4 weeks pregnant? This is why you should treat your body as if you are already pregnant when you are trying to conceive.

Not sure where to begin? Here’s your cheat sheet:

  • Include a multivitamin on your grocery shopping list. Taking a daily multivitamin that contains 400 micrograms of folic acid BEFORE and early in pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain and spine) in your baby. Don’t wait until you are pregnant – start taking a multivitamin now. When you become pregnant switch to a daily prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid.
  • Here’s more to put on your shopping list: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and proteins. Go ahead and make your plate all the colors of the rainbow. See our guide for details and a sample menu.
  • Cut out alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigs, marijuana and street drugs. These items can be harmful to your baby during pregnancy. By cutting them out now, you don’t have to worry about them when you become pregnant.
  • Talk to your provider about all of the medications you are currently taking to see if any need to be switched to one that is safe to take during pregnancy. Never go off a prescription medication without speaking with your health care provider first.
  • Start limiting your fish and caffeine intake. Eat 8 to 12 ounces a week of fish low in mercury such as shrimp, salmon, Pollock, catfish and canned light tuna or 6 ounces a week of albacore (white) tuna. Limit your caffeine to 200 milligrams a day; this is the amount in 1½ 8-ounce cups of coffee or one 12-ounce cup of coffee. And be sure to read labels on your food products for added caffeine.
  • Stay away from: raw or under cooked meat and eggs, raw fish and all shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Don’t eat refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads, raw sprouts and herbal products like pills and teas. Avoid all unpasteurized products, which may include juice, milk and soft cheeses. See our complete list of foods to avoid.
  • Healthy foods can get expensive; read our guide to food shopping on a budget.

Remember, as you’re trying to conceive, treat your body like you are already pregnant. Making healthy choices now will give you a great start once you become pregnant.

The life cycle of heart defects

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Couple with nurseCongenital heart defects (CHDs) are heart conditions that are present when a baby is born. CHDs affect nearly 1 in 100 births every year in the United States and are the most common type of birth defect. In fact, today, it is estimated that more than 2 million children and adults are living with a CHD in the U.S.

How do these defects happen?

Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming, often before you know you’re pregnant. Some defects are diagnosed prenatally using ultrasound and some are identified after birth. We’re not sure what causes most congenital heart defects, but certain things like diabetes, lupus, rubella, obesity and phenylketonuria may play a role. Some women have heart defects because of changes in their chromosomes or genes. If you already have a child with a CHD, you may be more likely to have another child with a CHD.

Becoming pregnant with a CHD

When a woman with a CHD becomes an adult and decides to start a family, there may be concerns about how her heart defect may impact her pregnancy. Most women who have congenital heart disease do well and have healthy pregnancies.  However, because your heart has much more work to do during pregnancy, the extra stress on your heart may be a concern. Women with a CHD have a higher risk of certain pregnancy complications such premature birth.

Preconception counseling can help. Be sure to talk to your medical team, including your cardiologist before trying to conceive, about potential complications that may arise.

Learn what you need to know before and during pregnancy, and for labor and delivery.

Do you have a CHD? Did it impact your pregnancy? Tell us your story.

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

Key messages from Birth Defects Prevention Month

Monday, January 30th, 2017

MOD dad and babyWe’ve had a busy month spreading the word about birth defects and what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. If you’ve missed some posts, here’s a one page cheat sheet of key messages.

Birth defects are more common than you’d think.

  • Did you know that every 4.5 minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the U.S.? That’s 1 in 33 babies or more than 120,000 babies each year.
  • Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.
  • Common birth defects include heart defects, cleft lip and cleft palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida. Some birth defects are on the rise for unknown reasons – like gastroschisis.
  • Birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths in the first year of life in the U.S.
  • Birth defects are the leading cause of death and disability in children across the world.

There are thousands of different birth defects, and about 70 % of the causes are unknown.

  • Birth defects are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors including our genes, behaviors and environment.
  • Many birth defects are discovered after the baby leaves the hospital or within the first year of life.
  • Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities and lifelong challenges.

Not all birth defects can be prevented, but SOME CAN. Here’s how:multivitamin

Share and connect

Birth defects can happen to any family. Share and connect with others on our online community Share Your Story.

Have questions? Email our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Let someone else clean Mr. Whisker’s litter box when you’re pregnant

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

ToxoplasmosisWe often receive emails from pregnant women concerned about their cat and his litter box. Dirty cat litter might contain a harmful parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis.

If you have toxoplasmosis within 6 months of getting pregnant, you may be able to pass it to your baby during pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis can cause pregnancy complications such as preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks) and stillbirth. The earlier in pregnancy you get infected, the more serious the baby’s problems may be after birth. For example, a baby could have a birth defect called microcephaly or vision problems.

Do you need to find Mr. Whiskers a new home?

The good news is that your cat can stay. But, you should have your partner, a friend, or family member change your cat’s litter for you. If you must change it yourself, be sure you wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.

Is it just Mr. Whiskers? Or are there other ways to get toxoplasmosis?

You can also come in contact with the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis through:

  • Eating raw or undercooked meat – be sure to cook meat thoroughly and wash your hands after handling raw meat.
  • Eating unwashed fruits and vegetables – peel or thoroughly wash all raw fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Touching kitchen utensils and cutting boards used to prepare raw or undercooked meat and fruits and vegetables – clean cutting boards, work surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water after using them.
  • Touching dirt or sand – use work gloves when gardening and be sure to wash your hands afterward. Stay away from children’s sandboxes as well.

Pregnancy is a time of many changes, and it’s also a time to ask for help when you need it. Mr. Whiskers won’t mind that someone else is changing his litter box so that you can protect yourself during pregnancy.

For more information on toxoplasmosis, see our web article. Have questions? Text or email us at AskUS@marchofdimes.org.