Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

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.

 

March is Trisomy Awareness Month

Monday, March 13th, 2017

chromosomesWhat is trisomy?

Babies with trisomy are born with an extra copy of a specific chromosome in most or all of their cells. This means that they have three copies of this chromosome in each cell rather than the typical number, which is two. Health conditions that may be associated with trisomy include heart defects, vision or hearing problems, and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Chromosomes are the structures in cells that contain genes. Each person normally has 23 pairs of chromosomes, or 46 in all. An individual inherits one chromosome from the mother’s egg and one from the father’s sperm. When an egg and sperm join together, they normally form a fertilized egg with 46 chromosomes.

Sometimes a mistake in cell division occurs before a woman gets pregnant. A developing egg or sperm ends up with an extra chromosome. When this cell joins with a normal egg or sperm cell, the resulting embryo has 47 chromosomes instead of 46.

Common trisomy conditions

Although trisomy can occur with any chromosome, here are the conditions that are most often associated with an extra chromosome:

  • Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome: Down syndrome is one of the most common birth defects. In the US, about 6,000 babies (or 1 in 700) are born with Down syndrome each year. Most affected individuals have intellectual disabilities within the mild to moderate range. Although health conditions such as heart defects and vision and hearing problems are associated, most of these can be treated, and life expectancy is now about 60 years.
  • Trisomy 18 is also called Edward syndrome: Trisomy 18 occurs in about 1 in 5,000 live births each year. Affected individuals may have heart defects, significant intellectual and developmental delays, and other life-threatening medical problems.
  • Trisomy 13, also known as Patau syndrome: Trisomy 13 occurs in about 1 in 10,000 to 16,000 live births each year worldwide. Individuals with trisomy 13 often have heart defects, brain or spinal cord abnormalities, severe intellectual and developmental disabilities, and multiple physical problems in many parts of the body.

It is important to understand that every individual with a trisomy is unique and not all of them will have the same symptoms. The severity of the condition and the associated problems depend on:

  • Which chromosome is duplicated: An extra copy of certain chromosomes, like chromosome 1, is not compatible with life and the embryo will not develop.
  • How much of the extra chromosome is present: If only part of the chromosome is present, symptoms may be milder. If the complete chromosome is present, the symptoms may be more severe.
  • How many cells have the extra chromosome: If the copy of the extra chromosome is in only a few cells (mosaicism), the symptoms are usually less severe than if all of the cells in the body are affected.

In the past 10 years, the March of Dimes has invested over 15  million dollars into research for chromosomal conditions, including trisomy. And many March of Dimes grantees are studying basic biological processes of development. This important research should improve our understanding of how genes and other factors affect the development of a baby.

Have questions? Text or email us at 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.

Is the Zika virus affecting babies in the U.S.?

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

microcephalyShort answer…Yes.

The CDC just released a report that measured the number of brain related birth defects in the U.S. before and after the arrival of Zika. The study focused on data from three areas of the U.S. that track brain related birth defects – Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia – in the year 2013-2014, before Zika arrived in the U.S.

It found that during that time, brain related birth defects occurred in 3 out of 1,000 births (.3%).

A study done looking at 2016 data shows that among women in the US with possible Zika virus infection, similar brain related birth defects were 20 times more common, affecting 60 of 1,000 pregnancies (6%).

This is a huge increase.

Here’s what we know

If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, the virus can pass to her baby. Zika has been shown to cause a range of birth defects including brain problems, microcephaly, neural tube defects, eye defects and central nervous system problems. Although none of these birth defects are new to the medical field and they can occur for other reasons, it has been clearly established that the Zika virus can cause these serious problems, too.

Babies will require coordinated, long-term care

Babies born with Zika related birth defects will require access to coordinated medical care among a team of specialists. Such care may seem daunting to the parents and even to the medical community as they gather new information about the effects of the virus on a daily basis.

Enter the Zika Care Connect Network (ZCC)

This new website will launch in April 2017 to help parents and providers coordinate care for babies with complex medical needs due to Zika infection. The ZCC aims to improve access to medical care, which will jump-start early identification and intervention. The goal is to reduce the long-term effects of Zika on children and families by making it easier to locate a network of specialists knowledgeable about services for patients with Zika. The searchable database will feature a Provider Referral Network, patient resource tools, and a HelpLine.

Bottom line

Zika is still here, and it is seriously affecting babies and families. The best line of defense is to protect yourself from infection. Our website has detailed information on how to stay safe.

If you have questions, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

It’s not too late to get a flu shot

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

flu shot pregnant womenYou may think that flu season is almost over, but that is not the case. Flu activity is still increasing across the country and it is expected to continue for several weeks.

According to the CDC, the timing of the annual flu season is very unpredictable. Flu viruses can be detected year-round, however, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May. In the United States, flu activity most commonly peaks between December and March. You can check out the flu activity in your state on this interactive map from the CDC.

It is not too late to get a flu shot, if you haven’t gotten one already. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. The flu shot is safe for pregnant women and most children but if you or your baby has had a reaction in the past, or is allergic to eggs, make sure you talk to your provider. And if you are pregnant, you can get the flu shot at any time during pregnancy. A flu shot during pregnancy can help protect your baby for several months after birth as well.

A flu shot remains the most effective way to prevent the flu. And this season’s flu vaccines are reducing the risk of illness by almost half. Anyone who has not yet gotten a flu shot this year should get one as soon as possible.

If you do get the flu, the CDC also recommends quick treatment with antiviral medications, especially for people who are very sick or people who are at high risk of flu complications, including pregnant women. For flu, antivirals work best if you take them within 2 days of getting sick. Quick treatment with antiviral medicine can help prevent serious flu complications. You will need a prescription for an antiviral medication so call or visit your health care provider right away if you think you may have the flu.

Flu season is not over, so make sure you are taking the appropriate precautions to help you and your family avoid the flu this year.

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

New research links premature birth to mom’s risk of heart disease later in life

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

preemie and momThis headline has raised concerns among women who have had a premature baby (birth before 37 weeks) – and for good reason.

In a published study, researchers analyzed data from more than 70,000 women to look at the association between premature delivery and future cardiovascular disease (CVD). They found that women who delivered a baby before 37 weeks gestation in their first pregnancy had a 40 percent greater risk of heart disease later in life, compared to women with term deliveries. This finding occurred even after accounting for pre-pregnancy sociodemographic, lifestyle, and CVD risk factors.

And there’s more.

Women who delivered before 32 weeks gestation had double the risk of CVD later in life compared to women with term deliveries.

So what does this mean for moms who gave birth early?

The results from the study are concerning, but researchers have stated that premature delivery may be an early warning sign of future heart problems, but not the cause of them. Factors such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, both of which can cause preterm labor, are already considered risk factors for future CVD. More research is needed to determine exactly how premature delivery and CVD are linked.

The March of Dimes funds research to help discover the causes of preterm labor and premature birth. In about half of cases, the cause is unknown. We hope that with our groundbreaking research, we will be able to help prevent premature birth and improve the health of mothers and babies throughout their lifetimes.

If you have questions or concerns about your future risk of CVD, speak with your health care provider.

Fish safety during pregnancy: what to eat or avoid

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Mercury is a metal that can harm your baby. Fish get mercury from the water they swim in and from eating other fish that have mercury in them. By eating fish that contain mercury, the metal can pass to your baby during pregnancy. This can cause brain damage and affect your baby’s hearing and vision. However, it can be difficult to know which fish is safe to eat and which should be limited or avoided. Fortunately, the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have created a chart that classifies fish into three categories:

  • Best choices: eat 2-3 servings a week
  • Good choices: eat 1 serving a week
  • Choices to avoid: high mercury levels, best to avoid completely

Nearly 90 percent of fish eaten in the United States fall into the best choices category, according to the FDA and EPA. So make sure you get the recommended 2-3 servings of fish per week from the “Best choices” category, or 8 to 12 ounces total (12 ounces maximum).

 

FDA

 

Snowy days and pregnancy – what you need to know

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

shovel in snow If you’re pregnant, you need to be extra careful about walking on the snow and ice. Here’s why:

During pregnancy, your ligaments become looser to allow your body to accommodate your growing baby. The hormone relaxin helps to prepare your body for labor and delivery, but it can also affect your joints making you feel unsteady. This change can put you at risk for injury, especially on slippery pavements.

If you are in your third trimester of pregnancy, your center of gravity may be off balance, which could make you prone to slips and falls. 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.

Be prepared

Try to get help from family or friends with shoveling snow. Keep a bag of calcium chloride handy and sprinkle it on slippery walks to melt the snow and ice.

With a little thought and planning, you can remain safe during the cold, winter months. Then, when your baby is born, your center of gravity and ligaments will slowly return to normal again, and you can resume your usual activities.

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

 

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