Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

CHDs and our babies

Monday, February 8th, 2016

BabyOnChest-When the month of February arrives, many people think of Valentine’s Day hearts and red flowers. February is also a time to raise awareness about another heart topic – congenital heart defects (CHDs).

Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Congenital heart defects are heart conditions that are present at birth. We’re not sure what causes most CHDs, but these defects can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works.

CHDs are the most common types of birth defects. Nearly 1 in 100 babies (about 1 percent or 40,000 babies) is born with a heart defect in the United States each year. They may be diagnosed before your baby is born, or soon after birth. Some CHDs are diagnosed much later in life.

There are different kinds of CHDs and their symptoms can be mild to severe. Treatment for each type of CHD depends on the heart defect. The seven most severe forms of CHD are called Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). Babies with CCHD need treatment within the first few hours, days or months of life.

Although the causes of most CHDs are not yet fully understood, certain medical conditions may play a role, such as diabetes, lupus, rubella, phenyletonuria (PKU) if not following the special diet, and being very overweight during pregnancy.

To become familiar with the different kinds of CHDs, possible causes, screenings and treatments, see our article.

As you send out a Valentine card or share in the spirit of love this week, consider learning and raising awareness about congenital heart defects. This condition affects the hearts of our smallest Valentines.

For information on where to find support and resources for your baby, please email or text us at AskUs@Marchofdimes.org

 

Understanding lead exposure

Friday, February 5th, 2016

water faucetYou have probably heard reports about lead being found in drinking water over the past few weeks. Lead is a metal. You can’t see, smell or taste lead, but it can be harmful to everyone, especially pregnant women and young children. You and your child can come in contact with lead by breathing it in from dust in the air, swallowing it in dust or dirt, or drinking it in water from pipes that are made of lead.

Here is some important information about lead:

High lead levels in the blood of pregnant women is associated with increased rates of preterm birth and other problems in their babies. Exposure to lead is more dangerous to children than to adults. About half a million to 1 million children in the United States have high levels of lead in their blood.

If you think your child has been exposed to lead from the water at home, tell your child’s health care provider. She can check your child’s blood for lead.

If you’re renting a home and are concerned about lead, talk to your landlord. He’s responsible for making repairs safely. If you need help talking to your landlord about lead, contact your local health department.

If you have lead pipes in your house or if you have well water, lead may get into your drinking water. Boiling water does not get rid of lead. If you think you have lead in your water:

  • Use bottled or filtered water for cooking, drinking and mixing baby formula.
  • If you’re using tap water, use cold water from your faucet for drinking and cooking. Water from the cold-water pipe has less lead and other harmful substances than water from the hot-water pipes.
  • Run water from each tap before drinking it or using it for cooking, especially if you haven’t run the water for a few hours. If the faucet hasn’t been used for 6 hours, run the water until you feel its temperature change.
  • Contact your local health department or water department to find out how to get pipes tested for lead. If you use well water, contact the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 for information on testing your well water and household for lead and other substances that can harm your health.

Our website has a lot more information about possible sources of lead and how you can minimize contact. If you have any concerns about lead exposure to lead, make sure you talk to your health care provider.

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

Anencephaly: causes, risks & what you can do

Monday, January 25th, 2016

About 1,206 pregnancies are affected by anencephaly each year in the U.S.

Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain, skull and scalp. As a baby’s neural tube develops and closes, it helps form the baby’s brain and skull, spinal cord, and back bones. Anencephaly is a type of neural tube defect (NTD) that happens if the upper part of the neural tube does not close all the way. A baby with anencephaly will be missing large parts of the brain that are necessary for thinking, hearing, vision, emotion and coordinating movement. Other parts of the brain are often not covered by bone or skin.

Babies born with anencephaly have reflexes such as breathing and response to touch and sound, however because of the severity of the condition, almost all babies with anencephaly die before birth or within a few hours or days after birth.

What causes anencephaly?

In most cases, the cause is unknown. Some cases are caused by a change in the baby’s genes or chromosomes. Anencephaly may also be caused by a combination of genes and other environmental factors. Scientists are continuing to study anencephaly in order to discover the causes.

What are the risk factors?

  • Low intake of folic acid before getting pregnant and in early pregnancy increases the risk of having a pregnancy affected by a NTD including anencephaly.
  • Babies born to Hispanic mothers are at an increased risk for anencephaly; reasons for the increased risk are not well understood.

How is anencephaly diagnosed?

  • During pregnancy: a woman can have screening tests done during her prenatal visits. Anencephaly would result in an abnormal result on a blood or serum screening test. Anencephaly might be seen during an ultrasound.
  • After a baby is born: anencephaly is immediately seen at birth.

Is there anything you can do to lower your risk?

Yes.

  • Take a multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and early in pregnancy. Make sure to take your multivitamin even if you are not thinking about becoming pregnant any time soon. Since the U.S. started requiring that folic acid be added to certain foods, there has been a 28% reduction in cases of babies born with NTDs.
  • If you are pregnant, make sure you go to all of your prenatal visits and eat a well-balanced diet
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking and talk to your provider about any medications or drugs you are taking.

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

 

What you need to know about birth defects

Monday, January 18th, 2016

snugglingEvery 4 ½ minutes in the US, a baby is born with a birth defect. That means that nearly 120,000 (or 1 in every 33) babies are affected by birth defects each year. They are a leading cause of death in the first year of life, causing one in every five infant deaths and they lead to $2.6 billion per year in hospital costs alone in the United States.

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body and can affect any part of the body (such as the heart, brain, foot, etc). They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.

There are thousands of different birth defects and they can be very mild or very severe. Some do not require any treatment, while others may require surgery or lifelong medical interventions.

What causes birth defects?

We know what causes certain birth defects. For instance, drinking alcohol while you are pregnant can cause your baby to be born with  physical birth defects and mental impairment. And genetic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease, are the result of inheriting a mutation (change) in a single gene. However, we do not know what causes the majority of birth defects. In most cases, it is a number of complex factors. The interaction of multiple genes, personal behaviors, and our environment all may all play a role.

Can we prevent birth defects?

Most birth defects cannot be prevented. But there are some things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chance of having a healthy baby:

  • See your healthcare provider before pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as you think you’re pregnant.
  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid reduces the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and “street” drugs.
  • Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications and any dietary or herbal supplements. Talk to your provider before you start or stop taking any type of medications.
  • Prevent infections during pregnancy. Wash your hands and make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
  • Make sure chronic medical conditions are under control, before pregnancy. Some conditions, like diabetes and obesity, may increase the risk for birth defects.
  • Learn about your family health history.

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

Three common folic acid myths

Friday, January 8th, 2016

pills-moon vitaminWe receive a lot of questions about folic acid. Here are three of the most common misconceptions people seem to have.

Myth #1: Folic acid reduces the risk for ALL birth defects.

TRUTH: Folic acid reduces the risk of certain birth defects.

Folic acid reduces the risk for a very specific type of birth defect called a neural tube defect (NTD). The neural tube is the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord. A NTD can happen when the neural tube doesn’t close completely. This results in birth defects such as anencephaly and spina bifida. If all women take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy, it may help reduce the number of pregnancies affected by NTDs by up to 70 percent.

Myth #2: Folic acid will help me to get pregnant.

TRUTH: Folic acid is important to take before pregnancy, but it will not help you to become pregnant.

Folic acid does not help a woman to conceive. However, it is recommended that ALL women take folic acid, even if they are not trying to get pregnant. This is because folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects only if it is taken BEFORE pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

The neural tube is one of the first structures that is formed in a developing embryo, therefore you need to make sure you are taking folic acid BEFORE you are pregnant. And because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it’s important that all women take folic acid every day, even if they are not planning to get pregnant. So take a multivitamin that has 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. Most multivitamins have this amount, but check the label to be sure.

Myth #3: I eat a healthy diet, so I can get enough folic acid from food.

TRUTH: It may be possible, but most women will not get enough from their diet.

Folic acid is naturally available in many fruits and vegetables, including:

  • Beans, like lentils, pinto beans and black beans
  • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and Romaine lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Peanuts (But don’t eat them if you have a peanut allergy)
  • Citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit

Many flours, breads, cereals, and pasta are fortified with folic acid, as well. This means they have folic acid added to them. You can look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” on the package to know if the product has folic acid in it.

However, it’s hard to get all the folic acid you need from food. And according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), your body only absorbs about 50 % of that. So even if you eat foods that have folic acid in them, make sure you take your multivitamin each day too.

Some women, like those who’ve had a pregnancy affected by NTDs or women with sickle cell disease, may need more folic acid. Talk to your provider to make sure you get the right amount.

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

Folic acid – why is it important?

Monday, January 4th, 2016

folic acid vitaminFolic acid is a B vitamin that promotes cell growth and helps prevent certain birth defects. It is Folic Acid Awareness Week – a great time to become familiar with how this vitamin can help you and your baby.

Your body needs to make new cells every day for blood, skin, hair and nails. Folic acid also plays an important role in helping red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body.

How can folic acid help your baby?

Folic acid helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects, if taken before pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy.  So it is helpful to get in the habit of taking a multi-vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, before you become pregnant.

Even if you are not planning to become pregnant, your body needs folic acid for normal growth and development.

What if you’re already pregnant?

Most pregnant women need to take a multi-vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid. Talk with your prenatal provider to see if this is the right dosage for you. A pregnant women needs extra folic acid throughout pregnancy to help produce the additional blood cells your body needs during pregnancy. Folic acid also supports the rapid growth of the placenta and fetus.

Can you get folic acid anywhere else?

Yes. Many foods have folic acid added to them. On packages of flour, breads, cereals and pastas, look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” – it means the product has folic acid added to it.

You can also get folic acid in its natural form – folate – in some fruits and vegetables. Folate can be found in spinach, black beans, peanuts and orange juice. Learn about the difference between folic acid and folate here.

Bottom line:

Even if you eat a well-balanced diet that includes fortified foods, fruits and veggies, it can still be hard to get enough folic acid every day.  By taking a multi-vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, you will be sure to get the amount you need.

 

Holiday fatigue

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

tired santaWell, the holiday season is coming to a close. We thought we’d share this post from last year about how to combat holiday fatigue if you are pregnant. Happy New Year!!

Holiday season is in full swing—we just have to make it to New Year’s Eve. I am exhausted. Traveling, family, kids, parties—it all adds up to a lot of late nights and early mornings. And if you are pregnant, you may be more tired than usual. This is especially true during the first and third trimesters, when your body is producing new hormones and getting ready for the many changes that will be coming soon.

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

  • Rest when you can during the day and try to take a few breaks to renew your energy.
  • Lots of family activities may leave you feeling drained at the end of the day. Go to bed early, if you can.
  • Don’t drink lots of fluids too close to bedtime. Hopefully then, you will not have to get up to go to the bathroom.
  • If you often have heartburn, make sure you do not lie down right after you eat. Try to eat your last meal a few hours before you go to bed.
  • To avoid leg cramps, gently stretch your leg muscles before bedtime.
  • A nice 30 minute walk can refresh and invigorate you (make sure your doctor has said exercise is OK). But do not get too much exercise right before bed.
  • Be sure to drink enough fluids—water is usually best.
  • Deep breathing and meditation can help you find a moment of peace when you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Try to limit unhealthy snacks. These can drain your energy. Fruits, vegetables, and foods high in iron and protein are good choices.
  • During this busy season, do not forget to take your prenatal vitamin. If you are anemic, ask your provider about an iron supplement.

You can read more about fatigue during pregnancy on our website. And if you have any questions, email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Holiday cocktails and spirits

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Holiday mocktailTis the season for yummy eats and alcoholic drinks. I was at a holiday party this past weekend and as wine was being passed around I noticed my friend was opening her own bottle. “What’s that?” I asked. And she replied “sparkling cider! I’m pregnant, so I’m not drinking alcohol” and we both poured some into our wine glasses, and enjoyed the night with our non-alcoholic beverages.

If you are pregnant, you know you need to stay away from alcohol, but that doesn’t mean you need to miss the party. Don’t be afraid to bring your own cooler of drinks with you – your friends may be asking to have some of yours.

Not sure what to bring? Here is an idea that is festive and works with almost any of your favorite fruits:

  • Select a festive glass, such as a flute champagne or martini glass.
  • Choose your favorite garnish – lemon, lime, mint leaves, cherries, diced apples or oranges.
  • Add seltzer or club soda along with your favorite fruit juice.

For a really fun treat, freeze cranberry, orange or pomegranate juice in ice cube trays and add to your drink. Voila!

Looking for more ideas? Check out our alcohol free bodacious beverages!

Antidepressant use and the risk of ASD

Friday, December 18th, 2015

medication bottlesA new study suggests that the use of antidepressants during pregnancy, specifically in the second and third trimesters, may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children.

While these findings help to add to our understanding of autism, it is important to recognize that this study does not prove that antidepressant use causes autism. It is difficult to determine whether the increased risk of ASD is the result of antidepressants or the result of the underlying depression.

Researchers looked at data from more than 145,000 births between 1998-2009. They found that when mothers took antidepressants during the second and third trimesters, the chance that the child would develop ASD was higher when compared to children whose mothers did not take antidepressants. Keep in mind that the overall risk of having a child with autism is 1%. This study suggests that the risk increases to 1.87% if a woman is taking certain antidepressants.

The increase was seen with a specific type of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medicines and include medications like citalopram (Celexa®), escitalopram (Lexapro®), fluoxetine (Prozac®), paroxetine (Paxil®) and sertraline (Zoloft®).

There are a number of causes of ASD but we don’t know all of them. More research is needed. However, there are some factors that we know increase the chance of ASD:

  • Having pregnancy complications. Some research shows that there may be a link between ASD and pregnancy complications that lead to low birthweight, premature birth or cesarean birth.
  • Taking certain prescription medicines, like valproic acid or thalidomide, during pregnancy. Taking these medicines during pregnancy has been linked with a higher risk of having a child with ASD.
  • Having an older parent. Babies born to older parents are more likely to have ASD.
  • Having genes linked to ASD. Researchers are studying a number of genes that may be linked to ASD. Children who have a brother or sister with ASD are more likely to have ASD themselves.
  • Having a genetic or chromosomal condition. ASD happens more often in children who also have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, like fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis.

Important:  If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant and are taking antidepressants, you should not stop taking them until you talk to your health care provider. Together you can look at the possible risks of these drugs on your baby as well as the risk of having your depression come back if you stop taking your medicine. Learn as much as you can about the medicines so you can make the best choice for you and your baby.

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

You’re pregnant, can you drink eggnog?

Monday, December 14th, 2015

eggnogThe answer is yes and no. It depends. Here’s the scoop:

Store-bought eggnog

Traditionally, eggnog was made with raw eggs, which is not good for pregnant women due to the health concerns of salmonella. Salmonella causes salmonellosis, a kind of food poisoning that can be dangerous during pregnancy . However, currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricts the use of raw eggs to less than 1% in products.

  • If you’re buying eggnog at the store, be sure to check the ingredient label to ensure it is egg-free or contains less than 1% egg product.
  • Also it is important that your eggnog be pasteurized. Pasteurization is a heat process that destroys salmonella that might be in eggs.

Homemade eggnog

Many families make a batch of home-made (and alcohol-free!) eggnog as part of their holiday traditions, but homemade eggnog causes many cases of salmonella each year due to raw or undercooked eggs. If you’re going to make your own eggnog, here are some tips:

  • Use egg substitute products or pasteurized eggs.
  • If you are using pasteurized eggs, the FDA recommends starting with a cooked egg base to ensure your safety.
    • To make a cooked egg base, combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe. (Other ingredients, such as sugar may be added at this step.) Cook the mixture gently to a temperature of 160°F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present. At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon. After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.

You can keep your eggnog holiday traditions, but remember to read all the labels on eggnog containers or carefully prepare your homemade eggnog.