Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Painkillers and pregnancy don’t mix

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

pregnant2Did you know that a significant number of women of childbearing age fill prescriptions for narcotic painkillers each year? If a woman becomes pregnant while taking these medications, she is at an increased risk of having a baby with birth defects.

Opioid-based (narcotic) pain medications, such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine, are used to treat moderate to severe pain. Many women are unaware that the use of these medications during pregnancy, even when used as directed, may increase their chance to have a baby with a serious birth defect of the brain, spine, or heart. They also have an increased risk of preterm birth.  Use of opioid-based painkillers during pregnancy can also cause babies to suffer withdrawal symptoms when they are born. This is a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS, and it is a growing problem in U.S. birthing hospitals.

A new report from the CDC found that on average, about 28% of privately insured and 39% of Medicaid-enrolled women of child-bearing age filled a prescription for an opioid between 2008-2012.

Since half of all pregnancies are unplanned, women may be prescribed opioid-based pain medications before they know they are pregnant.  “This highlights the importance of promoting safer alternative treatments, when available for women of reproductive age. We must do what we can to protect babies from exposure to opioids,” stated Coleen A. Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, Director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD).

“If you are using an opioid painkiller, you should also be practicing effective birth control, “ says José F. Cordero, MD, MPH, a pediatrician, birth defects expert formerly at CDC, and member of the March of Dimes Board of Trustees. “If you decide to get pregnant or do become pregnant, tell your health care provider about all the medications you are taking, right away. You may be able to switch to a safer alternative.”

The CDC’s Treating for Two: Safer Medication Use in Pregnancy initiative offers information to women and their healthcare providers about medication use during pregnancy. Go here to get more information.

Birth Defects: What have we learned?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Birth defects prevention month CDC guest postSpecial thanks to Coleen Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, Director, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for today’s guest post.

Each January, in recognition of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we at CDC strive to increase awareness about birth defects and reflect upon all that we have learned so far.  We know what causes some birth defects, such as Down syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. However, for many birth defects, the causes are unknown.

The good news is that, through research, we’ve learned a lot about what might increase or decrease the risk for birth defects. For example, we know that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Taking certain medications, having uncontrolled diabetes, and smoking cigarettes are all things that can increase the risk for birth defects. We also know that getting enough folic acid, a B vitamin, starting at least one month before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy lowers the risk of having a baby with a major birth defect of the brain or spine.

Each of these research findings represents a building block, a step toward healthy birth outcomes. Understanding the potential causes of birth defects can lead to recommendations and policies to help prevent them. A great example of this is the research on folic acid, which led to the recommendation that all women who can become pregnant should get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This important research also contributed to the evidence needed to add folic acid to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals.

These building blocks start to form our foundation for understanding birth defects and help us identify what we still need to study in the future. While we have a learned a lot, much work remains. We at CDC continue to study the causes of birth defects, look for ways to prevent them, and work to improve the lives of people living with these conditions and their families.

To learn more about birth defects research, we invite you to join us at 1PM EST on January 20, 2015 for CDC’s live webcast titled “Understanding the Causes of Major Birth Defects: Steps to Prevention.” Experts in birth defects research will present an overview of current and historical efforts to understand the causes of major birth defects. They will also discuss the challenges in turning research findings into effective prevention. For more information on the upcoming session, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/cdcgrandrounds/.

This year, we encourage you to become an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention Month.  Post facts about birth defects marked by the hashtag #1in33 on social media or share your story and how birth defects affect you and your family. Join us in a nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes and their impact.

 

 

Make a PACT to prevent birth defects

Friday, January 9th, 2015

MOD woman eatingEach year in the United States, about 120,000 babies (1 in 33) are affected by 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. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chances of having a healthy baby.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month and this year’s theme is “Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects—Make a PACT for Prevention.” If you are thinking of having a baby, follow this PACT:

Plan ahead:
• Get as healthy as you can before becoming pregnant.
• Make sure you are taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Studies show that if all women in the United States took the recommended amount of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects (NTDs) could be prevented. Folic acid also may help prevent other birth defects, including cleft lip/palate and some heart defects.

Avoid harmful substances:
• Do not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use street drugs.
• Make sure you are aware of any harmful exposures at work or home and do your best to avoid them.

Choose a healthy lifestyle:
• Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean proteins.
• Exercise and stay physically active.
• Make sure you work with your health care provider to get any pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, under control and managed.

Talk to your doctor:
• Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy and make sure you go to all of your prenatal visits during pregnancy.
• Discuss all medications you are taking with your doctor. This includes both prescription meds and over-the counter medicines.
• Review your family health history.

So this year, make a PACT to prevent birth defects by following these healthy guidelines. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s website has more information.

How to combat holiday fatigue

Friday, December 26th, 2014

tired santaHoliday 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.

Traveling this winter? Be prepared

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

winter blizzardThe holidays are upon us and I’m spending them with friends and family near and far, well, mostly far. I’m starting to plan for my upcoming trip and today I realized the pressure in my tires was low. Thankfully I keep a tire pump in my car so I was able to put air in my tires and be on my way. It’s important to make sure you and your family are ready to hit the roads this holiday season and to be prepared for all kinds of winter weather. Here are some tips to help get you on your way safely.

Prepare your car

• Service the radiator
• Check your antifreeze level
• Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.
• Check the tire pressure or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires.
• Try to maintain a full tank of gas to avoid ice in the tank and long fuel lines.

Keep a winter emergency kit in your car that contains:

• Blankets
• Food and water
• Tire pump, booster cables, map, a bag of sand or cat litter for traction
• Flashlight
• Phone charger
• Snow shovel, brush and ice scraper
• Extra baby items, such as diapers, wipes, food, toys and extra clothing

If you are pregnant

• It is important to stay hydrated and have healthy snacks on hand in case you get hungry. Traveling during wintertime can cause unexpected delays, so keep extra water and snacks in your car  to help you make it through any traffic holdup.

If you have little ones

• Before you head out, make sure you strap your little one in his car seat properly. Buckle up and follow our guide to make sure your child is safe and secure.

Check the weather forecast and stay in touch

• Check the weather forecast before your travel so you can dress appropriately. Knowing the temperature and wind chill can help you and your little one avoid hypothermia, frostbite and wind chill. If a storm is coming, try to minimize your travel.
• If you do have to drive somewhere, let someone know when you leave your house and when you expect to arrive. Bridges and overpasses ice over first, so try to stay on main roads and avoid shortcuts.

Whether you are traveling near or far this winter, being prepared will help you travel and arrive safely.

Chickenpox, vaccinations and Angelina Jolie

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

VaccineAngelina Jolie coming down with chickenpox is a good reminder for all of us to keep our vaccinations up to date! Chickenpox, also called varicella, is caused by a virus. Its symptoms include an itchy rash, blisters and fever. And before the varicella vaccine, people usually got chickenpox during childhood. Now, most kids get the vaccine in the first few years of life.

As a kid, I remember getting chickenpox along with several others in my kindergarten class. And as itchy and uncomfortable as I was, I still didn’t get it as bad as my little sister did years later – in fact, she got it twice, but that’s rare! Come to think of it, my sister was slammed three times by the virus when she got shingles last year. That’s right – the virus that causes chickenpox can also cause shingles later in life.

For most of us who were “lucky” enough to catch chickenpox in childhood, we probably don’t have to worry about getting chickenpox in adulthood, like Mrs. Pitt. But if you’ve never had chickenpox or aren’t sure, talk to your provider about getting the varicella vaccine, especially if you’re thinking about getting pregnant. Having chickenpox during pregnancy may cause some babies to get congenital varicella syndrome, a group of birth defects. Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy, so it’s best to get the varicella vaccine before getting pregnant.

In the meantime, here’s hoping Angelina has a speedy recovery!

Prescription drugs: new FDA labeling rules will help pregnant women

Friday, December 5th, 2014

prescription medsCurrent FDA guidelines about medication safety during pregnancy can be very confusing for women and their health care providers. Soon, however, doctors will have access to more information about the safety of prescription drugs during pregnancy.

When you are pregnant, you try to avoid anything that may harm your baby. But sometimes, you need to take medications for your own health. Managing chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure is very important, especially during pregnancy. But it is often difficult to know what medications are safe. And current FDA safety categories can be very confusing and difficult to understand.

However, in the summer of 2015, drug manufacturers will need to start providing additional details about medication safety in pregnant and breastfeeding women. The new labels will have to state how the safety information was obtained and whether the data was the result of scientific studies in people, or if it was obtained through study of animal models. The manufacturers must also include how much of the drug is excreted in breast milk and whether it affects the nursing baby, as well as how the drug may affect future fertility for both men and women of reproductive age.

These changes in labeling will provide doctors with more information about a medication’s safety during pregnancy. The information will not be on the actual medication bottle. It will be included in the official drug labeling information that doctors use when prescribing medications. It may also be included in the printed materials that pharmacies often include when filling prescriptions. This change in labeling does not apply to over-the-counter medications, though.

The new guidelines will allow doctors and patients to weigh the pros and cons of which medication is best to take during pregnancy for a given condition based on scientific evidence. And it will provide doctors and patients with more safety data than has previously been readily available.

The March of Dimes hails the release of the FDA’s final rule on pregnancy and lactation drug labeling information for prescription drugs. According to Dr. Jennifer Howse, president of the March of Dimes the new rules “will drive critical improvement to prescription drug labels regarding known effects on pregnancy, breastfeeding, and fertility.  The rule takes vital steps to improve the organization, readability, and usefulness of this information, which will enable women and their providers to find it and use it more readily….It is important to note, however, that this rule is only a first step, and it does not address other crucial issues related to pregnancy, lactation, and prescription drugs. The March of Dimes looks forward to working with the FDA and other interested stakeholders to ensure that appropriate research is performed and data generated to allow women and their health providers to make fully informed decisions about medication and its expected impact on pregnancy, lactation and childbearing.”

Holidays are a time for family

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Family at Thanksgiving dinnerAnd learning about family health history! I recently visited some relatives that I had not seen in years. After we caught up, they mentioned to me that colon cancer runs in that side of the family. This was news to me, as I did not know much about our family’s health history. At my next doctor’s appointment I told my doctor what I had learned from my relatives, and we made a plan on how to manage my health care going forward.

At Thanksgiving, you may be getting together with your family over a delicious turkey dinner. This is a great time to bring up your family’s health history. You may discover important information to keep in mind at your next doctor’s visit like I did.

On our website, we have a lot of helpful tips on how to talk to family and relatives, how to use the information they share, and what to do if some family members don’t want to talk about their health.  You can also use our Family Health History form to help you start a conversation with your family.

Knowing your family’s health history is helpful, especially if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. If you learn that your family has a health condition that gets passed from parent to child, you may want to see a genetic counselor. This is a person who is trained to help you understand how conditions run in families and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health.

Enjoy spending time with your family this Thanksgiving, and learn about each other’s health at the same time. You may discover a few new things that can help you make healthy decisions for your future.

Are you at risk for premature birth?

Friday, November 14th, 2014

preemie and momHave you had a premature baby in the past? Are you pregnant with twins or other multiples? Do you have problems with your cervix or uterus?  If so, you are more likely to give birth early.

We often get questions from women wondering whether they are at risk to have a premature baby. What makes some women give birth early? We don’t always know what causes preterm labor and premature birth. However, there are some things that we do know make it more likely. These things are called risk factors. Having a risk factor doesn’t mean that you will definitely have preterm labor or give birth early. But it may increase your chances.

These three risk factors make you most likely to have preterm labor and give birth early:
1. Prior premature birth: You’ve had a premature baby in the past.
2. Multiples: You’re pregnant with twins, triplets or more.
3. Cervical or uterine problems: Problems with the structure or function of your cervix or uterus.

Some other risk factors include:

Family history: This means someone in your family (like your mother, grandmother or sister) has had a premature baby. If you were born prematurely, you’re more likely than others to give birth early.

Weight: Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy or not gaining enough weight during pregnancy.

Maternal health conditions, including:
High blood pressure and preeclampsia
Diabetes
Thrombophilias (blood clotting disorders)
o Certain infections during pregnancy, like a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or other infections of the uterus, urinary tract or vagina.

Smoking: Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely than babies born to nonsmokers to be born prematurely.

Stress: High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems.

Maternal age: Being younger than 17 or older than 35 makes you more likely than other women to give birth early.

Race/ethnicity: We don’t know why race plays a role in premature birth; researchers are working to learn more about it.   In the United States, black women are more likely to give birth early, followed by Native American and Hispanic moms.

These are just a few of the risk factors for preterm labor or premature birth. You can see a complete list on our website.

There are some things that ALL women can do to reduce their risk of preterm labor and premature birth:
• Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or take street drugs.
• Make sure you go to all your prenatal care appointments, even if you’re feeling fine. This allows your doctor to detect any problems early.
• Try to get to a healthy weight before your get pregnant. Once you are pregnant, ask your doctor how much weight you should gain.
• Make sure any chronic health conditions are being treated and are under control.
• Protect yourself from infections by washing your hands with soap and water. Know what foods to avoid during pregnancy. Have safe sex. Don’t touch cat feces (waste).
• Try to reduce stress. Make sure you ask for help from family and friends.
• Once you have had your baby, it is best to wait at least 18 to 23 months before getting pregnant again. And make sure you schedule a preconception checkup before your next pregnancy.

If you have concerns about whether you may be at risk for giving birth early, see your health care provider. With guidance and care, you will have a better chance of having a healthy pregnancy.

Have questions? Send them to our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Keeping safe from Ebola

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Lots of people are talking about Ebola. Here’s the deal. Ebola is a rare, but very serious disease caused by a virus. It’s spread by coming in direct contact with body fluids (like blood, breast milk, urine or vomit) from a person sick with the disease. You also can get Ebola if you have direct contact with items, like needles or sheets, that have an infected person’s body fluids on them.

Ebola can start with flu-like symptoms, but over time it can cause more serious health problems. Eventually, it can cause heavy bleeding, organ failure and death. Some research shows that Ebola in pregnancy can cause pregnancy loss.

The question many people have is: how can you keep safe from Ebola? Right now, there’s no vaccine to help prevent Ebola infection, but researchers are working to develop one as well as other treatments. In the meantime, here’s what you can do to help keep you and your family safe:

Wash your hands often! This helps prevent many viruses from spreading, including Ebola.
Avoid travel to places where there are Ebola outbreaks.
• Avoid coming in contact with someone who may be sick.

For the latest news on Ebola, visit the CDC website. Read our article to learn more about Ebola and pregnancy.