Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Worried about the flu?

Friday, January 19th, 2018

By now you’ve probably heard that flu activity is widespread throughout the United States. If you’re pregnant or have a baby, here’s some information that may help during this flu season.

Signs and symptoms of the flu

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • Cough or sore throat
  • Feeling very tired
  • Fever, chills, or body shakes
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Not being hungry
  • Vomiting (throwing up) and diarrhea (more common in children)

Fever and most other symptoms can last a week or longer. Some people can be sick from the flu for a long time, including children, people older than 65, pregnant women and women who have recently had a baby.

Treating the flu

If you think you or anyone in your family may have the flu, call your health care provider right away. She may prescribe an antiviral medicine to prevent or treat the flu. Antivirals kill infections caused by viruses. They can make the flu milder and help you feel better faster. Antivirals also can help prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. For flu, antivirals work best if you take them within 2 days of having symptoms.

If you’re pregnant and have a fever, call your provider as soon as possible and take acetaminophen.

If your baby has a fever, ask her provider if you can give her infant’s or children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Protect yourself and others from the flu

When you have the flu, you can spread it to others. Here’s what you can do to help prevent it from spreading:

  • Stay home when sick and limit contact with others.
  • Don’t kiss anyone.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your arm. Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before touching anyone. You also can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Use enough hand sanitizer so that it takes at least 15 seconds for your hands to dry.
  • Use hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash your dishes and utensils.
  • Don’t share your dishes, glasses, utensils or toothbrush.

Is it too late to get a flu shot?

No it’s not too late! You can still get a flu shot. Getting a flu shot is safe for most pregnant women and it can help prevent you from getting the flu. The flu shot may make your symptoms milder and prevent complications if you do get sick. You can get the shot from your health care provider or pharmacies. Use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find out where you can get the flu vaccine.

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

Are you getting your daily folic acid dose? Check the label

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. It helps your body make red blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. If you take folic acid before and during early pregnancy, it can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (also called NTDs). Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects in a baby and birth defects in a baby’s mouth called cleft lip and palate.

How can you be sure you’re getting the right amount of folic acid?

The best way to get the right amount of folic acid is to take a daily multivitamin that has 400 mcg of folic acid. Check the back of your bottle for the label (also called supplement facts). Look for the word “folate” on the label to see how much folic acid you’re getting.

The label tells you this information:

• Serving size. This tells you how much of the product is in one serving. One multivitamin usually is one serving.

• Servings per container. This tells you how many servings are in a multivitamin bottle. For example, if two pills is one serving and the bottle has 30 multivitamins in it, that’s 15 servings.

• Nutrients, like vitamin D, folate and calcium, in each serving

• Daily value (also called DV) of one serving. DV is the amount of a nutrient in a serving. For example, if the DV of folic acid in a multivitamin is 50 percent, that multivitamin gives you 50 percent (half) of the folic acid you need each day.

What else do I need to know about the labels?

Multivitamin labels now give new information about folic acid. In the past, they just listed mcg of folic acid. Now they list “mcg DFE of folate.” For example, for folate you’ll see “400 mcg DFE.” DFE stands for dietary folate equivalent. It’s the amount of folate your body absorbs. If a serving has less than 400 mcg DFE of folate, you need more than one serving to get all the folic acid you need each day.

Can I get folic acid from food?

Some foods have folic acid added to them. Look for the word “fortified” or “enriched” on the package label on foods like:
• Bread
• Breakfast cereal
• Cornmeal
• Flour
• Pasta
• Products made from a kind of flour called corn masa, like tortillas, tortilla chips, taco shells, tamales and pupusas
• White rice

Some fruits and vegetables are good sources of folic acid. When folic acid is naturally in a food, it’s called folate. Folate is found in lentils, black beans, peanuts, leafy green veggies like romaine lettuce and spinach, citrus fruits and orange juice.

It’s hard to get all the folic acid you need from food. Even if you eat foods that have folic acid in them, take your multivitamin each day, too. Labels on food products don’t always list the amount of folic acid in the product. New food labels that list folic acid will list mcg DFE of folate, just like for multivitamins.

Read more about why folic acid is important to you and your baby.

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

Good hygiene can help prevent birth defects

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Now that winter has arrived, the temperatures are decreasing and the spread of germs is increasing. In an effort to stay healthy, I find myself constantly washing my hands and trying to maintain good hygiene. Hygiene refers to activities such as hand washing, bathing, and brushing your teeth, which help you stay healthy. Maintaining good hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of infections.

Women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by doing things to help reduce the risk of infection. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but by maintaining healthy hygiene, you can help prevent the spread of infection. Not sure where to start? We have tips:

Wash your hands

And wash them often. Wash them before preparing or eating food, after handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables. Wash them after being around pets or animals and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.

Prepare food safely

Besides your hands, you should also wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing your food. Wash all surfaces and cuttings boards with warm soapy water after use as well. Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Be sure to cook foods at their proper temperature and never eat cooked food that has been out of the refrigerator longer than two hours. Ready to cook a meal? We have your guide from prep to storage.

Don’t share cups, foods or utensils with your children

Keep these items out of your mouth. Children’s saliva may contain cytomegalovirus or CMV, a kind of herpesvirus that women can pass to their baby during pregnancy. CMV can cause problems for some babies, including a birth defect called microcephaly. CMV is also found in urine and other bodily fluids so be sure to wash your hands every time after changing diapers, wiping runny noses, and picking up toys.

Stay away from wild or pet rodents

This includes mice, hamsters and guinea pigs. They may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also called LCMV) that can be harmful to you and your baby. LCMV can cause severe birth defects and miscarriage. To help prevent LCMV, keep pet rodents in a separate part of your home, wash your hands after petting and caring for them. Ask your partner or a friend to care for the pet and clean its cage. If your home has wild rats or mice, use pest control.

Let someone else clean the litter box

Dirty cat litter might contain a harmful parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. If you have toxoplasmosis within 6 months of getting pregnant, you may be able to pass it to your baby during pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis can cause pregnancy complications such as preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks) and stillbirth. The earlier in pregnancy you get infected, the more serious the baby’s problems may be after birth.

So have a friend, partner or family member clean your cat’s litter box during your pregnancy. If you are changing the litter yourself, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands well afterward. You can also come in contact with the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis through eating raw or undercooked meat, unwashed fruits and veggies, touching utensils and cutting boards used to prepare raw meat, fruits and veggies or by touching dirt or sand. So we recommend avoiding sand boxes as well.

Practicing good hygiene daily can help you stay healthy and prevent the spread of infection.  Have questions? Email us at mailto:AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Prevent infections to protect your baby

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

January is Birth Defects Prevention month. Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. This means that a baby is born with a birth defect about every 4 ½ minutes. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth and can cause problems in overall health, in how the body develops or works. Some infections before and during pregnancy can have serious consequences, including causing certain birth defects. Not all birth defects can be prevented. But there are some things that you can do before and during pregnancy to protect yourself and your baby.

Practice good hygiene

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.
  • Take precautions when preparing food.
  • Make sure to wash hands after changing diapers or wiping runny noses. Don’t share cups or utensils with young children.
  • Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards, and turtles.
  • Do not clean a cat litter box during pregnancy.

Talk to your health care provider     

  • Talk to your provider about what you can do to prevent infections, such as Zika.
  • Discuss how to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Make sure you are getting the right amount of folic acid. Most women should be taking 400mcg of folic acid before pregnancy.

Get vaccinated

  • Your provider can make sure that you are up to date on all your routine adult vaccinations before you get pregnant.
  • The CDC recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy: the flu shot and the pertussis vaccine (Tdap) at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Pertussis (also called whooping cough) is an extremely contagious disease that causes violent coughing and is dangerous for a baby. Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, to protect their baby.

Prevent insect bites

  • Take precautions to protect yourself from animals known to carry diseases and insects that may carry infections, such as Zika.
  • Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Be sure to discuss any travel plans with your provider.
  • When mosquitoes are active, prevent mosquito bites using an EPA-registered bug spray containing one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or IR3535.
  • Wear appropriate clothing when outside, such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt, pants, shoes, & socks.
  • Don’t have sex with a male or female partner who may be infected with Zika virus or who has recently traveled to a Zika-affected area.

And don’t forget that there are many other steps that you can take to get ready for a healthy pregnancy:

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

Cheers! with alcohol-free alternatives

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Tis the holiday season, and often that means lots of parties and gatherings, usually involving alcohol. But if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you need to steer clear of alcoholic beverages. No amount of alcohol has been proven safe at any time during pregnancy. However, here are some delicious substitutions.

One of the easiest drink alternatives is simply mixing a fruit juice with seltzer water. If you use cranberry or pomegranate juice, you’ll have a “mocktail” with a festive red color. Add a twist of lime, and serve it in a martini glass or champagne flute. This is one of my favorite drinks every day. You can really play around with this basic recipe, changing juices and garnishes to your specific taste—and cravings.

Also, there are so many flavored seltzers available that you can have a lot of fun mixing and matching juices and seltzers to create some really unique combinations. If you freeze the fruit juice in ice cube trays, you can then add them to your favorite flavored seltzer. The combinations are really endless. And when it is time to ring in the New Year, ginger ale or sparkling cider make great alternatives to a glass of champagne. You can read our past post on Bodacious Beverages for some more great recipes.

Although alcohol may not be on the menu this holiday season, you can still share a toast with family and friends. Cheers!

What is twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome?

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) is a serious condition that occurs in about 10-15% of identical twin pregnancies where the babies share a placenta (monochorionic).

In TTTS, the blood vessels in the placenta form abnormal connections and blood does not flow evenly between the babies. One twin becomes a “donor” and the other becomes a “recipient.” The donor twin pumps blood to the recipient twin. This means that the recipient twin is bigger, has more blood, and makes more urine. This results in too much amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios) and an enlarged bladder. The extra fluid can also strain the recipient twin’s heart. However, the donor twin is smaller, has less blood, little to no amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios), and a smaller bladder.

How do you know if your twins have TTTS?

TTTS is usually found during an ultrasound in the second trimester. Once TTTS is identified, your health care providers will evaluate how serious the TTTS is. They will look at how much amniotic fluid is in each sac, how the donor twin’s bladder is working, and they will look at blood flow in both babies. They may also do an amniocentesis and echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the baby’s heart) if needed.

What treatment is available for TTTS during pregnancy?

The treatment plan will depend on how severe the condition is. Options for treatment include:

  • Monitoring with regular ultrasounds: Monitoring allows your providers to regularly check on your twins and look for any signs that TTTS is getting worse.
  • Removing amniotic fluid from the recipient twin: Extra amniotic fluid is removed from the larger (recipient) twin. This is only a temporary option and may need to be repeated.
  • Laser surgery (known as selective fetoscopic laser photocoagulation or SFLP): This procedure uses a laser to stop the transfer of blood between the babies. It is often the

Without treatment TTTS can cause serious problems for both babies. So it is important that you go to all of your prenatal checkups—even when you’re feeling fine. Twins with mild to moderate TTTS may be at increased risk for premature birth.

Have questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

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.