Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Are you at increased risk for diabetes?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

pregnant women walkingDo you know that having gestational diabetes during pregnancy significantly increases a woman’s future chances of developing diabetes? About 9 out of 100 women in the U.S. have diabetes – a condition in which your body has too much sugar (called glucose) in the blood. Glucose is your body’s main source of fuel for energy. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. If your body does not produce insulin or cannot use it efficiently, then over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerve cells. You can develop diabetes at any time in your life.

There are three different types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes happens most often in children and young adults but it can develop at any age. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes is more common. With type 2 diabetes your body does not make or use insulin well. You are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes is you are older, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, or do not exercise.
  • Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that can happen during pregnancy. Seven out of every 100 pregnant women (7 percent) develop this type of diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth. But if you have it in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in your next pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop diabetes later in life.

Diabetes is a serious health concern, especially when left untreated or undiagnosed. Today is Diabetes Alert Day. It is designed to teach the public about the seriousness of diabetes especially when the disease is left undiagnosed or untreated.

You can find out if you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes by taking the Diabetes Risk Test. If diabetes is not diagnosed and treated the condition can lead to serious health problems including heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, amputation, and even death.

The good news though is that research has shown that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in persons with increased risk by losing a small amount of weight and getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, five days a week. Making a few simple changes in your lifestyle can make a big difference in your health. Learn small steps you can take here.

Fruit and veggies > ice cream

Friday, March 13th, 2015

National Nutrition Month and pregnancyHot fudge, crumbled cookies and sprinkles. These are some of my favorite ice cream toppings. But if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, your grocery list should consist of mainly healthy and nutritious foods.

March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “bite into a healthy lifestyle.” There are many healthy foods you can bite into and enjoy during your pregnancy.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

• Eat foods from these five food groups at every meal: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and protein. Check out our sample menu for creative ideas.

• Choose whole-grain bread and pasta, low-fat or skim milk and lean meat, like chicken, fish and pork. Eat 8 to 12 ounces of fish that are low in mercury each week.

• Put as much color on your plate as you can, with all different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.

• Plan on eating four to six smaller meals a day instead of three bigger ones. This can help relieve heartburn and discomfort you may feel as your baby gets bigger.

• Make sure your whole meal fits on one plate. Don’t make huge portions.

• Drink six to eight glasses of water each day.

• Take your prenatal vitamin each day. This is a multivitamin made just for pregnant women.

Knowing what foods to eat more of, and what foods to avoid or limit will help you make healthy meal choices throughout your pregnancy. You can still enjoy the occasional bowl of ice cream with your favorite toppings though, but do so as a special treat instead of a daily snack.

 

 

World BD day gets word out globally

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Sick babyThe twitter-sphere was all aglow yesterday for the first-ever World Birth Defects Day. In fact, 6,154,146 people were reached worldwide! Yup. It’s not a typo.

Twelve leading global organizations including the March of Dimes, along with scores of other foundations, hospitals, health care providers, government agencies, parents and individuals with birth defects took to Twitter to raise awareness. People in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Panama, Philippines, Rwanda, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, and individuals from all over the United States participated. As the day progressed, #worldbdday tweets continually popped up on my computer screen. In case you missed it, here is a snapshot of important messages.

Birth defects are surprisingly common

Did you know that every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the US?

In the US, about 1 in 5 babies die before their 1st birthday due to birth defects.

Birth defects affect 1 in 33 infants worldwide.

More than 8 million babies worldwide are born each year with a serious birth defect.

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

The most common birth defects are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome.

In the US, a baby is born with a congenital heart defect every 15 minutes.

More than 300,000 major birth defects of the brain and spine occur worldwide each year.

Many birth defects are discovered after the baby leaves the hospital or within the 1st year of life.

More than 3.3 million children under 5 years of age die from birth defects each year.

Babies who survive & live with birth defects are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities & lifelong challenges.

Early intervention services may help babies w/ BDs; get your child help by starting early.

Birth defects are costly. Financial and emotional costs of birth defects take a toll on families and communities worldwide.

Learn how to decrease your risk of having a baby with birth defects

Taking folic acid before & early in pregnancy can help to reduce the risk for BDs of the brain & spine.

Smoking during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of certain BDs. It’s never too late to quit.

We can’t prevent all birth defects. We CAN prevent FASD! (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders)

FASDs are 100% preventable.

Alcohol can cause your baby to have BDs (heart, brain & other organs). Don’t drink if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.

Being overweight before pregnancy can increase the risk for some birth defects.

Not all BDs are preventable, but women can take steps toward a healthy pregnancy.

Make a PACT: plan ahead, avoid harmful substances, choose a healthy lifestyle, and talk to your doctor.

Raise awareness

Awareness of birth defects & the importance of care for children with these lifelong conditions is key.

The mission of the March of Dimes is to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

March of Dimes has invested more than $50 million in birth defects research in the last 5 years.

Genetics has long been a main theme of March of Dimes research.

MOD grantees have discovered genes that cause or contribute to a number of common birth defects, including fragile X syndrome, cleft lip and palate, and heart defects.

These discoveries pave the way for treatments and preventions for these birth defects.

 

For more information, email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. See other topics in the series on Delays and Disabilities- How to get help for your child, here.

Staying active during pregnancy – winter edition

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Staying active in the winterBbrrr it’s cold outside and those warm blankets on the couch are calling my name. It’s tough to get motivated to go outside and be active during these cold and snowy days of winter. I want to stay under the blankets! But for healthy pregnant women, exercise can keep your heart, body and mind healthy.

Healthy pregnant women need at least 2.5 hours of being active each week. This is about 30 minutes each day. If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all at once. Instead, do something active for 10 minutes three times a day.

Stay safe

The safety of any activity depends on your health and fitness level. Not all pregnant women should exercise, especially if you have a condition such as heart or lung disease. As each woman and pregnancy is different, it is essential that you check with your prenatal health care provider first before engaging in any fitness program. The information provided here is meant as a guide.

How to get started

Pick things you like, such as walking, swimming, hiking or dancing. Brisk walking for 30 minutes or more is an excellent way to get the aerobic benefits of exercise, and you don’t need to join a health club or buy any special equipment. There are a variety of activities that you can participate in throughout your pregnancy.

Try an indoor class such as a low-impact aerobics class taught by a certified aerobics instructor. You can also try a yoga class designed for pregnant women. If you have a gym membership already, walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I usually go to the gym when my favorite TV show is on so I can walk and watch at the same time. Swimming is also a great way to get your heart rate up, and the water feels great, especially as your belly grows. See if a YM/YWCA or other community club near you has a pool.  If the weather outside is moderate and the sidewalks are clear, bundle up and head out for a walk in the fresh air. Staying home, though, may be the only way to avoid all the snow and freezing temperatures, so go ahead and turn on your favorite music and dance around your house or get moving to a DVD from the library. You can even add light resistance bands to help you maintain strength and flexibility. With any activity, remember to drink water to stay hydrated.

What to avoid

You should avoid any activities that put you at high risk for injury, such as downhill skiing. Stay away from sports in which you could get hit in the belly, such as kickboxing or soccer and any sport that has a lot of jerky, bouncing movements. After the third month of pregnancy, avoid exercises that make you lie flat on your back as it can limit the flow of blood to your baby. Also, avoid sit-ups or crunches.

Be aware

When you exercise, pay attention to how you feel. If you suddenly start feeling out of breath or overly tired, listen to your body and slow down or stop your activity. If you have any serious problems, such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headaches or chest pain, stop exercising and contact your health care provider right away.

Final tips

Exercise is cumulative – meaning every little bit of activity in a day adds up to the total that you need. Being active in small chunks of time, several times a day is a great way to get your activity quota in. Use tricks such as parking farther away in a parking lot and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Pretty soon you will meet your optimal daily activity level and you will feel more energized.

For more information on exercise during pregnancy, visit our website.

March 3rd is the first ever World Birth Defects Day

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

WBDD_LogoFamilies frequently write to the March of Dimes and share a story about their child’s struggle with a birth defect. Often, they ask what else they can do to help raise awareness. Well, here is a great way to get involved.

Help us mark the first World Birth Defects Day by participating in social media activities and sharing a story about the impact of birth defects on you and your family.

The March of Dimes and 11 other international organizations, including the CDC and the WHO, have created the first-ever World Birth Defects Day on March 3rd. We hope to raise awareness of this serious global problem and advocate for more prevention, care and research to help babies and children.

Birth defects affect 1 in 33 infants worldwide. Half of these birth defects will be detected soon after birth; the other half will be diagnosed during the first year of life. Birth defects are a major cause of death in infants and young children. Babies who survive are at an increased risk for life-long disabilities.

We need you.

On March 3rd, share your story about the impact of birth defects on you, your child or someone you know. With our partners, we’ll be urging governments, non-governmental organizations, policymakers, researchers, and health care providers around the world to help us work together toward a healthier future for children.

What can you do?

1.  Post an announcement on your blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social media platform.

2.  Register to be a part of the World Birth Defects Day Thunderclap. A message will be sent out at 9:00 a.m. EST on March 3 to help raise awareness.

3.  Join the Buzzday on Twitter on March 3rd. Plan to send one or more messages using the #WorldBDDay tag at some point during the day. Retweet both promotional and day-of messages to build our buzz for the day.

We look forward to having you join the conversation. Together, we can make strides to improve knowledge and raise awareness.

For more information, email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. See other topics in the series on Delays and Disabilities- How to get help for your child, here.

Pregnant? Stay centered.

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

third trimesterHave you felt off balance lately? Are your legs wobbly under your growing belly? You’re not alone. If you are in your third trimester of pregnancy, your center of gravity may be off balance, which could make you more prone to slips and falls. And your unsteady legs may be due to factors other than your growing belly.

Your center of gravity refers to the place in your body that helps anchor you to the earth, so that you don’t tip over. A natural point of balance is below the navel and halfway between the abdomen and lower back. Having a strong center of gravity helps you have good balance. During pregnancy, as your baby grows, your center of gravity moves forward and upward. Therefore, feeling off-balance is likely to worsen later on in your pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Slipping and falling is much easier when your center of gravity has shifted.

But it’s not just your growing belly making you feel off kilter. During pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called relaxin. Toward the end of your pregnancy, this hormone helps to soften the cervix and loosen the pelvic joints so they are more flexible for labor and delivery. This softening can affect the hips, knees and ankles, which is what makes your legs feel shaky or wobbly.

Be extra careful when walking or going up/down stairs. Hold a handrail whenever one is available.  Winter is here, and there is a lot of snow and ice on the sidewalks and streets in many parts of the country. When you’re walking outside, take extra caution. Walk slowly. Be aware of your center of gravity and be sure to wear appropriate shoes or snow boots.

The good news is that soon after the birth of your baby, your center of gravity will shift again, and return to normal.

Concerns surrounding “keepsake” ultrasounds

Friday, February 20th, 2015

pr_mr_lg_ultrasound1The first ultrasound is one of the most exciting times in pregnancy. Most parents can’t wait for the opportunity to share their baby’s first pictures with family and friends. However, it is important to remember that an ultrasound is a medical imaging technique and should only be done under the supervision of medical professionals, such as your doctor and/or a trained ultrasound technician. “Keepsake” ultrasounds offered by commercial businesses are not recommended.

Ultrasound is the most commonly used tool for viewing a developing baby. Sound waves bounce off curves and shapes within your body and these patterns are then translated into images. Standard ultrasound creates a 2-D image of a developing baby. Some women have an ultrasound during the first trimester to confirm and date the pregnancy—this is called an early ultrasound.  But not all providers offer this. Most doctors perform an ultrasound between 18 and 20 weeks. At this time your provider will check your baby’s heartbeat, muscle tone, movement and overall development.

Although it is always fun and exciting to see your unborn baby on the ultrasound monitor, it is very important to remember that this is a medical procedure. You may have seen places in a mall that offer “keepsake” 3-D or 4-D ultrasound pictures or videos for parents. While ultrasounds have been used for over 30 years and are considered safe for you and your baby, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Food and Drug Administration and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine do not recommend these non-medical ultrasounds. The people doing them may not have medical training and may give you wrong or even harmful information.

In a recent consumer update regarding fetal keepsake images, the FDA warns that “In creating fetal keepsake videos, there is no control on how long a single imaging session will last, how many sessions will take place, or whether the ultrasound systems will be operated properly.” And although there is no evidence that ultrasound may cause harm to an unborn baby, there is also no medical benefit to exposing the baby to unnecessary ultrasound waves only for the purposes of keepsake images.

If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about when to schedule your ultrasound. He or she will be more than happy to give you pictures to take home with you. You can read more about the different types of ultrasound that your provider may recommend, when they are offered, and what information they may be able to provide here.

Pregnancy in women with congenital heart disease

Monday, February 9th, 2015

heart and stethoscopeMost women who have congenital heart disease and decide to get pregnant will have a safe pregnancy with minimal risks. However, there are many factors that may need to be considered. During pregnancy, your heart has much more work to do. It has to beat faster and pump more blood to both the mother and the baby. If you are a woman who has congenital heart disease, then this extra stress on your heart may be a concern. Considering these issues before pregnancy and being prepared for potential complications can help you feel more confident and more in control throughout your pregnancy.

Preconception planning
The most important thing you can do if you are a woman with congenital heart disease 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—for instance, do you need to alter any medications or have any surgical repairs? Doing all of this before pregnancy will allow you to make sure your heart and your overall health is ready for pregnancy.

Some medications carry a risk for birth defects. These include ACE inhibitors and blood thinners. Therefore, if you are taking these medications and want to have a baby, it is important to talk to your doctor about their safety and potential alternatives that may work for you. However, you should never stop taking any medications without your doctor’s approval.

You may also want to meet with a genetic counselor to review the risks of passing congenital heart disease on to your baby. This risk will vary depending on the cause of the heart disease.

Pregnancy
During pregnancy you and your doctors will want to minimize any risks for both you and your baby. You will need to have regular follow-ups with both your obstetrician and cardiologist. It is important that your doctors work together and coordinate your care. Some women will need to be followed by a maternal-fetal medicine specialist (an obstetrician who manages high-risk pregnancies).

Although most women with congenital heart disease have safe pregnancies, symptoms of heart disease can increase, especially during the second and third trimesters when the heart is working much harder. This may mean additional visits to both your cardiologist and obstetrician.

Typically if you have a personal or a family history of congenital heart disease, your obstetrician will offer you a fetal echocardiogram at around 18-20 weeks of pregnancy. This is a specialized ultrasound that allows your doctor to check out the anatomy of your baby’s heart and look for major structural changes. Not all heart defects can be identified through fetal echo though.

Delivery
It may surprise you to learn that most women with congenital heart disease can have a normal vaginal delivery. You and your doctor will want to discuss pain management options and have a plan in place. You may need additional monitoring both during and after delivery. This can include oxygen monitoring as well as EKGs (electrocardiogram—a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart).

If you have congenital heart disease work with both your obstetrician and cardiologist so that you can have the best outcome possible. As with most chronic medical conditions, planning for your pregnancy will allow you to make informed decisions about what is best for you and your baby.

 

Thinking of getting pregnant? Get your blood pressure checked.

Friday, February 6th, 2015

blood pressureWhen was the last time you had your blood pressure checked? Nearly one in three adults has high blood pressure or hypertension. And yet, many of us do not even know that we have it. High blood pressure can be especially dangerous for both mom and baby during pregnancy. If you have high blood pressure and are thinking about getting pregnant, it is very important that you talk to your health care provider and get it under control as soon as possible.

Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries (blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body). When the pressure in the arteries becomes too high, it is called high blood pressure or hypertension.

If you are 20 pounds or more overweight or if you have a family history of hypertension, you are at an increased risk to have high blood pressure yourself.

If you do have high blood pressure, there are a few lifestyle changes that you can make to get it under control, and to help prepare your body for pregnancy:
• Eat healthy foods and reduce your intake of salt, cholesterol, and saturated fats
• Exercise regularly
• Get to a healthy weight
• Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.

Not all medications for high blood pressure are safe to continue during pregnancy. If you are taking any prescriptions to manage your hypertension, make sure you discuss them with your doctor. You should never stop taking any medications without talking to your provider first.

About 8 percent of women have problems with high blood pressure during pregnancy. Although most health problems can be managed with regular prenatal care, pregnant women with high blood pressure are more likely than women without high blood pressure to have these complications:
• Low birthweight: when a baby weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. High blood pressure can narrow blood vessels in the uterus and your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients, causing him to grow slowly.
• Premature birth: birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. A pregnant woman with severe high blood pressure or preeclampsia may need to give birth early to avoid serious health problems for her and her baby.
• Placental abruption: the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth. It can separate partially or completely. If this happens, your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients.

Work with your provider before and during your pregnancy to control your blood pressure. Making a few changes now can help you to have a safer, healthier pregnancy.

How can we prevent birth defects?

Friday, January 30th, 2015

speak to your health care providerBirth defects are common, costly, and critical.
Common: Every 4 ½ minutes in the United States, a baby is born with a birth defect.
Costly: Hospital costs for children and adults with birth defects exceeds $2.6 billion. That does not include outpatient expenses.
Critical: Birth defects cause 1 in every 5 deaths during the first year of life. They can result in lifelong challenges and disabilities.

As Birth Defects Prevention Month draws to a close, let’s recap what we know and look at steps that can be taken to prevent them.

Preconception and pregnancy planning
We know that it essential for a woman to take an active role in planning her pregnancy.  If you are thinking of having a baby or if you may want to have children sometime in the future, it is important to make a PACT: plan ahead, avoid harmful substances, choose a healthy lifestyle, and talk to your doctor. You can read more here.

Changing a few behaviors now can make a big difference when you are ready to have a baby. It is best to get any preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, under control before pregnancy. Some medications, such as opioid-based prescription pain medications, are not safe to use when you are pregnant. All of these concerns can be discussed with your doctor during a preconception checkup.

Folic acid fortification
It is well known that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day can help to reduce the risk of neural tube defects or NTDs (disorders of the brain and spine). Since the US mandated folic acid fortification of enriched cereal grain products in 1998, the rates of NTDs have decreased by 35%.  That means that there are 1,300 fewer NTDs each year as a result of fortification. And that translates into an annual cost savings of approximately $508 million.

Surveillance
State surveillance systems record the number of babies born with a birth defect each year. The information gained from these surveillance systems furthers research on the causes of birth defects. The data also helps researchers to better understand which populations are at highest risk for specific birth defects. This information can then be used by public health professionals, policymakers, and health care providers to implement prevention strategies.

Research
The March of Dimes is funding research to understand the causes of birth defects and to develop new ways to prevent and treat them. Some March of Dimes grantees are studying basic biological processes of development. A more advanced look at the process of development will help reveal what can go wrong along the way. Others researchers are conducting clinical studies aimed at finding ways to prevent or treat specific birth defects.

Birth Defects Prevention Month may be coming to an end, but there is still a lot of work to do. Go to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to learn more.