Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Preeclampsia is a blood pressure condition that only occurs in pregnancy and during the postpartum period. Women who have preeclampsia develop high blood pressure and may also have signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working normally.

Preeclampsia is a serious health problem for pregnant women around the world. It affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide. In the United States, it’s the cause of 15 percent of premature births. Premature birth is birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Most women with preeclampsia have healthy babies. But if it’s not treated, it can cause severe health problems for you and your baby.

For most women, preeclampsia happens after 20 weeks of pregnancy. When it happens during the postpartum period, it is usually within 48 hours of having a baby. However, it can develop up to 6 weeks after birth.

One of the best ways to detect preeclampsia is to go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. Preeclampsia sometimes develops without any signs. This means you may have preeclampsia and not know it. During your prenatal care checkups your health care provider will measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein. In the case of preeclampsia, there’s usually a presence of protein in the urine. 

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:

  • Changes in vision, like blurriness, flashing lights, seeing spots or being sensitive to light
  • Headache that doesn’t go away
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting or dizziness
  • Pain in the upper right belly area or in the shoulder
  • Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week)
  • Swelling in the legs, hands or face
  • Trouble breathing

Many of these signs and symptoms are common discomforts of pregnancy. If you have even one sign or symptom, call your provider right away. Without treatment, preeclampsia can cause serious health problems for you and your baby, even death.

If you’re at risk for preeclampsia, your provider may want you to take low-dose aspirin to help prevent it. Talk to your provider to see if treatment with low-dose aspirin is right for you. Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about how to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Ten things you can do to help reduce stress during pregnancy

Friday, May 4th, 2018

Stress is very common and affects everyone. During pregnancy, you may feel that your level of stress increases. It is understandable. Your body and many aspects of your life are changing at the same time. The anticipation, excitement and adjustments associated with having a baby can also influence how you feel and how you deal with stress. It is a good idea to find ways to reduce your levels of stress. Too much stress for a long time may cause problems like high blood pressure. It can also increase the chances of having a premature baby.

Here are 10 things you can do to help you reduce stress:

  • Figure out what’s making you stressed and talk to your partner, a friend or your health care provider about it.
  • Know that the discomforts of pregnancy are only temporary. Ask your provider how to handle these discomforts.
  • Stay healthy and fit. Eat healthy foods, get plenty of sleep and exercise (with your provider’s OK). Exercise can help reduce stress and also helps prevent common pregnancy discomforts.
  • Cut back on activities you don’t need to do.
  • Have a good support network, including your partner, family and friends. Ask your provider about resources in the community that may be able to help.
  • Ask for help from people you trust. Accept help when they offer. For example, you may need help cleaning the house, or you may want someone to go with you to your prenatal visits.
  • Try relaxation activities, like prenatal yoga or meditation.
  • Take a childbirth education class so you know what to expect during pregnancy and when your baby arrives. Practice the breathing and relaxation techniques you learn in your class.
  • If you’re working, plan ahead to help you and your employer get ready for your time away from work.
  • If you think you may be depressed, talk to your provider right away. There are many ways to deal with depression. Getting treatment and counseling early may help.

You can also learn about other ways to keep you and your baby safe during pregnancy. This may help ease your worries and help you enjoy this new stage in your life.

Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about how to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

April is Sexually Transmitted Infections Awareness Month. In the United States, nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections happen each year.

Sexually transmitted infections (also called STI, sexually transmitted diseases or STD) are infections that you can get from having unprotected sex or intimate physical contact with a person who is infected.

Having an STI during pregnancy can cause serious problems for babies, including premature birth, low birthweight, miscarriage, and other problems after birth. Many people with STIs don’t know they’re infected because some STIs have no signs or symptoms. Therefore, the best way to protect your baby from STIs is to protect yourself from STIs.

Here’s what you can do to help protect yourself from STIs:

  • If you have sex, have safe sex. Have sex with only one person who doesn’t have other sex partners.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex. Condoms are barrier methods of birth control and help prevent pregnancy, as well as STIs.
  • Get tested and treated. The sooner you get tested and treated, the less likely you are to have complications from your infection.
  • Ask your partner to get tested and treated. Even if you get treated for an STI, if your partner’s infected you can get the infection again.
  • Go to all your prenatal care visits, even if you’re feeling fine. If you think you may have an STI, let your health care provider know. That way you can get tested and treated right away.
  • Get vaccinated. Some vaccinations can help protect you from some STIs, like hepatitis B and some types of human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Don’t have sex. This is the best way to prevent an STI.

Counseling for sexually transmitted infections is a preventive service covered by most health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, at no extra cost to you. Learn more about recommended preventive services that are covered under the Affordable Care Act at Care Women Deserve.

Repeat lead tests are advised for certain children, pregnant women and breastfeeding moms

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Recently the FDA and CDC issued a notice that some lead tests done by Magellan Diagnostics may be incorrect.

The FDA says “certain lead tests manufactured by Magellan Diagnostics may provide inaccurate results for some children and adults in the United States.”

If you have a child age 6 years old or younger, are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your healthcare provider or local health department to determine if retesting is needed.

The dangers of lead

Lead is a metal that comes from the ground, but it can be in air, water and food. You can’t see, smell or taste it. High levels of lead in your body can cause serious health problems for you and your family.

Children younger than 6 years of age can be severely affected by lead. It can cause developmental problems, hearing loss, vomiting, irritability, belly pain and weight loss. Very high levels of lead may even cause death.

Lead poisoning (high levels of lead in your body) can cause serious problems during pregnancy, such as premature birth, miscarriage, and high blood pressure. It can also cause fertility problems, mood disorders, headaches, muscle or joint pain, trouble concentrating, belly pain, anemia and fatigue in adults.

Where is lead?

Most lead comes from paint in older homes. When old paint cracks or peels, it makes dust that has lead in it. The dust may be too small to see. You can breathe in the dust and not know it.

Lead may be found in drinking water, at construction sites, in arts and crafts materials used to make stained glass, lead crystal glassware, and some soil.

For more information on lead poisoning, see our web article and the CDC’s information.

Bottom line

If you have a child age 6 or younger, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding, contact your healthcare provider to determine if a lead test should be repeated.

What you need to know about drinking alcohol during pregnancy

Friday, April 6th, 2018

If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or think you might be pregnant, the best thing to do for your baby is to avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby. When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to your baby.  No amount of alcohol has been proven safe at any time during pregnancy.

Drinking any amount of alcohol at any time during pregnancy can harm your baby’s developing brain and other organs. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases your baby’s chances of:

  • Premature birth. This is when your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies may have serious health problems at birth and later in life.
  • Brain damage and problems with growth and development.
  • Birth defects, like heart defectshearing problems or vision problems.
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (also called FASDs). Children with FASDs may have a range of problems, including intellectual and developmental disabilities. They also may have problems or delays in physical development. FASDs usually last a lifetime.
  • Low birthweight (also called LBW). This is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Being low birthweight can cause serious health problems for some babies.
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth

What can you do?

Alcohol is often part of social activities, like weddings, birthday parties or sports events. You may be used to having a glass of wine with dinner or at the end of a busy day. Giving up alcohol during pregnancy may be hard.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Think about when you usually drink alcohol. Plan to drink other things, like fruit infused water, sparkling water or just plain water. Use a fun straw or put an umbrella in the glass to make it seem more fun.
  • If you are having problems with self-control, is best to stay away from situations or places where you usually drink, like parties or bars.
  • Get rid of all the alcohol in your home.
  • Tell your partner and your friends and family that you’re not drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Ask them to help and support you.
  • If you need help to stop drinking, talk to your health care provider. He may help you find resources on how to stop drinking.

For more information on how to have a healthy pregnancy, visit marchofdimes.org.

Screening for gestational diabetes

Monday, March 26th, 2018

In the United States, 9 out of every 100 women (9 percent) has diabetes. Diabetes is a health condition marked by an increase in blood sugar, also called glucose. People with diabetes need to make sure their blood sugar levels are not too high nor too low.

This is particularly important for women, because preexisting diabetes (type 1 or type2) that’s not under control before pregnancy can lead to serious complications during pregnancy. Some of these complications include preeclampsia, premature birth, and birth defects. So, if you have diabetes, talk to your health care provider about how to best have it under control before trying to get pregnant to help prevent these serious complications.

There is another type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after you have your baby. However, developing gestational diabetes can make your more likely to develop diabetes later in life. The good news is that there’s a way to determine if you may have gestational diabetes. Between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy, you get a prenatal test called glucose screening test. If you get a positive result on your glucose screening test, you get another test called glucose tolerance test to see if you have gestational diabetes.

If you have gestational diabetes, here are few things you can do to help you control diabetes during pregnancy:

  • Go to all you prenatal care visits, even if you’re feeling fine.
  • Learn how to control your blood sugar by eating healthy foods and being active every day.
  • If you have to take medicine, take it exactly as your provider tells you to.

Screening for gestational diabetes is a preventive service covered by most health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, at no extra cost to you. Learn more about recommended preventive services that are covered under the Affordable Care Act at Care Women Deserve.

Today is World Down Syndrome Day

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition caused by extra genetic material. Typically, our cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes. In the case of Down syndrome, a person has an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. This extra genetic material changes how the body and brain develop. People with Down syndrome have a few common physical traits, but each individual is unique and can lead a healthy active life.

We don’t know for sure why Down syndrome happens. Even though it’s a genetic condition, the majority of the cases are not passed on from the parents or family to the baby. Most cases happen because in the early stages of the baby’s development, there is a problem when the cells are dividing. However, there are some factors that may increase the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome, such as:

  • Mother’s age. The risk of Down syndrome increases with the mom’s age. Even though the risk is greater as your age increases, about 80 percent of babies with Down syndrome are born to women age 35 or less. This is because younger women have more babies than older women.
  • Having had a baby with Down syndrome. Up to age 40, for each pregnancy your chances of having another baby with Down syndrome is about 1 in 100 (1 percent). After age 40, the risk is based on your age. Talk to a genetic counselor to understand your risk of having another baby with Down syndrome.
  • Being a carrier of a genetic translocation. Both, men and women, can pass a genetic translocation to their baby. These cases are not very common. If you had a baby with Down syndrome before or if you or your partner have a family history of Down syndrome, it’s best to talk to a genetic counselor.

During pregnancy your health care provider will offer screening tests to see if your baby is more likely to have Down syndrome. These tests are offered to all pregnant women as part of regular prenatal care. However, a screening test won’t tell you for sure if your baby has Down syndrome. It only tells you if there is a higher risk. To know for sure you will need a diagnostic test.

How do you know if your baby has Down syndrome?

If you get an abnormal screening test result, your provider will recommend a diagnostic test. A diagnostic test will confirm if a baby has Down syndrome. There are few diagnostic tests:

  • Amniocentesis (also called amnio). This test checks the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby in the uterus to check for Down syndrome. You can get an amnio at 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS). This test checks the tissue from the placenta to see if a baby has Down syndrome. You can get a CVS at 10 to 13 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Cordocentesis (also called percutaneous umbilical cord sampling or PUBS). For this test your provider inserts a thin needle into an umbilical cord vein to take a small sample of your baby’s blood to check for chromosome defects. You can get this test between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. There’s a much greater risk of miscarriage with cordocentesis than with an amnio or a CVS. So you only get this test if other tests are unclear and your provider can’t confirm if your baby has Down syndrome any other way.

Down syndrome is also identified at birth by physical traits like: almond-shaped eyes that slant up, low muscle tone, a single line across the center of the palm of the hand, and a flattened face. But these traits won’t tell you for sure if your baby has Down syndrome, a chromosomal test call karyotype is needed to confirm this diagnosis.

Gestational diabetes: How to control your blood sugar?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that happens during pregnancy. It means that your body is not using a hormone called insulin the way it should, or your body is not making enough of it. When this happens your blood sugar increases. Having high blood sugar during pregnancy increases the risk of certain complications during pregnancy, including: preeclampsia, having a very large baby (macrosomia), premature birth, and having a c-section.

Here are some things you can do to help you manage and treat your gestational diabetes:

  • Prenatal care: Women who have gestational diabetes need to have more prenatal care checkups. This helps your healthcare provider verify that you and your baby are doing ok.
  • Monitor blood sugar: You will need to check your blood sugar regularly and keep a log. This can help your provider monitor your treatment. You may need to use a specific device to measure your blood sugar.
  • Eat healthy foods: Choosing healthy foods, eating the right portion sizes and having regular meals are key to help you control your blood sugar.
  • Being active: Physical activity helps regulate your blood sugar. Ask your provider how much and what type of activity is best for you. It’s ok for most women to do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (like walking, riding a stationary bike) a day.
  • Medication: Your provider may recommend the use of insulin to control your blood sugar. In certain situations, an oral medication might be indicated. Your provider will give you more information according to your specific needs.

Healthy eating for gestational diabetes

The best way to make sure you are eating the right amount and types of food is to visit a registered dietitian nutritionist (also called RDN). A RDN can create an individualized nutritional plan tailored to your likes, dislikes, and your specific needs. Eating well is one of the most important steps in controlling your blood sugar and reducing the risks associated with gestational diabetes. Here are some things you can do:

  • Don’t skip meals. The best way to keep your blood sugar level from dropping or spiking is to eat regularly. This means not skipping meals. Make sure you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. You might also need to have 2-3 small snacks a day. The goal is to spread your calories during the day and avoid spending many hours without eating or eating too much in one meal.
  • Portion sizes. You will need to eat frequently, but you also need to be careful not to overeat. Learn about how many calories you need to eat every day and make sure you are eating the right portion sizes. For example, one small banana (about 6”) counts as one portion, while a big banana (about 9”) counts as two.
  • Learn about carbohydrates. You will need to keep track of the amount of carbohydrates you eat per meal. This is the first step in managing your blood sugar. Foods that contain carbohydrates are: fruits, rice, pasta, potatoes, bread, milk and beans, among many others. Your RDN can make a nutritional plan that specifies the portion sizes you need of each in your meals. Certain foods that contain carbohydrates and are also high in fiber are beans, lentils and oatmeal. These are a good source of carbohydrates for women with gestational diabetes. The fiber content in these foods and the type of carbohydrate takes longer to digest and will help your blood sugar stay within your target range.
  • Proteins and fat. Make sure you eat lean proteins like chicken breast, fish low in mercury, legumes, eggs, and low fat dairy products among others. About 20 percent of your calories should come from protein sources. Healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, almonds, and nuts are good choices. Limit the amount of butter, cream, high fat meats or fried foods.
  • Vegetables are your best friend. Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables and leafy greens every day. Be adventurous and try new recipes. You might get inspired while you visit the farmers market. Ask about how to cook vegetables you’re not familiar with or ask for recipes. You might get great suggestions. Eat a variety of colors like spinach, cauliflower, yellow squash, pumpkin, beets, etc. This will help you consume a variety of nutrients too.
  • It’s ok to use artificial sweeteners. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) sugar substitutes such as aspartame, stevia, sucralose and acesulfame potassium are thought to be safe to eat in moderate amounts during pregnancy. Women with a metabolic disorder known as phenylketonuria (PKU) should not have aspartame (sold as NutraSweet® or Equal®) because it contains the amino acid (phenylalanine) that their bodies can’t break down.
  • Limit or avoid certain foods. Avoid foods that are concentrated on added or simple sugars like sodas, desserts, cookies, candies, fruit juice, dried fruits, syrups, honey, agave syrup, among others. These types of foods have very low or no nutritional value, and will increased your blood sugar. Limit them as much as possible.

 

Can low dose aspirin reduce the risk of preeclampsia?

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Preeclampsia, a kind of high blood pressure, is a serious health condition that can affect women after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth. Without treatment, preeclampsia can cause health problems for mom and baby. For example, a woman with untreated preeclampsia can have problems with her kidney or liver, or problems with how her blood clots. Preeclampsia during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth (when a baby is born early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy).

How can low-dose aspirin help?

Low-dose aspirin is also called “baby aspirin” or 81 mg (milligrams) aspirin. For some women low-dose aspirin can help reduce the risk for preeclampsia. If your provider thinks you’re at risk for preeclampsia, he may want you to take low-dose aspirin to help prevent it. Make sure to talk to your provider to see if treatment with low-dose aspirin is right for you.

You can buy low-dose aspirin over-the-counter, or your provider can give you a prescription for it. If your provider wants you to take low-dose aspirin to help prevent preeclampsia, take it exactly as they tell you to. Don’t take more or take it more often than your provider says.

Am I at risk for preeclampsia?

Although we don’t know exactly what causes preeclampsia, there are some things (risk factors) that can make you more likely to have this condition than other women. You might be at higher risk for preeclampsia if:

  • You had preeclampsia before, in a previous pregnancy. The earlier in pregnancy you had preeclampsia, the higher your risk is to have it again in another pregnancy.
  • You are pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, or more).
  • You have high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or an autoimmune condition like lupus.

To diagnose preeclampsia, your provider measures your blood pressure and tests your urine for protein at every prenatal visit. If you’re at high risk for preeclampsia, your provider may want you to start taking low-dose aspirin after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

What are the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia?

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:

  • Swelling in the legs, hands or face.
  • Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week).
  • Headache that doesn’t go away.
  • Changes in vision, like blurriness, flashing lights, seeing spots or being sensitive to light.
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting or dizziness.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Pain in the upper right belly area or in the shoulder.

Remember, preeclampsia can happen during pregnancy, or after the baby is born (up to 6 weeks after baby’s birth). If you have even one sign or symptom, call your health care provider right away.

Weight gain and pregnancy: what’s right for you

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy is important. It can help protect your health and the health of your baby.

Why is weight gain during pregnancy important?

If you gain too little weight during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other women to have a premature baby or a baby with low birthweight.

If you gain too much weight during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other women to:

  • Have a premature baby. Premature babies may have health problems at birth and later in life.
  • Have a baby with fetal macrosomia. This is when your baby is born weighing more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Having a baby this large can cause complications, like problems during labor and heavy bleeding after birth.
  • Need a c-section.
  • Have trouble losing weight after your baby’s birth. This can increase your risk for health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

How much weight should you gain during pregnancy?

This depends on your health and your body mass index (also called BMI) before you get pregnant. BMI is a measure of body fat based on your height and weight. To find out your BMI, go to www.cdc.gov/bmi. Your provider will use your BMI before pregnancy to determine how much weight you should gain during pregnancy.

In general, if you’re pregnant with one baby:

  • If you were underweight before pregnancy, you want to gain about 28 to 40 pounds during pregnancy.
  • If you were at a healthy weight before pregnancy, you want to gain about 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.
  • If you were overweight before pregnancy, you want to gain about 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy.
  • If you were obese before pregnancy, you want to gain about 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy.

If you’re overweight or obese and are gaining less than the recommended amounts, talk to your provider. If your baby is still growing well, your weight gain may be fine.

Gaining weight slowly and steadily is best. Don’t worry too much if you don’t gain any weight in the first trimester, or if you gain a little more or a little less than you think you should in any week. You may have some growth spurts—this is when you gain several pounds in a short time and then level off. Don’t ever try to lose weight during pregnancy.

Just thinking about getting pregnant?

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, remember that it’s best to start your pregnancy at a healthy weight. You can make sure you’re at a healthy weight at your well-woman checkup (which can also be your preconception checkup). Did you know that your well-woman checkup is a preventive service and is covered by most insurance plans with no extra costs to you? Learn more about recommended preventive services that are covered under the Affordable Care Act at Care Women Deserve.