Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

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.

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

Holiday stress and fatigue

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

If you’re pregnant during the holiday season, you may feel even more stressed and exhausted than usual.  Traveling, visiting family, cooking, shopping, parties, and preparing for a newborn—your to-do list just keeps getting longer and longer. But during your busy holiday season, remember that it’s important to take care of yourself too!

So what can you do to try to relieve your holiday stress and fatigue? Here are some tips:

  • Rest when you can during the day and try to take a few breaks to renew your energy. If you have some free time between wrapping gifts, put your feet up, read a book or magazine, or watch your favorite TV show. Even just a 15 minute break can help you relax before your next task.
  • Take a walk. Exercise can refresh and invigorate you. If you’re shopping for gifts, walk an extra loop around the mall before you head out to your car. Or park further away in the parking lot–this way you can also avoid some of the awful holiday traffic.
  • Try to limit unhealthy snacks. That can be really tough during the holidays with so many delicious desserts and treats. But too much sugar and heavy meals can drain your energy. It’s still important to make sure that you get enough fruits, vegetables, and foods high in iron and protein. And be sure to drink enough fluids—water is usually best, but you can check out some fun non-alcoholic drink ideas here and here.
  • Keep your scheduled prenatal care appointments. Even if you’re feeling fine, you need to check in with your health care provider. And don’t forget to take your prenatal vitamin.
  • Ask for help. Accept help when a friend or family member offers and ask for help if you are feeling tired or overwhelmed.
  • Cut back on activities you don’t need to do. Instead of spending time making a holiday dessert, why not have your favorite bakery do it for you.

And finally, take a deep breath and enjoy the holiday season!

Have questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

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.

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

HIV and pregnancy: what you need to know

Friday, December 1st, 2017

More than 1 million people in the United States live with HIV. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.  HIV attacks specific cells in the body’s immune system. The immune system helps to fight off infections. Even with treatment, it is not possible for HIV to be eliminated completely from the body. So once you get HIV, you have it for life.

Over time, HIV can destroy so many cells in the immune system that the body can’t fight off infections and disease anymore. When this happens, HIV can lead to AIDS.

How is HIV spread?

You get HIV by coming in direct contact with body fluids from a person who is infected with HIV. This includes blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. So HIV can be spread:

  • By having unprotected sex with a person who has HIV. Both men and women can spread HIV. Most new HIV infections in women come from having sex with a man who is infected. Women are more likely than men to get infected through sex.
  • Through contact with an HIV-infected person’s blood. This can happen when sharing needles, accidentally getting stuck by a needle with a person’s blood on it, or contact with other body fluids containing blood.
  • From mother to baby. This is called perinatal transmission. Babies can get HIV from their mothers:
    • Before birth, when the virus crosses the placenta and infects the baby.
    • During labor and delivery from contact with their mother’s blood and vaginal fluids.
    • Through breastfeeding.

Testing for HIV

Approximately 18% of all people with HIV do not know their HIV status. This means that many women who are infected with HIV may not know they have it. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends HIV testing for all pregnant women unless they say that they do NOT want to be tested. HIV testing is typically done during the first prenatal care appointment. The CDC also recommends getting tested again, later in pregnancy, if you’re at risk for getting HIV.

Preventing transmission of HIV during pregnancy

There are ways to reduce the chances of passing HIV to your baby. If HIV is detected as early as possible during pregnancy or before pregnancy you can:

  • Get treatment with medicines that fight HIV. If you’re pregnant and have HIV, you can get medicine to reduce the risk of passing HIV to your baby and to protect your own health. HIV medicines are recommended for everyone infected with HIV and most are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Have a scheduled cesarean delivery (sometimes called a c-section).
  • Make sure your baby receives HIV medicines for 4 to 6 weeks after birth. This reduces the risk of infection from any HIV that may have entered your baby’s body during birth.
  • Don’t breastfeed.

If you’re pregnant, get tested for HIV. Proper treatment can significantly reduce your chances of passing HIV to your baby.

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

Diabetes during pregnancy: a risk factor premature birth

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Diabetes is a serious health concern, especially when left untreated. 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. You can develop diabetes at any time in your life.

Seven out of every 100 pregnant women (7 percent) develop diabetes during pregnancy, also called gestational 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.

Having diabetes or gestational diabetes can cause you to go into preterm labor, before 37 weeks gestation. Babies born this early can face serious health problems including long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Are you at risk?

You may be more likely than other women to develop gestational diabetes if:

  • You’re older than 25.
  • You’re overweight or you gained a lot of weight during pregnancy.
  • You have a family history of diabetes. This means that one or more of your family members has diabetes.
  • You’re African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Pacific Islander. These ethnic groups are more likely to have gestational diabetes than other groups.
  • You had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
  • In your last pregnancy, you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 1/2 pounds or was stillborn.

You can develop gestational diabetes even if you don’t have any of these risk factors. This is why your health care provider tests you for gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

How do you know if you have gestational diabetes?

If you’re pregnant, you will get a glucose tolerance test at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy, or earlier if your provider thinks you’re likely to develop gestational diabetes. You may have heard of other pregnant women having to drink an 8oz cup of a thick syrupy drink – this is part of the glucose tolerance test, along with measuring your blood glucose levels.

What else can you do?

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider. Getting diabetes under control could help prevent preterm labor and premature birth. Being active, eating healthy foods that are low in sugar and losing weight may help reduce your chances of developing diabetes later in life.

Learn more about managing pre-existing diabetes and gestational diabetes.  And, as always, visit your health care provider before and during pregnancy.

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

What does it mean to have a short cervix?

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

A short cervix means the length of your cervix is shorter than normal. To be more specific, a short cervix is one that is shorter than 25 millimeters (about 1 inch) before 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Why is the length important?

If you have a short cervix, you have a 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) of having a premature birth, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. So if you have a short cervix and you’re pregnant with just one baby, your health care provider may recommend these treatments to help you stay pregnant longer:

  • Cerclage
  • Vaginal progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that helps prepare your body for pregnancy. It may help prevent premature birth if you have a short cervix and you’re pregnant with just one baby. You insert it in your vagina every day starting before or up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, and you stop taking it just before 37 weeks.

If your provider thinks you have a short cervix, she may check you regularly with ultrasound.

How do you know if you have a short cervix?

Checking for a short cervix is not a routine prenatal test. Your provider probably doesn’t check your cervical length unless:

  • She has a reason to think it may be short.
  • You have signs of preterm labor. This is labor that begins too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • You have risk factors for premature birth, like you had a premature birth in the past or you have a family history of premature birth (premature birth runs in your family).

What makes a cervix short?

Many things can affect the length of your cervix, including:

  • Having an overdistended (stretched or enlarged) uterus
  • Problems caused by bleeding during pregnancy or inflammation (irritation) of the uterus
  • Infection
  • Cervical insufficiency

Read about our own Health Education Specialist Juviza’s personal experience being pregnant with a short cervix and her new connection to the March of Dimes’ mission.

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

Managing ADHD during pregnancy

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

According to the CDC, approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although the condition is usually diagnosed in children, ADHD can continue to affect individuals into adulthood. People with ADHD often have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors, or may be overly active.

Non-medical treatments

There are non-medical treatment options for ADHD. Talk to your provider to find out whether they may be helpful for you during pregnancy. Non-medical treatment options can be used in addition to medication or instead of medication. They can include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy focuses on how to change unwanted thoughts and behaviors. If you have ADHD ADHD, cognitive-behavioral therapy can help with time management, organization, and planning.
  • Coaching: Coaching focuses on helping people with ADHD overcome common challenges such as planning, time management, goal setting, organization, and problem-solving. A coach can help you to set goals, develop a plan of action to achieve those goals, and to overcome any obstacles that may get in the way. Coaches can be used in addition to medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Medications

If you are taking medication to manage your ADHD and are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is important to talk to your health care provider. Your provider can tell you if a prescription medicine is safe to take during pregnancy. She may want you to stop taking a medicine or switch to one that’s safer for you and your baby. Together you can weigh the risks and benefits of continuing to use your ADHD medication during pregnancy.

You can also reach out to MotherToBaby for information about specific medications and how they may affect pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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

Changes in prescription drug labeling offer new safety information about pregnancy and breastfeeding

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Today’s guest post is written by Leyla Sahin, MD, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Division of Pediatric and Maternal Health.

Thank you for inviting me to talk with you about FDA’s new prescription medicine labeling system which provides information on the benefits and risks of using medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  This new system is one way that FDA works to support healthy pregnancies.

Why has the FDA decided to change their system of labeling prescription medications for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

FDA wants women and their health care providers to have useful and up-to-date information to help them make decisions about the benefits and risks of using prescription medicines during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The decision to change the labeling was based on several years of careful consideration and listening to healthcare providers, organizations and the general public about the pros and cons of the old system. We learned that the old system was somewhat confusing and not used consistently. The new Pregnancy & Lactation Labeling for prescription medicines will include more helpful information about a medication’s risks to pregnant women, the developing baby, and babies that are breastfed. Over-the-counter (also called, OTC) medicines that you get without a prescription are not affected by the new labeling rules.

How is the new labeling system different from the older system? What new information will I see on my prescription labels?

The biggest change for the new labeling system is that the letter categories are being phased out. The old system used five-letters (A, B, C, D and X) to categorize what is known about the risks of taking a medicine.  Instead of the letters, the new labeling will have a description of the known risks in sentence format.  The new labeling will also include information about the background risks of having a birth defect or miscarriage. Background risks  are risks that every woman starts out with, even if she does not take any medication.  Information about the risks of the medical condition on the pregnancy will be included, if known. In addition, there will be information on dose adjustments that may be needed in pregnancy.

FDA decided to eliminate the pregnancy letter categories because they were often misinterpreted as a grading system. Medications could have the same letter categories but have very different risks. People sometimes focused so much on the letters and did not focus on what the risk data actually said.

Will the new labels tell me if the medication will affect fertility?

The new labeling format includes a subsection called “Females and Males of Reproductive Potential”. This new section will include recommendations about birth control and pregnancy testing, if it’s a medication that should not be used in pregnancy because of a known or suspected risk. It will also include information about what is known about a medication’s effects on fertility if this information is available.

Some medications are more dangerous at certain times in pregnancy. Will the new labeling provide specific information for each trimester of pregnancy?

If there is information about effects in a specific trimester, it will be included in the labeling. The labeling will also include medical and disease factors that should be considered.

I’m breastfeeding. How can I find out if the medication I’m taking will be found in my breastmilk and if it will affect my baby?

The “Lactation” subsection will provide information, when it is known, about the amount of medication that is transferred into breastmilk and potential effects on the breastfeeding infant.

Will it be clear when a medication should be completely avoided during pregnancy or breastfeeding?

If a medicine should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding, this information will be clearly stated in the labeling.  If there are ways to minimize exposure to the breastfed infant, this information will be included as well.

When can I expect to see these changes?

The changes have already started. The new prescription labeling system went into effect on June 30, 2015.  New prescription medications approved on or after that date will immediately have the new format. For products approved on or after 2001, but prior to 2015, the changes will occur over the next several years.  Some products are not required to change to this new format but all prescription medications will be required to remove the pregnancy letter category.

The risk information included in drug labeling often comes from research. How can I participate in research?

The new labeling will include information about pregnancy exposure registries. A pregnancy exposure registry is a study that collects health information from women who take prescription medications or receive vaccines when they are pregnant. There are registries for a number of medications and vaccines. By signing up for a pregnancy exposure registry, you can help other pregnant women and prescribers find out more about the safety of medicines used during pregnancy.

If there is a pregnancy exposure registry available for a medication, you will see contact information in the medication labeling. FDA’s Office of Women’s Health keeps a web listing of registries that you can search by medication name or medical condition. Here’s the link: www.fda.gov/pregnancyregistries

In addition to the research information that will be included in the prescription medication labeling, FDA has information on the participation of women in clinical trials. FDA is also participating in a multi-Agency task force to address the participation of pregnant and lactating women in research.

Can you prevent infections during pregnancy?

Monday, October 16th, 2017

There are some infections that you can get either before or during pregnancy that may cause complications for you and your baby. You can’t always prevent infections, but here are some tips that can help:

Wash your hands: Washing your hands regularly can help to reduce the spread of colds, the flu and other infections, like cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Wash your hands:

  • Before preparing or eating food
  • After handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables
  • After being around pets or animals
  • After changing diapers, wiping runny noses, or picking up toys

Prepare food properly: Handle foods safely whenever you wash, prepare, cook and store them. Wash knives, cutting boards and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before using them for other foods. Foods to avoid during pregnancy include raw meat, fish, and eggs and unpasteurized foods.

Get vaccinated: Vaccinations can help protect you and your baby from certain infections during pregnancy. Some vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy, but others are not. Talk to your provider to make sure any vaccination you get during pregnancy is safe. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you get pregnant.

Protect yourself from Zika: If you get infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy, you can pass it to your baby. It causes a birth defect called microcephaly and other brain problems. Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites and through body fluids, like blood and semen.

  • If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, don’t visit a Zika-affected area unless absolutely necessary.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • If your male or female partner may be infected with Zika, use a barrier method (like a condom) every time you have sex or don’t have sex at all.
  • If you’re pregnant and think you may have been exposed to Zika virus, see your health care provider right away.

Ask someone else to clean your cat’s litter box: If you have to do it yourself, wear gloves. Wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done emptying the litter. Dirty cat litter may contain toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite. Toxoplasmosis can cause health problems for your baby during pregnancy.

Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs): STIs are infections you can get from having unprotected sex with someone who’s infected. If you’re pregnant and have an STI, it can cause serious problems for your baby, including premature birth and birth defects. Testing for STIs is a part of prenatal care. If you have an STI, getting treatment early can help protect your baby.

Talk to your health care provider: Talk to your provider about how to prevent infections, making sure that you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations before pregnancy, and what vaccinations you need during pregnancy.

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

New study: don’t skip your Tdap vaccine

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

The March of Dimes recommends pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. This vaccine protects against pertussis (also called whooping cough). Pertussis spreads quickly and is dangerous for your baby.

In a new study, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that receiving the Tdap vaccine in the third trimester of pregnancy prevented more than 78% of cases of whooping cough in babies younger than two months. The CDC has recommended pregnant women receive the Tdap vaccine since 2012, but these findings confirm that the vaccine is not only beneficial, but incredibly important in order to protect your baby after birth.

The study looked at babies younger than two months old from six states from 2011 through 2014. They learned that the mothers of babies who had whooping cough were less likely to have received the Tdap vaccine during their pregnancy.

Although these findings show how effective getting Tdap during pregnancy can be, researchers also found that only 49% of pregnant woman who had a baby between fall 2015 and spring 2016 received the vaccine.

Why are these results so important?

So far in 2017 there have been more than 11,000 cases of whooping cough in the U.S. Whooping cough is a serious disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing that can make it hard to breathe. Babies younger than one year of age are at the highest risk for severe complications, hospitalization or death.

Babies don’t receive their own whooping cough vaccine until two months of age. But if a pregnant woman gets vaccinated during the third trimester of pregnancy (between 27 and 36 weeks) she can pass her antibodies on to her baby and provide protection during these first two months. This study confirms that vaccination with the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy can prevent whooping cough in babies before they are able to receive their own vaccine.

If you’re pregnant, make sure you ask your prenatal care provider about when to schedule your Tdap vaccine so that you can protect your baby.

To see when it’s time for your baby’s whooping cough vaccine (and other immunizations), see our vaccination schedule.

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