Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Pregnant in the heat – can I get some sleep?

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

sleepingAs your belly is getting bigger, and the temperatures get hotter, your hours of sleep may be getting smaller. Lack of sleep is a common complaint we hear from pregnant women. Trying to get comfortable, rearranging pillows and having to get up to use the bathroom are only a few of the culprits that can cause lack of sleep.

But getting a good night’s sleep is crucial– just as important as eating nutritious food and drinking enough water. Eating, staying hydrated and sleeping are the foundations to good health and a happy pregnancy.

Trouble sleeping doesn’t just happen late in pregnancy; sleeplessness can happen right from the beginning. And if you’re experiencing hot summer temperatures and don’t have air conditioning, you may be feeling the heat, literally. No only that, the same pregnancy hormone that causes fatigue during the day can disrupt your sleep cycle at night. And if you have added anxiety or stress, this will only increase the problem.

So what can you do? here are a few tips to help you sleep through the summer heat:

  • The basement or bottom level of houses are usually the coolest – try setting up a temporary bed when the temps rise.
  • Wet a washcloth in cool water and place it around your neck.
  • Sleep with light, breathable sleepwear and sheets.
  • If you don’t have air conditioning in your house, use one or more fans to help you stay cool.

Between heat, bathroom trips and rearranging pillows, try to catch up on sleep where you can. Here are more tips on how to get your sleep in before baby comes.

For more information on how to get a restful night’s sleep, and when to see a doctor regarding possible sleep problems, see this handy guide.

Have questions?  Email or text AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Why is prenatal care so important?

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Doctor with pregnant woman during check-upGetting early and regular prenatal care can help you have a healthy and full-term pregnancy. However, a recent report shows that the preterm birth rate in the US has increased for the second year in a row. This is an alarming indication that the health of pregnant women and babies in our country is getting worse. As Stacey D. Stewart, president of the March of Dimes states, “Every mother needs healthcare throughout her pregnancy to help avoid preterm birth and birth complications, with the goal of every baby being born healthy.”

So, what can you do to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby? You should call your health care provider to schedule your first appointment as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Make sure you’re ready to talk to your provider about:

  • The first day of your last menstrual period (also called LMP). Your provider can use this to help find out your baby’s due date.
  • Health conditions. Such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and not being at a healthy weight. Conditions like these can cause problems during pregnancy. Tell your provider about your family health history.
  • Medicines. This includes prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, supplements and herbal products. Some medicines can hurt your baby if you take them during pregnancy, so you may need to stop taking it or switch to another medicine. Don’t stop or start taking any medicine without talking to your provider first. And tell your provider if you’re allergic to any medicine.
  • Your pregnancy history. Tell your provider if you’ve been pregnant before or if you’ve had trouble getting pregnant. Tell her if you’ve had any pregnancy complications or if you’ve had a premature baby (a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), a miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs and abusing prescription drugs. All of these can hurt your baby.
  • Stress. Stress is worry, strain or pressure that you feel in response to things that happen in your life. Talk to your provide about ways to deal with and reduce your stress. High levels of stress can cause complications during pregnancy.
  • Your safety at home and work. Tell your provider about chemicals you use at home or work and about what kind of job you have.

Make sure you go to all of your prenatal care appointments, even if you feel fine. Going to all of your checkups gives your provider the chance to make sure you and your baby are healthy and allows you to ask any questions you may have (write them down before your appointment so you don’t forget).

The March of Dimes work to give every baby a healthy start is more vital than ever. We urge everyone concerned about the health of babies to make their voices heard by going to marchofdimes.org.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

What you need to know about GBS

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

pregnant woman with doctorDuring your last trimester of pregnancy, you will get a test for group B strep (also called GBS). GBS is a common type of bacteria that can cause infection. Usually GBS is not serious for adults, but it can hurt newborns. It is important to get this test and know the results, so that you can protect your baby.

Who is at risk for GBS?

Many people carry GBS—in fact about 1 in 4 (25%) of pregnant women are carriers.  GBS bacteria naturally live in the intestines and the urinary and genital tracts. As an adult, you can’t get it from food, water or things you touch. You can’t catch it from another person, and you can’t get it from having sex. GBS in adults usually doesn’t have any symptoms. But sometimes it can cause minor infections, like a bladder or urinary tract infection (UTI).

However, when you are pregnant, if you have a GBS infection, it can be passed to your newborn during labor and delivery and it can make your baby very sick.

Testing and treatment for GBS

You prenatal care provider will test you for GBS at 35 to 37 weeks. The test is a simple swab of your vagina and rectum. If the results are positive, then you have GBS. Antibiotics can treat GBS but you must get them during labor and delivery. Your provider will give you the antibiotic through an IV. Treatment with antibiotics helps prevent your baby from getting the infection.

Penicillin is the best antibiotic for most women, but if you’re allergic to penicillin, your can get a different medicine.

It is not helpful to get treatment for GBS earlier in your pregnancy. The bacteria can return quickly, so you could have it again by the time you go into labor.

If you have GBS, remind your providers at the hospital when you go to have your baby. This way, you can be treated quickly. Treatment works best when it begins at least 4 hours before childbirth.

If you have GBS and you’re having a scheduled c-section before labor starts and before your water breaks, you probably don’t need antibiotics.

What are the chances I can pass GBS to my baby?

If you have GBS during childbirth and it’s not treated, there is a 1 to 2 in 100 chance (1 to 2 percent) that your baby will get the infection. The chances are higher if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Your baby is premature. This means your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Your water breaks (also called ruptured membranes) 18 hours or more before you have your baby.
  • You have a fever (100.4 F or higher) during labor.
  • You’ve already had a baby with a GBS infection.
  • You had a UTI during your pregnancy that was caused by GBS.

You can read more about GBS on our website.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Opioids and birth defects–an update

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Prescription opioids are painkillers your health care provider may prescribe if you’ve been injured or had surgery. Prescription opioids include:pills

  • Codeine and hydrocodone (brand name Vicodin®)
  • Fentanyl (brand name Actiq®, Duragesic®, Sublimaze®)
  • Morphine (brand names Kadian®, Avinza®)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
  • Tramadol (brand names ConZip®, Ryzolt®, Ultram®)

Heroin also is an opioid.

Using opioids during pregnancy can cause problems for your baby, including:

  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (also called NAS). NAS happens when a baby is exposed to a drug in the womb before birth and goes through withdrawal from the drug after birth. NAS most often is caused when a woman takes opioids during pregnancy. NAS can cause serious problems for a baby, like being born too small and having breathing problems. Even if you use an opioid exactly as your health care provider tells you to, it may cause NAS in your baby.
  • Birth defects.
  • Premature birth.
  • Preterm labor. Quitting opioids suddenly (going cold turkey) during pregnancy can cause preterm labor. Preterm labor can lead to premature birth.
  • Stillbirth.

Recently the CDC’s Treating for Two: Safer Medication Use in Pregnancy researchers reviewed a number of studies that had already been published regarding opioid use during pregnancy and birth defects. They found that the studies did show that using opioids during pregnancy may be linked to birth defects including cleft lip and cleft palate, congenital heart defects, and clubfoot. But many of the studies they looked at had problems with the way the study was done and the quality of the study.

According to the CDC, “More research is needed to understand the connections between individual types of opioids and specific birth defects. Until more is known, women of childbearing age and their healthcare providers should discuss risks and benefits when considering opioid treatment.”

If you are taking a prescription opioid, or any other medication during pregnancy remember:

  • Don’t take more medicine than your health care provider says you can take.
  • Don’t take it with alcohol or other drugs.
  • Don’t use someone else’s prescription medicine.

If you’re pregnant and need help to stop using opioids, taking drugs like methadone or buprenorphine may help you quit. These drugs can help you reduce your need for opioids in a way that’s safe for you and your baby. Talk to your health care provider to see if this kind of treatment is right for you.

If you need help to stop abusing prescription drugs, talk to your health care provider. Or contact:

Have questions? Send them to our Health Education Specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Q and A for CMV

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

bellyYou may have heard of CMV because it’s the most common virus passed from mothers to babies during pregnancy.

Cytomegalovirus, also called CMV, is a kind of herpesvirus. There are many different kinds of herpesviruses – some of which are sexually transmitted diseases, but others can cause cold sores or infections like CMV.

Q. Who gets it?

A. Many people get CMV at some point in their lives, most often during childhood. Most people with CMV have no signs or symptoms but some may have a sore throat, a fever, swollen glands, or feel tired all the time.

Q. Is CMV dangerous?

A. It can be  – CMV can pass to your baby at any time during pregnancy, labor and delivery and even while breastfeeding. If you have CMV during pregnancy, there is a 1 in 3 chance it will pass to your baby. Eighty percent of babies born with CMV never have symptoms or problems caused by the infection. But about fifteen percent of babies develop a disability such as hearing loss, vision loss or an intellectual disability like trouble learning or communicating.

Q. Can you find out if you or your baby have CMV?

A. Yes. You can have a blood test done during pregnancy to test for CMV. And you can have prenatal tests to see if your baby has CMV. After birth, your baby’s bodily fluids like her urine and saliva can be tested for CMV. Some babies with CMV will have signs or symptoms at birth, but many will appear healthy so testing is important.

Q. Is there any treatment?

A. Yes. If your baby was born with CMV, she may be treated with antiviral medicines to kill the infection. Scientists are working to develop a vaccine for CMV.

In the meantime, remember to always wash your hands well after being in contact with body fluids, when changing diapers or wiping noses, and carefully throw diapers and tissues away. Don’t kiss young children on the mouth or cheek and don’t share food, glasses and eating utensils with children or anyone who may have CMV. These precautions can help you protect yourself and your baby.

Q. If you had CMV in a previous pregnancy, what are the chances you may get it again in another pregnancy? See this post for answers.

If you think you may have (or had) CMV, be sure to talk to your prenatal care provider. See our article to learn more about CMV including treatments.

Questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Preeclampsia: Impact on mom and baby

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

May was Preeclampsia Awareness Month. We blogged about the signs, symptoms and causes of preeclampsia and how it may lead to premature birth. We also hosted a Twitter chat with Dr. Kjersti Aagaard of Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, which generated some follow-up questions.

We’re happy to welcome back Dr. Aagaard and her colleague Dr. Martha Rac as guest bloggers. Both doctors are maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Texas Children’s. They will share some insight into who is most at risk of developing preeclampsia and how it can impact both mom and baby.

First, we must ask, who is at the highest risk for developing preeclampsia?

 Risk factors for preeclampsia include:

  • First time mothers
  • Pregnancy with a new partner than previous pregnancies – different partners may have varying genetic factors that may increase preeclampsia risk
  • Older mothers (>35 years old)
  • Black women
  • Medical problems including chronic high blood pressure, kidney disease, lupus, diabetes and heart disease
  • Pregnancies with multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Obesity
  • Preeclampsia in prior pregnancies
  • IVF pregnancies – particularly those with donor eggs. This is thought to occur as a result of genetic differences between the mother and fetus, causing the mother’s immune system to attack the “foreign” fetal tissue and cause excess inflammation.

In addition to the risk factors above, mothers with pregnancies spaced too closely together or very far apart can be at risk. Too close may be defined as 18 months or less and far apart as 4-5 years between pregnancies.

How does preeclampsia affect pregnancy?

Preeclampsia is classified as either mild or severe based on a woman’s symptoms, and how severely it affects her organs. It is a progressive disorder, which means that mild cases will eventually develop into severe preeclampsia, if not treated.

Preeclampsia can be very dangerous to both the mother and the baby. The very high blood pressure associated with preeclampsia can result in anything from seizures, stroke, liver and kidney dysfunction, bleeding problems, placental detachment and even death if left untreated.

If a mother-to-be suspects she may be experiencing preeclampsia, she should contact her doctor immediately.

How does preeclampsia impact the baby?

 This dangerous disorder can cause the baby’s growth to be restricted and increases the risk of stillbirth. In the most severe cases, preterm delivery may be required which may then expose the baby to the complications of prematurity such as under-developed organs, breathing difficulties, jaundice, anemia, a lowered immune system, etc.

In the worst cases, fetal death can occur from a sudden detachment of the placenta from the uterus.

For these reasons, women diagnosed with preeclampsia undergo additional monitoring such as: ultrasounds every 4 weeks to evaluate fetal growth, lab work to determine if there is multi-organ involvement, etc. and delivery no later than 37 weeks.

If you are worried you are at risk of developing this dangerous disorder, please be sure to consult with your doctor and discuss your concerns immediately.

Dr. Kjersti AagaardDr. Martha Rac

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many thanks to Dr. Aagaard  (left) and Dr. Rac  (right) for contributing their expertise. 

If you have questions, send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

 

What’s one often forgotten, but very important, “must do” during pregnancy?

Monday, June 19th, 2017

teethThere are so many “do’s and don’ts” during pregnancy that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of them all. But one important “do” that sometimes gets overlooked is the need to keep up with oral care.

Somehow, brushing your teeth and going for regular dental cleanings seem to fall down on the list. But did you know that at-home and professional dental care are also important parts of a healthy pregnancy?

Pregnancy can affect dental health

During pregnancy, your changing hormones may affect the way your body reacts to plaque that builds up on your teeth. The result can be redness, swelling and bleeding gums called “pregnancy gingivitis.” In fact, nearly 70% of women experience gingivitis during pregnancy.

You also have more blood flowing through your body and more acid in your mouth when you are pregnant. All these changes mean you are more likely to have dental problems, such as loose teeth, gum disease, non-cancerous “pregnancy tumors” which form on your gums, tooth decay and even tooth loss. (See our article for more details on any of these dental issues.)

What’s the answer?

Consider oral care a “must do” on your healthy pregnancy list. Regular professional dental care as well as a good daily oral routine (brushing, flossing) are very important parts of your pregnancy.

Brushing your teeth is something that you’ve done since childhood. Even going to the dentist is something that (hopefully) you are doing regularly. Dental exams help to prevent tooth decay and gingivitis (gum inflammation), and let’s face it – your teeth look sparkly clean afterwards!

Bottom line

Take your prenatal vitamins, get plenty of rest, eat well, stay active, keep up with brushing your teeth, AND go to your prenatal and dental appointments.

Your smile and baby will thank you.

 

Have questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Heat and pregnancy – what’s dangerous and how to cope

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

heatIf you live in the northeast, you know we’ve been experiencing a heat wave. Just going from my car to the front door of the office seems too far to walk in this heat. If you’re pregnant, having an increased exposure to heat may cause problems for you or your baby.

Exposure to excessive heat affects people differently. When you are pregnant, your body works hard to cool you and your baby. So, if you are pregnant, you are more likely to develop a heat related illness sooner than someone who is not pregnant.

Heat illnesses occur when your body’s efforts to cool itself (eg. sweating) are no longer effective. Heat illnesses include a rash often known as “prickly heat,” cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion symptoms include a headache, nausea, dizziness, heavy sweating, weakness, thirst, being irritable, and having an increased body temperature.

Heat stroke is an emergency condition. It is when your body temperature goes above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms include hot and dry skin or extreme sweating, a rapid pulse, throbbing head-ache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, and seizures. If untreated, it could result in permanent organ damage or even death. Seek medical attention or contact 911 immediately if someone you know has these symptoms.

Prevention is key

It is important that you take steps to stay cool and prevent heat related conditions, especially if you are pregnant. Here’s how:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink water frequently. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Stay in rooms with air-conditioning.
  • Avoid going outdoors during peak heat hours (11am – 3pm).
  • If you must go outdoors, stay in the shade, limit your physical activity, and stay hydrated. Use a cold or wet cloth to cool down by putting it on the inside of your wrists or forehead so you don’t get too hot.

Keep kids out of the heat, too

One more thing…each year at about this time, we hear of children being left in a hot car “for just a few minutes.” Tragic deaths from heat stroke can occur from leaving a child in an overheated closed car for a very short while.

Never leave a child unattended in a closed car – NEVER.

Children don’t have the same chemical makeup as adults, making it harder for their bodies to regulate temperature. Take steps to protect your child from heat-related illnesses by setting reminders. Here are a few tips to prevent a tragedy, from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Get outdoors but know how to protect yourself

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Family walking outdoorsTomorrow is National Get Outdoors Day. Now that the weather has warmed up, getting outside is a welcomed change in most parts of the country.

But getting outdoors has its own set of challenges – from bug bites to sunburn. Here’s a quick rundown on how to stay safe when heading outdoors, especially if you’re pregnant.

Bugs that bite and spread diseases

Ticks – In many areas of the country, especially wooded areas or places with high grass, Lyme disease is spread by ticks. Untreated Lyme disease can have cause complications during pregnancy.

Mosquitos – If you’re traveling, be sure to check the CDC’s map to see if the Zika virus is active in the area where you are heading. The Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites and through body fluids like blood or semen. If you’re pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, don’t visit a Zika-affected area. Zika virus during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.

What should you do?

Use an insect repellant (a product that keeps insects from biting you), like bug spray or lotion, that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (also called EPA). All EPA-registered bug sprays and lotions are checked to make sure they’re safe and work well.

Make sure the product contains one or more of these substances that are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, IR3535 and 2-undecanone. If the product contains DEET, make sure it has at least 20 percent (20%) DEET.

Don’t put bug spray or lotion on your skin under clothes. If you use sunscreen, put it on before the spray or lotion.

If you have children: Most bug sprays and lotions are safe to use on babies 2 months and older, but don’t use products that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years. Don’t put the spray or lotion on your baby’s hands or near her eyes or mouth. Don’t put the spray or lotion on cut, sore or sensitive skin.

Protect yourself from the sun

Nothing will stop your outdoor fun faster than a nasty sunburn. Sunscreen is important whenever you are outside, especially if you are pregnant. During pregnancy your skin is more sensitive to sunlight than it was before pregnancy. The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation (UV) which can increase the risk of skin cancer, give you a bad burn and increase signs of aging.

What can you do?

Before heading outside, lather up with a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Use only products that have UVA and UVB or Broad Spectrum protection products. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading outdoors and reapply every 2 hours.

If you’re sensitive to sunscreens, try one with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as they are not as irritating to the skin. You can also cover up by wearing long sleeves and pants, and a wide brimmed hat.

Don’t use products that combine bug repellant with sunscreen. It’s important to reapply sunblock every two hours. If you use a combination product, you’ll be reapplying the bug repellant chemicals as well – not good. Too much bug repellant can be toxic. So, to be on the safe side, keep these products separate, or use the combination product once, and then apply sunblock only every two hours afterward.

Don’t choose a product with retinyl palmitate, especially if you are pregnant. This type of vitamin A has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer and is associated with birth defects.

Check the expiration date and don’t use it if it is expired. If your sunscreen does not have a date, write one on your bottle after purchasing. Sunscreens retain their original strength for three years.

Here are tips for keeping your baby safe while outdoors.

With a little planning and care, you can get outdoors and enjoy yourself tomorrow. Enjoy!

 

Too much? Too little? Or just right?

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

pregnant-woman-on-weight-scale-shrunkWeight gain seems to always be one of the topics of conversation for pregnant women. “How much should I gain?” “How do I stay healthy?” Turns out, how much weight you gain during pregnancy is very important.

Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy can help protect your health and the health of your baby. And gaining too much or too little can be harmful.

So how much weight gain is recommended?

Your health care provider uses your body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy to figure out how much weight you should gain during pregnancy. BMI is your body fat based on your height and weight.

  • Underweight = BMI less than 18.5
  • Healthy weight = BMI 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight = BMI 25 to 29.9
  • Obese = BMI more than 30

If you’re pregnant with one baby, the recommendations are as follows:

  • 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.

And while you don’t want to gain too much or too little weight, don’t ever try to lose weight during pregnancy. If you have questions about healthy weight gain during pregnancy, talk to your health care provider.