Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Memorial Day Weekend = picnics and parties

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend picnicThe long weekend is right around the corner and if you’re like me, you’ve been planning a gathering in the backyard for friends and family. This is the perfect time to celebrate the start of summer! Not only is my event outside in the (hopefully) sunny weather, but a couple of my friends are also pregnant. So I want to make sure I have appropriate food options that accommodate the hot weather and my guests.

Here’s my party checklist:

  • Provide non-alcoholic drinks for pregnant guests and those thinking about becoming pregnant.
  • Provide indoor space or shaded areas to stay cool.
  • Have sunscreen available.
  • Handle food safely. Wash your hands with soap before handling or serving food. Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables before cooking or serving.
  • Salads and recipes containing mayonnaise should be kept cold and out of the sun.
  • Make sure your meats such as hamburgers and grilled chicken are cooked thoroughly to avoid salmonella poisoning.
  • Read up on listeriosis, a kind of food poisoning that is harmful to pregnant women to ensure the food you serve is safe for all to enjoy.

Now that your menu is properly prepared, you’ll be able to comfortably enjoy time with your guests.

Questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org

 

How lupus can affect your pregnancy

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Lupus, also called systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE is an autoimmune disorder that can cause health problems during pregnancy.

Autoimmune disorders are health conditions that happen when antibodies (cells in the body that fight off infections) attack healthy tissue just about anywhere in the body by mistake. Most of the people who develop lupus are women and most of these women develop the condition between the ages of 15 and 44.

During pregnancy, lupus can increase the risk of these problems:

With the right care, most women who do not have active lupus symptoms, can have successful pregnancies.

After birth most babies of mothers with lupus are healthy. Some babies, however, may face health risks such as those associated with premature birth and neonatal lupus. Neonatal lupus, which affects 3% of babies, is a temporary form of lupus that causes a rash and blood problems, but usually clears up by 6 months of age. But, up to half of these babies have a heart problem called heart block which causes a slow heartbeat. Heart block is often permanent and these babies may need a pacemaker to help make their heart beat regularly. (ped cardiologist?)

If you have lupus or think you have lupus symptoms, speak with your health care provider. She will closely monitor you and provide you with the care and treatment you need to have a healthy pregnancy.

Have questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Life-long effects of preeclampsia for mom and baby

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Pregnant couple with doctorPreeclampsia is serious; it affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide. And it’s the cause of 15% of premature births in the U.S.

Preeclampsia is a condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or right after you give birth. It’s when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. Some of these signs include having protein in the urine, changes in vision and severe headache.

What does this mean for moms?

If a woman had preeclampsia during a pregnancy, she has 3 to 4 times the risk of high blood pressure and double the risk for heart disease and stroke later in life. She may also have an increased risk of developing diabetes. And for those women who have had preeclampsia and delivered preterm, had low-birthweight babies, or had severe preeclampsia more than once, the risk of heart disease can be higher.

These facts are scary, especially since heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. But having preeclampsia does not mean you will definitely develop heart problems, it just means that this may be a sign to pay extra attention to your health.

What about babies?

Women with preeclampsia are more likely than women who don’t have preeclampsia to have preterm labor and delivery. Even with treatment, a pregnant woman with preeclampsia may need to give birth early to avoid serious problems for her and her baby.

Premature babies and low birthweight babies may have more health problems and need to stay in the NICU longer. And some of these babies will face long-term health effects that include intellectual and developmental disabilities and other health problems.

If you had preeclampsia in the past, there are things you can do now to reduce your future risk:

  • Talk to your health care provider. She can help you monitor your health now to reduce your risk for heart disease later.
  • Get a yearly exam to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar levels.
  • Add activity into your daily routine. No need to run laps around the track, though. Here are some tips to help you get moving, whether you are pregnant or not.
  • Stick to the good stuff. Eat from these five food groups at every meal: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and protein. Check out our sample menu for creative ideas.
  • Ask your provider if taking low-dose aspirin daily may be right for you.
  • If you are a smoker, quit. Try to avoid second-hand smoke as well. Tobacco can raise blood pressure and damage blood vessels.

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

When do you need a reproductive endocrinologist?

Friday, April 29th, 2016

preconception healthWe get a lot of questions from women wondering how long it will take them to get pregnant. 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.

However, 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, talk to your health care provider. She may suggest you consult a reproductive endocrinologist. A reproductive endocrinologist is an obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating infertility. They complete 4 years of medical school and a 4-year residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology. They then receive an additional 3 years of specialized training in Reproductive Endocrinology.

At your first visit, your reproductive endocrinologist will review your:

  • Medical history, including menstrual cycle, pregnancy/loss history, birth control use, & any other medical conditions
  • Family health history
  • Lifestyle and work environment

After a complete physical exam, your doctor will discuss with you any additional tests that may be ordered. These may include ovulation testing, looking at the anatomy of the uterus and fallopian tubes, determining the quality and quantity of eggs, testing hormone levels, and a pelvic ultrasound. Your partner may be referred for additional testing as well.

There are several kinds of fertility treatment. 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.

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

If you have been struggling to conceive, talk to your health care provider and see if consulting a reproductive endocrinologist is the right choice for you.

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

Stress can affect your pregnancy

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Research demonstrates that stress during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for some pregnancy complications. Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy. Your body and your family are going through many changes. While a little stress is fine, serious stress may cause problems.

Causes of stress

The causes of stress are different for every woman. Some common causes of stress during pregnancy include:

  • Managing the typical discomforts of pregnancy, such as nausea, constipation, and exhaustion.
  • Mood swings. Your changing hormones can causes changes in your mood.
  • Worries about childbirth and being a good mom.
  • Work deadlines and managing job-related responsibilities before you give birth.

A little stress can help you take on new challenges and regular stress during pregnancy probably doesn’t add to pregnancy problems. But serious types of stress during pregnancy may increase your chances of certain complications.

Serious stress during pregnancy

While most women who experience significant stress during pregnancy have healthy babies, high levels of stress do increase your chances of certain pregnancy problems.

  • Acute stress in early pregnancy has been linked with an increased risk for premature birth. Acute stress results from a reaction to a traumatic event, such as natural disasters, death of a loved one, or terrorist attacks.
  • Chronic stress can cause complications such as preterm birth, low birthweight, hypertension and developmental delays in babies. Examples of events that can cause chronic stress include financial problems, divorce, serious health problems, or depression.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) disorder coupled with a major depressive disorder has been associated with an increased risk for preterm birth. PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have seen or lived through a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

How does stress cause problems in pregnancy?

We don’t completely understand the effects of stress on pregnancy. But certain stress-related hormones, such as cortisol and norepinepherine, may play a role. Also, serious or long-lasting stress may affect your immune system, which protects you from infection. Infections can be a cause of premature birth.

Stress also may affect how you respond to certain situations. Some women deal with stress by smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking street drugs. These behaviors can lead to pregnancy problems, including preterm birth and low birthweight.

How can you reduce stress during pregnancy?

There are many ways that you can manage your stress during pregnancy. Watch our video to learn more.

 

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

 

STDs can be harmful to you and your baby

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Pregnant woman talking with doctorSexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause problems such as premature birth, ectopic pregnancy, birth defects, miscarriage or stillbirth. Most babies get infected with an STD through the birth canal during labor and birth, but other STDs can cross the placenta and infect your baby in the womb.

What can you do?

April is STD awareness month, and this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have come up with three steps to prevent or treat a STD:  Talk, Test and Treat.

Talk

Have a conversation with your sexual partner about the last time you were tested and how you both plan to have safe sex. You should also talk with your healthcare provider about STD testing and to make sure your vaccines are up to date. Certain vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine, can help protect against genital warts.

Life can get busy; if you aren’t sure of the last time you were tested for STDs or if you received a certain vaccine, a visit with your provider is the best time to ask.

Test

Many people with STDs don’t know they’re infected because some STDs have no symptoms. And if you’re pregnant, STDs can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies. See your healthcare provider and get tested.

Treat

If you find out you have an STD, get treatment right away. Receiving treatment can help protect you and your baby during pregnancy and birth.

Don’t wait. Be sure to talk, test and treat to protect your health and that of your baby.

Read our top STD questions answered for lots more info.  

 

Thinking of having a baby? Now is the time to stop drinking alcohol

Monday, April 4th, 2016

2015D015_3603_rtYou’ve probably heard that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby. But did you know you should also stop drinking alcohol before trying to conceive?

It can be difficult to determine an accurate date of conception. It takes two weeks after conception to get an accurate pregnancy test result. This means that you may be drinking alcoholic beverages during the early stages of your pregnancy, before you learn you are pregnant.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a range of serious problems including miscarriage, premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and stillbirth. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) states that alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities.

FASDs can be costly, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The lifetime cost for one individual with FAS in 2002 was estimated to be $2 million. This is an average for people with FAS and does not include data on people with other FASDs. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs. It is estimated that the cost to the United States for FAS alone is over $4 billion annually.

The good news is that FASD is entirely preventable. If you stop drinking alcohol before and during pregnancy, you can prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and other conditions caused by alcohol.

So if you are trying to become pregnant or are already pregnant, steer clear of alcohol. If you have problems stopping, visit us for tips.

If you have a child with FASD, see our post on how to help babies born with FASD.

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

Smoking during pregnancy can affect your baby’s DNA

Friday, April 1st, 2016

pregnant woman in greenYou already know that smoking during pregnancy is bad for you and your baby. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and can cause serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, gum disease and eye diseases that can lead to blindness.

A new study published yesterday in the American Journal of Human Genetics suggests that smoking during pregnancy causes chemical changes in a baby’s DNA. These differences are similar to changes found in the DNA of adult smokers.

The study analyzed the umbilical cord blood of over 6,000 newborns. The researchers found that when women smoked every day during pregnancy, their baby’s DNA was chemically different in over 6,000 places when compared with the DNA of babies whose mothers did not smoke. Some of the places where the DNA was chemically different could be linked to specific genes that play a role in cleft lip and palate, asthma, and some adult smoking-related cancers, such as lung cancer.  This new study is important because it adds to our understanding of how smoking during pregnancy affects fetal DNA and it suggests that these DNA changes may play a role in the development of certain birth defects or medical conditions.

It is well known that smoking during pregnancy has been linked to a number of pregnancy complications and medical problems for the baby. When you smoke during pregnancy, chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar pass through the placenta and umbilical cord into your baby’s bloodstream.

These chemicals are harmful. They can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets. This can slow your baby’s growth before birth and can damage your baby’s heart, lungs and brain.

If you smoke during pregnancy, you’re more likely to have:

And your baby is more likely to:

If you smoke during pregnancy, quitting is the best thing you can do for you and your baby. The sooner you quit smoking during pregnancy, the healthier you and your baby can be. It’s best to quit smoking before getting pregnant. But quitting any time during pregnancy can have a positive effect on your baby’s life.

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

Pregnant? How far along are you in your pregnancy?

Monday, March 28th, 2016

pr_mr_lg_ultrasound1Many health care professionals will begin to estimate how far along you are in your pregnancy by asking you when the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) was. But the development of your baby does not begin until conception – which is after your last period.

Are you confused? Let me explain…

Your pregnancy has two ages, gestational age and fetal age. Both are measured in weeks but they will be different numbers. Your gestational age is the age of the pregnancy from the first day of your last normal menstrual period. Your fetal age is the actual age of your growing baby from the day you conceived.

Health care providers use gestational age when dating a pregnancy. It is very difficult to determine an accurate date of conception, so your health care provider may estimate when you conceived based on the first day of your last period. This is your gestational age.

While your provider will use your LMP to initially date your pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), an ultrasound measurement of your baby in the first trimester is the most accurate method of confirming your gestational age. Keep in mind, after a first trimester ultrasound, your due date may be adjusted.

Why is it important to be aware of both?

We often hear from pregnant women that their baby’s development is not matching up with how far along they are in their pregnancy. For example, one question we received, the woman was 12 weeks pregnant but her baby was measuring 10 weeks along.  It is important to confirm with your provider that your gestational age is 12 weeks and your fetal age is 10 weeks – which means your pregnancy is on track. (Keep in mind that there may be other reasons why a baby is not developing on a typical schedule. If you are concerned, speak with your prenatal provider.)

Not sure how far along you are? Our due date calculator, will date your pregnancy based on gestational age.

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

Satisfying those pregnancy cravings

Friday, March 25th, 2016

SaladAs the temperature rises here on the east coast, I can’t help but think of warm weather and yummy summer foods like ice cream. But while enjoying your cone this season, remember that nutrition is important, especially if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.

This month is National Nutrition Month, and this year the theme is to savor the flavor of eating right. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics raises awareness that no one diet is right for everyone. By keeping your lifestyle in mind and focusing on foods and traditions that appeal to you, you can find an eating plan that works for you.

So what does this mean for pregnant women?

Lots of women have food cravings during pregnancy. And it’s usually okay to satisfy those cravings as long as what you eat is safe and you don’t overdo it.

You may have heard that you should be eating from the five food groups: grains, veggies, fruits, milk products and proteins, but what about when you get cravings for crunchy foods and you reach for the potato chips?

Here are some tips:

  • Eat what you crave, but in small amounts. Eating too much of something sweet, spicy or salty can cause problems, such as heartburn or gaining too much weight.
  • Work your cravings to your advantage. If you are craving a crunch, see if some carrots or an apple will satisfy your craving before you reach for the chip bag. Or at least buy the reduced fat kind of chips.
  • Buy single servings instead of in bulk. If you are ready to enjoy some ice-cream, go to your local ice cream shop for a scoop instead of buying a container at the grocery store.
  • Plan your day’s snacks ahead of time. This will help you know what and when you are going to eat between meals and will keep you away from unhealthy convenience foods in a vending machine.
  • If you are trying to stay away from your craving, try distracting yourself by going for a walk or calling a friend.

Not sure if your craving is healthy for your pregnancy? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.