Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Food on the Fourth–safe eating tips

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

picnicFoodborne illness can be extremely dangerous—especially for pregnant women and young children. Symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea and fever, can become life-threatening.

So if you will be celebrating the 4th of July with family, friends, and a cookout, remember to keep foods fresh and safe. Here are some important safety tips:

Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water before eating, and remove surface dirt with a scrub brush, cutting away any damaged sections, which can contain bacteria.

Cook foods to their proper temperature. See the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart for details on cooking meats, poultry, eggs, leftovers, and casseroles.

Chill foods that need to be kept cool if you will be outside for long periods. Foods made with mayo, such as pasta or potato salads, need to be kept cold and out of the sun. Or try using a recipe for an olive oil-based dressing. These will keep fresher longer.

Refrigerate any leftovers a.s.a.p., and never eat cooked food that has been out of the refrigerator longer than two hours. At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. The more bacteria there are, the greater the chance you could become sick. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.

If you’re pregnant, be sure to read more about foods to avoid or limit during pregnancy. And have a safe, happy, and healthy 4th of July weekend!

Screening vs. diagnostic testing—what’s the difference?

Friday, June 26th, 2015

DoctorPregnant_zps3ac96800If you are pregnant, you know that every visit to your prenatal care provider involves a number of tests. At each prenatal checkup, your provider checks your weight, blood and urine. But in addition to these routine tests, you will also be offered prenatal tests that can assess your risk to have a baby with certain birth defects.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all pregnant women, regardless of age, be offered prenatal testing for Down syndrome and some other birth defects. There are two different types of tests that you can have: a screening test or a diagnostic test. It’s important to understand the difference between a screening test and a diagnostic test. Screening tests help evaluate the risk for certain birth defects, but they cannot diagnose a birth defect. Screening tests pose no risk to mother or baby. Diagnostic tests are highly accurate at diagnosing or ruling out specific birth defects. However, these tests may pose a very small risk of miscarriage.

Screening tests offered during pregnancy include:

  • Cell-free fetal DNA testing (also called noninvasive prenatal screening or testing): Some of your baby’s cells can be found in your blood. This test uses a sample of your blood to look at your baby’s DNA to check for certain genetic conditions. You can have this test after 10 weeks of pregnancy. This test is not recommended for women who aren’t likely to have a baby with a birth defect or who are pregnant with multiples.
  • First-trimester screening: Using a blood sample and ultrasound measurements, first-trimester screening can tell you if your baby is at risk for some birth defects, like Down syndrome. It is usually done between 11 to 13 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Maternal blood screening: This test measures four substances in your blood to determine the chance that a woman has a baby with certain birth defects like Down syndrome and neural tube defects. The test is done between 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Diagnostic tests are done by obtaining samples of your baby’s actual cells and therefore are more invasive. Diagnostic testing can detect most birth defects caused by a change in the number or shape of chromosomes. And testing for many inherited disorders can be done as well. However, not all birth defects can be detected.

Some women may choose to have diagnostic testing done instead of screening tests based on their age or family history. Other women may choose to start with a screening test and then, depending on the results, decide whether to have a diagnostic test. Prenatal diagnostic tests do carry a small risk of miscarriage (about 1 in 300-500).

  • Chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS): During this procedure, the doctor removes a small sample of tissue from the placenta. This can either be done transvaginally or transabdominally. You can get CVS at 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Amniocentesis (also called amnio): Your health care provider will use a needle to remove a small amount of amniotic fluid. Amnio is done between 15 to20 weeks of pregnancy.

Remember, all of these tests are optional. Make sure that you discuss your questions and concerns with your health care provider.

Questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

The safer choice

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

saferchoice labelWhen I go to the store to buy cleaning products, I often find myself standing in the aisle looking at all the different bottles not knowing which one to buy. There are different brands, colors, scents and a different product for each room in your house. It’s hard to know which one to buy and which products are safe.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has come out with a new labeling system that may make decisions easier. The new product label will help you select products that have safer chemical ingredients with an option for fragrance-free, and maintain a high standard for quality.

What does the label mean for pregnant women?

It is EPA’s mission to protect your health while also helping to protect the environment. EPA’s new labeling system will make it easier for you to choose products that do just that. If you see their label on a bottle, it means that product meets EPA’s Safer Choice Standard and has passed rigorous human health and environmental criteria. The new label means each ingredient is among the safest and the packaging is environmentally friendly. Under the Safer Choice label, all ingredients must be included on the product or on the manufacturer’s website (other manufacturers are not required to list their ingredients or make them public.)

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, it’s important you choose cleaning products that are safe for you. Products that have the label are safer for fish and other aquatic life, do not pollute the air or water and do not add harmful chemicals to the land. The ingredients in these products have also been tested to see if they are associated with causing cancer or reproductive harm, and if the chemical can accumulate in human tissue or the environment.

Where to find Safer Choice products

About 2,250 products qualify for the new label. You can find Safer Choice products in most of the stores where you already purchase cleaning and household products.

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

Shingles, kids and pregnant women – know the facts

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Many pregnant women have written to us expressing concern about being exposed to a family member who has shingles. Usually it is their parent or grandparent, or another older adult who has the virus. However, did you know that children can get shingles, too?

When my daughter was in fourth grade, she came home from school with a tiny rash on her back about the size of a quarter, complaining of pain and exhaustion. I had never seen a rash like that before; it was a little clump of tiny bumps. Sure enough, her pediatrician diagnosed it as shingles. I was shocked, as I never associated shingles with kids. Although it isn’t common, it does happen, and the risk of getting singles increases with age. My daughter had a mild case, and after about 2 weeks she was on the mend. She was lucky – it can be very painful and last longer.

What causes shingles?

Shingles (formally known as Herpes Zoster) is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Only someone who has had chickenpox – or, rarely, has gotten the chickenpox vaccine – can get shingles, according to the CDC. The chickenpox virus stays in your body and can re-appear at a later date, often many years later. When it reappears, it does not return as chickenpox – it comes back as shingles.

How common is shingles?

My daughter had chickenpox (the disease) when she was four years old. At that time, the vaccine was not yet available. It is far less common to develop shingles if your child has had the chickenpox vaccine. By vaccinating your child against chickenpox you will decrease her chances of getting shingles later in life.

At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles. Shingles is far more common in people 50 years of age and older. It also occurs more in people whose immune systems are weakened because of a disease such as cancer, or drugs such as steroids or chemotherapy.

Can you catch shingles from someone who has shingles?

No, you can’t catch shingles from another person who has shingles. However, a person who has never had chickenpox (or the chickenpox vaccine) could get chickenpox from someone with shingles. However, this is not very common. Shingles is not spread through the air and infection can only occur after direct contact with the rash when it is in the blister-phase. A person with shingles is not contagious before the blisters appear or after they scab over.

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant…

• First, get a blood test to find out if you’re immune to chickenpox. If you’re not immune, you can get a vaccine. It’s best to wait 1 month after the vaccine before getting pregnant.

• If you’re already pregnant, don’t get the vaccine until after you give birth. In the meantime, avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or shingles.

• If you’re not immune to chickenpox and you come into contact with someone who has it, tell your provider right away. Your provider can treat you with medicine that has chickenpox antibodies. It’s important to get treatment within 4 days after you’ve come into contact with chickenpox to help prevent the infection or make it less serious.

• Tell your provider if you come in contact with a person who has shingles. Your provider may want to treat you with an antiviral medication.

What does all this mean for your child?

• If you think your child may have shingles, contact her health care provider. Prompt treatment may shorten the duration and keep pain to a minimum.

• Get your child the chickenpox vaccine to protect her against chickenpox, and so that she has a far less chance of getting shingles in the future.

Learn more about shingles exposure and chickenpox during pregnancy.

 

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

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

 

 

Vaccine during pregnancy protects your baby after birth

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Mom kissing her babyToday we welcome guest blogger Melissa Gambatese, MPH, Research Analyst in the Perinatal Data Center here at the March of Dimes. She offers an update on how a vaccine during pregnancy can keep your baby healthy when she is born.

 

When a new baby is born, we are so careful to protect her in every way. We wash our hands before holding her, tip toe past her room so as not to wake her, and swaddle her to keep her warm from the cold. However, one protection we may not think of is as simple and quick as a vaccination before she is even born.

Vaccines help protect us from diseases throughout life, from infancy to adulthood. But did you know that mothers can pass on the protection from some vaccines to their new baby before birth? The Tdap vaccine is one of them.

What is the Tdap vaccine?

The Tdap vaccine protects you from three diseases called tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Tetanus is caused by bacteria that attacks the nervous system. You can get tetanus through a break in your skin, like a cut or a splinter, but not from another person. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and diphtheria are highly contagious diseases caused by bacteria that are spread through coughing and sneezing.

Babies who get whooping cough can become very sick, and in rare cases, may die. The number of cases of whooping cough has been increasing since the 1980s. In 2012, more than 48,000 cases were reported. There is currently an outbreak in Washington state. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your new baby from getting the disease.

Who should get the Tdap vaccine?

Pregnant women

If you’re pregnant, you should get vaccinated during the 3rd trimester of your pregnancy. Get the vaccine every time you are pregnant, even if you’ve been vaccinated before. The protection from a previous vaccine can wear off over time, and a blood test cannot determine if you are still protected from a vaccine received earlier in your life.

Recently, the CDC published that, in 2011, only 55.7% of women in 16 states reported they received the Tdap vaccine before, during, or after their most recent pregnancy. Women who started prenatal care earlier were more likely to report they received the vaccine.

The Tdap vaccine is safe to receive during pregnancy; a recent study found that women who received the vaccine during pregnancy did not experience any increase in poor pregnancy outcomes than unvaccinated women. Talk to your health care provider-the best time to get the vaccine is during the 27th through 36th week of pregnancy. This ensures that you pass your protection on to your baby, which will help keep her safe until she is able to get her own pertussis vaccination at 2 months of age.

Brand new moms

If you did not get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, you should get the vaccine immediately after you give birth, before you leave the hospital or birthing center. It will take your body two weeks after receiving the vaccine to build up protection. You will then be less likely to pass whooping cough to your baby. New moms should get vaccinated even if you’ve been vaccinated before, because the protection from a previous vaccine wears off over time.

Relatives, close friends, and caregivers

Anyone who is around babies should get the Tdap vaccine, especially adults living in the same household as your baby. This includes grandparents, siblings, and other caregivers.

Whether you’re pregnant, a new mom, relative, close friend, or caregiver to a baby, talk to your health care provider about the Tdap vaccine. It’s just one more way we can protect our babies.

 

Summer safety

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

keeping-your-baby-safe-in-the-sun_rdax_50Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. If you are pregnant or have little ones at home, there are a lot of safety concerns to think about as the warmer weather approaches.

Food:

Keep these safety tips in mind when preparing foods that are frequently associated with food-borne illness:
• CLEAN: Wash hands and food preparation surfaces often. And wash fresh fruits and vegetables carefully.
• SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate!  When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.
• COOK: Cook to proper temperature. See the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart for details on cooking meats, poultry, eggs, leftovers, and casseroles. After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs.
• CHILL: At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. The more bacteria there are, the greater the chance you could become sick. Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying

Sun:

Sunscreen is important for everyone! 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.

And a baby’s skin is thin and burns much more easily than an older child’s skin. This is especially true for babies younger than 6 months.

Here’s how you can stay safe in the sun:
• Do your best to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are the strongest. If your baby is younger than 6 months, it is best to keep her in the shade and out of direct sunlight.
• Make sure that both of you wear a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses. Look for sunglasses that have 99 percent UV protection.
• Dress everyone in lightweight clothes that cover arms and legs.
• Wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days. And reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. If you are at the beach or the pool, reapply more frequently. Water and sand increase sun exposure due to the reflection of the sun off these surfaces.

Water:

Did you know that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old? And it’s the third leading cause of injury-related death among children 19 and under. Here are some tips for keeping your baby safe around the water:
• Never leave your child unattended around water. Babies can drown in as little as one inch of water.
• Avoid all distractions—including your cell phone! Young children need all of your attention when they are near or around water.
• Invest in proper-fitting, Coast Guard-approved flotation devices (life vests). For kids younger than 5 years old, choose a vest with a strap between the legs and head support.
• Learn CPR. It is a great skill to know. You can usually find programs in your community.

Remember these summer safety tips and enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Epilepsy and pregnancy

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

speak to your health care providerEvery year in the US, approximately 20,000 women with a seizure disorder give birth. Most of these pregnancies are healthy. But there are a few additional concerns that women who have epilepsy must consider when thinking about getting pregnant.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time. Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain activity that cause changes in attention or behavior. Epilepsy is a specific type of seizure disorder.

People with epilepsy are usually prescribed medication to help to control seizures. These are known as antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). There are a number of different types of AEDs and they are prescribed depending on age, the type of seizure, and the side effects of the medications. Some individuals with epilepsy may need more than one AED to control their seizures.

Can epilepsy cause problems during pregnancy?

If you have epilepsy and are thinking about getting pregnant, there are a few important things that you need to consider.

  • Women who have epilepsy have an increased chance to have a baby with a birth defect compared to women who do not have epilepsy. This may be the result of the epilepsy or the AEDs used to control seizures. Some AEDs have been associated with an increased risk of cleft lip and palate, neural tube defects, and heart defects.
  • Pregnancy can cause a change in the number of seizures. Most women with epilepsy will have no change in the number of seizures they experience or they will have fewer seizures during pregnancy. A few women will experience more seizures.

Controlling seizures during pregnancy is very important. Having a seizure during pregnancy can cause problems for you and your baby. Seizures during pregnancy can cause:

  • Decreased oxygen to the baby and fetal heart rate deceleration during the seizure.
  • Injury to the baby as a result of any falls or trauma experienced during the seizure. This can include premature separation of the placenta from the uterus (placental abruption) or miscarriage.
  • Preterm labor
  • Premature birth

Should you continue to take anti-seizure medications during pregnancy?

Many women with epilepsy are concerned about taking their AEDs during pregnancy. But according to ACOG, “Because there are serious risks associated with having a seizure during pregnancy and because the potential risk of harm to your baby from taking AEDs is small, experts recommend that seizures be controlled with AEDs, if necessary, during pregnancy. However, the type, amount, or number of AEDs that you take may need to change.”

Will you need any special care during your pregnancy?

One of the most important things that any woman can do to have a healthy pregnancy is to schedule a preconception checkup. If you have epilepsy, it is important to talk to your prenatal care provider as well as your neurologist prior to getting pregnant. Here are some other things to consider:

Before pregnancy:

  •  Review your seizure medications with both your prenatal provider and your neurologist. If changes need to be made, it is better to do this prior to getting pregnant.
  • Take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. Talk to your health care team about how much folic acid is right for you.
  • Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and avoid cigarettes, alcohol.

During pregnancy:

  • Plan for additional visits to your health care providers. Medication levels will need to be monitored to make sure they stay consistent.
  • Talk to a genetic counselor about prenatal testing.
  • Most women with a seizure disorder can have a vaginal birth.
  • Women with epilepsy are encouraged to breastfeed. Talk to your health care team.

If you have epilepsy, planning and working with your health care team can help to ensure that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

How much weight should I gain?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

During pregnancy, you need to gain a healthy amount of weight to support your growing baby. In this video, Dr. Siobhan Dolan talks about how much weight you should gain and what to do during pregnancy to maintain a healthy weight for you and your baby. It’s important to learn how gaining too much or too little weight can cause problems for your baby including premature birth. Don’t forget to talk to your provider about what is right for you.

Can your meds cause drug withdrawal in your baby?

Friday, May 15th, 2015

pillsNeonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a group of conditions a newborn can have if he’s exposed to addictive street or prescription drugs before birth. If you take drugs during pregnancy, they can pass through the placenta to your baby. After birth, the baby is still dependent on the drug, however, now that the drug is no longer available, the baby experiences drug withdrawal. Today, one of the most common causes of NAS is maternal use or abuse of opioids during pregnancy.

Using these drugs during pregnancy can cause NAS:

• Opioids, including the prescription medicines codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin®), morphine (Kadian®, Avinza®) and oxycodone (Oxycontin®, Percocet®). The street drug heroin also is an opioid.
• Barbiturates, like phennies, yellow jackets and Amytal®
• Benzodiazepines, like sleeping pills, Valium® and Xanax®

Signs and symptoms of NAS:

• Body shakes (tremors), seizures (convulsions), overactive reflexes (twitching) and tight muscle tone
• Fussiness, excessive crying or having a high-pitched cry
• Poor feeding, poor sucking or slow weight gain
• Breathing fast
• Fever, sweating or blotchy skin
• Trouble sleeping and yawning frequently
• Diarrhea or vomiting  (throwing up)
• Stuffy nose or sneezing

Signs and symptoms of NAS can be different for every baby. Symptoms may appear within a few minutes after birth or as much as two weeks later. NAS can last from 1 week to 6 months after birth.

Testing and treatment:

Your provider can see if your baby has NAS by testing his first bowel movement or urine. Your provider can also use what is called a neonatal abstinence scoring system which gives points for each NAS symptom depending on how severe it is. Treatment can include medicines to manage severe withdrawal symptoms, getting fluids through a needle into the vein, or giving higher-calorie baby formula to newborns that have trouble feeding or slow growth.

How can I prevent NAS?

If you’re pregnant and you use any of the drugs that can cause NAS, tell your health care provider right away. But don’t stop taking the drug without getting treatment from your provider first. Quitting suddenly (sometimes called cold turkey) can cause severe problems for your baby, including death.

If you’re addicted to opioids, medication-assisted treatment (also called MAT) during pregnancy can help your baby. NAS in babies may be easier to treat for babies whose moms get MAT during pregnancy. Medicines used in MAT include methadone and buprenorphine.

Even if you use a prescription drug exactly as your provider tells you to, it may cause NAS in your baby. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, talk to your provider about any drug or medicine you are taking.

Our website has more information on where you can find help.

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

Getting healthy between pregnancies

Friday, May 8th, 2015

snugglingAre you getting ready to celebrate Mother’s Day? Flowers, handmade cards, and breakfast in bed are all lovely gifts. But one of the most important things that you can do as a mom is to give yourself the gift of a healthy pregnancy. If you are planning to have another baby sometime in the future, start now to make sure that your body is ready.

The interconception period is the time between the end of one pregnancy and the beginning of another pregnancy. This time between pregnancies allows you and your provider to address any risk factors that may have contributed to prior pregnancy complications, including premature birth, preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.

Here are some things to consider during the interconception period:

  • Birth spacing: Before getting pregnant again, it is best to wait at least 18 to 23 months. This gives your body time to recover from the previous pregnancy.
  • Preexisting medical conditions: Diabetes or high blood pressure can affect your pregnancy. Making sure these conditions are under control before you get pregnant again is very important. Now is the time to alter any medication dosages or change prescriptions completely. It is also the time to modify any lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your condition.
  • Weight: Trying to get to a healthy weight before pregnancy is very important. Being overweight or not weighing enough can affect your ability to conceive. And if you’re at a healthy weight before pregnancy, you’re less likely than women who weigh too little or too much to have serious complications during pregnancy.
  • Smoking: When you smoke during pregnancy, you pass harmful chemicals through the placenta and umbilical cord into your baby’s bloodstream. This can cause health problems for your baby. Being exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with low birthweight. And secondhand smoke also is dangerous to your baby after birth. Try to quit smoking before getting pregnant again.
  • Family history: Your family health history can help you and your provider look out for health problems that may run in your family and it may help to find the cause of any past pregnancy problems.
  • Getting enough folic acid: Finally, make sure you continue to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. All women of child-bearing age, even if they’re not trying to get pregnant, should take folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects but only if taken before pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman may even know she’s pregnant. Because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it’s important that all women take folic acid every day.

All of us here at News Moms Need wish you a very happy and healthy Mother’s Day!

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.