Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Join our Twitter chat on pregnancy

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Pregnancy chatAre you pregnant? Do you have questions about pregnancy? Join us on Thursday, August 28th at 2pm EDT for a Twitter chat and get your questions answered.

We will be joining the National Institute of Child Health and Human development (@NICHD_NIH) and the Federal Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health (@FDAWomen) to discuss:

• common pregnancy myths
• how to reduce health problems during pregnancy
• how long your pregnancy should last
• important info about labor and delivery

Jump in the conversation any time to ask questions or tell us your story.  Follow #pregnancychat.

We hope to see you then!

If you have questions, feel free to email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Depression during pregnancy: what you need to know

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

sad woman with coffee mugDepression is a serious medical condition. It is an illness that involves the body, mood and thought. It affects the way a person feels about themselves and the way they think about their life. So many people were shocked and saddened by the news about Robin Williams. But unfortunately, depression is far more common than many of us realize. And regrettably, many people still feel that depression is a sign of weakness and do not recognize it as the biological illness that it is.

As many as 1 out of 5 women have symptoms of depression during pregnancy. For some women, these symptoms are severe. Women who have been depressed before they conceive are at a higher risk of experiencing depression during pregnancy than other women.

Signs of depression
Depression is more than just feeling sad or “blue.” There are physical signs as well. Other symptoms include:
• Trouble sleeping
• Sleeping too much
• Lack of interest
• Feelings of guilt
• Loss of energy
• Difficulty concentrating
• Changes in appetite
• Restlessness, agitation or slowed movement
• Thoughts or ideas about suicide

It may be hard to diagnose depression during pregnancy. Some of its symptoms are similar to those normally found in pregnancy. For instance, changes in appetite and trouble sleeping are common when you are pregnant. Other medical conditions have symptoms similar to those of depression. A woman who has anemia or a thyroid problem may lack energy but not be depressed. If you have any of the symptoms listed, talk to your health care provider.

Treatment options
Since depression is a serious medical condition, it poses risks for you and your baby. But a range of treatments are available. These include therapy, support groups and medications.

It is usually best to work with a team of health care professionals including:
• Your prenatal care provide
• A mental health professional, such as a social worker, psychotherapist or psychiatrist
• The provider who will take care of your baby after birth

Together, you and your medical team can decide what is best for you and your baby.

If you are on medication and thinking about getting pregnant, talk to your doctor. You will need to discuss whether you should keep taking the medication, change the medication, gradually reduce the dose or stop taking it altogether.

If you are taking an antidepressant and find that you are pregnant, do not stop taking your medication without first talking to your health care provider. Call him or her as soon as you discover that you are expecting. It may be unhealthy to stop taking an antidepressant suddenly.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any signs of depression, please talk to your health care provider or someone you trust. Help is available and you can feel better.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Vaccinations protect against HPV

Friday, August 8th, 2014

immunizationsHuman papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. There are about 40 types of HPV. Some types of HPV cause genital warts in both men and women. Others can increase a woman’s chance of cervical cancer and can cause other types of cancer in both men and women. However, a vaccine is available that can help prevent HPV infection.

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Sexually transmitted diseases are infections that you can get from having sex with someone who is infected. You can get a STD from vaginal, anal or oral sex. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. According to the CDC, “HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.” At this time, about 79 million Americans are infected with HPV and approximately 14 million people become infected each year.

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and many people do not know they were ever infected. If HPV does not go away, however, then it is possible to develop genital warts or cancer. Unfortunately there is no way to know if you will develop cancer or other health problems if you have HPV.

Get vaccinated
One of the easiest ways you can reduce your risk of getting HPV is to get vaccinated. Two vaccines against HPV are available in the US. The vaccines are recommended for girls and boys between the ages of 11 to 12 years old.  Vaccination is also recommended for teen girls and young women through age 26 and teen boys through age 21, if they did not get the vaccine when they were younger.

Both vaccines protect against the two types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. One vaccine also protects against two additional types of HPV that cause most genital warts. The HPV vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy.

If you have HPV and get pregnant, you can get genital warts or develop abnormal cell changes on your cervix. These changes can be found during routine cervical cancer screening, such as a Pap smear. At your first prenatal checkup, your doctor will do a Pap smear to check for cervical cancer and other tests for vaginal infections.

Vaccinations before, during and after pregnancy

Friday, August 1st, 2014

vaccine1If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is very important to make sure that you are up-to-date on all of your vaccinations. Vaccines help protect your body from infection. You pass this protection to your baby during pregnancy. This helps keep your baby safe during the first few months of life until he gets his own vaccinations.

Vaccinations also protect you from getting a serious disease that could affect future pregnancies. You probably got vaccinations as a child. But they don’t always protect you for your entire life. Or there may be new vaccinations that weren’t available when you were young. Over time, some childhood vaccinations stop working, so you may need what’s called a booster shot as an adult.

Before pregnancy

Here are some vaccines that are recommended before pregnancy:

• Flu. Get the flu shot once a year during the flu season (October through May). It protects you and your baby against both seasonal flu and H1N1, a kind of flu that spread around the world in 2009. If you come down with the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications, such as pneumonia.

• HPV. This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine.

• MMR. This vaccine protects you against the measles, mumps and rubella. Measles can be harmful to pregnant women and cause miscarriage.

• Tdap. This vaccine prevents pertussis (also called whooping cough). Pertussis is easily spread and very dangerous for a baby. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, ask your provider about getting the Tdap vaccine.

• Varicella. Chickenpox is an infection that causes itchy skin, rash and fever. It’s easily spread and can cause birth defects if you get it during pregnancy. It’s also very dangerous to a baby. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and you never had the chickenpox or the vaccine, tell your provider.

During pregnancy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:

1. Flu vaccine if you weren’t vaccinated before pregnancy

2. Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy at 27 to 36 weeks

Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy. Do not get these vaccines during pregnancy:

• BCG (tuberculosis)

• Memingococcal

• MMR

• Nasal spray flu vaccine (called LAIV). Pregnant women can get the flu shot, which is made with killed viruses.

• Typhoid

• Varicella

After pregnancy

If you didn’t get the Tdap vaccine before or during pregnancy, you can get it right after you give birth. Getting the Tdap vaccine soon after giving birth prevents you from getting pertussis and passing it on to your baby. This vaccine is also recommended for caregivers, close friends, and relatives who spend time with your baby. Your baby should get his first pertussis vaccine at 2 months old. Babies may not be fully protected until they’ve had three doses.

Here’s a link to a chart to help you know when you can get certain vaccinations if you need them. Talk to your health care provider about vaccinations you need before, during or after pregnancy.

Group B strep infection

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Between 35-37 weeks of your pregnancy your prenatal care provider will test you for Group B strep. Group B streptococcus (also called Group B strep or GBS) is a common type of bacteria that can cause infection.

Many people carry Group B strep—in fact about 25% of pregnant women are carriers.  GBS bacteria naturally live in the intestines and the urinary and genital tracts. It is not known how GBS is transmitted in adults but you can’t get it from food, water, or things you touch. An adult can’t catch it from another person or from having sex, either.  Most people do not even know they are carriers since adults usually show no signs or symptoms related to GBS.

GBS, however, can be passed to your newborn during labor and delivery and it can make your baby very sick. Babies with a GBS infection may have one or more of these illnesses:

• Meningitis, an infection of the fluid and lining around the brain

• Pneumonia, a lung infection

• Sepsis, a blood infection

According to the CDC, in the US, group B strep is the leading cause of meningitis and sepsis in a newborn’s first week of life.

There are two kinds of GBS infections:

1. Early-onset GBS: Signs like fever, trouble breathing and drowsiness start during the first 7 days of life, usually on the first day. Early-onset GBS can cause pneumonia, sepsis or meningitis. About half of all GBS infections in newborns are early-onset.

2. Late-onset GBS: Signs like coughing or congestion, trouble eating, fever, drowsiness or seizures usually start when your baby is between 7 days and 3 months old. Late-onset GBS can cause sepsis or meningitis.

The good news is that early-onset GBS infection in newborns can be prevented by a simple test. During your third trimester, your provider will take a swab of the vagina and rectum. Results are available in a day or so. This test will need to be done in each pregnancy.

If you do have GBS, then your provider will give you an antibiotic through an IV (medicine given through a tube directly into your bloodstream) during labor and delivery. Usually this is penicillin (if you are allergic to penicillin, there are other options available). Any pregnant woman who had a baby with group B strep disease in the past, or who has had a bladder (urinary tract) infection during this pregnancy caused by group B strep should also receive antibiotics during labor.

Unfortunately late-onset GBS cannot be prevented with IV antibiotics. Late-onset GBS may be due to the mother passing the bacteria to her newborn, but it may also come from another source, which is often unknown.

Treatment for babies infected with either early-onset GBS or late-onset GBS is antibiotics through an IV.

Currently researchers are testing vaccines that will help to prevent GBS infections in both mothers and their babies.

If you have any questions about this topic or other pregnancy and newborn health issues, please email the Pregnancy and Newborn Health Education Center at askus@marchofdimes.org.

Scleroderma and pregnancy

Friday, June 27th, 2014

June is National Scleroderma Awareness Month. Scleroderma is a group of diseases that result in the abnormal growth of connective tissue. Connective tissue is tissue that supports your skin and internal organs, like your kidneys, lungs and heart. Scleroderma is a chronic condition meaning that it lasts for a long time and can affect many aspects of your life.

If you have scleroderma, your body makes too much of a connective tissue protein called collagen. When too much collagen builds up in your body, it causes your skin and connective tissues to get hard or thick. Scleroderma can lead to pain and swelling in your muscles and joints. There are two main kinds of scleroderma: localized and systemic. Both can be mild to severe, with periods of remission (wellness) and flares (illness).

Localized scleroderma only affects certain parts of your body, like your skin, skin tissues and sometimes muscles. Localized scleroderma doesn’t harm major organs and often gets better or goes away over time without treatment. But sometimes it can be severe and cause lasting skin changes.

Systemic scleroderma can affect the whole body, including your skin, tissues, blood vessels and major organs, like your heart, lungs and kidneys.

If you have scleroderma and you’re thinking about getting pregnant,  you should schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. If you have localized scleroderma, it may not affect your pregnancy at all. But systemic scleroderma can cause problems with your heart, lungs or kidneys. These complications are most likely to appear during the first three years of scleroderma symptoms, and can cause health difficulties for you and your baby during pregnancy. For this reason, it’s best not to get pregnant during the first three years of symptoms.

If you have systemic scleroderma, you may be more likely than other pregnant women to have:

• Preeclampsia and other kinds of high blood pressure,

• Poor growth in your baby,

• Premature birth,

• Cesarean birth (C-section).

Right now, there is no specific treatment that stops the body from making too much collagen. However, doctors use several types of medication to control the symptoms. But not all of these are safe to use during pregnancy. Some can cause birth defects if a woman takes them while she is pregnant. That is why it is so important to discuss your condition with your doctor before pregnancy.

During pregnancy a woman with scleroderma may be treated by multiple doctors, including a rheumatologist as well as a high-risk obstetrician. Depending on her individual symptoms, a pregnant woman may need to see a few other providers to treat specific complications. Fortunately though, with today’s medical care, many women with scleroderma can have successful pregnancies.

Eat fish during pregnancy

Monday, June 16th, 2014

When you’re pregnant, it’s important to make healthy food choices. This is especially true when it comes to fish. Fish are a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that can be good for your baby’s health.

The Food and Drug administration (FDA) is changing their guidelines for eating fish during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, the FDA now suggests you eat at least 8 and up to 12 ounces a week of fish that are low in mercury. This includes fish like shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish, canned light tuna, tilapia and cod. It’s OK to eat up to 6 ounces a week of albacore (white) tuna.

However, FDA still says to avoid eating raw fish, like sushi, as well as fish that can be high in mercury, like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. And always check with your local health department before you eat any fish you catch yourself.

The new recommendations on eating fish during pregnancy are open for public comment. Share your thoughts! Learn more about eating healthy and foods to avoid or limit during pregnancy.

What you need to know about CMV

Friday, June 13th, 2014

washing handsJune is National Congenital CMV Awareness Month. It is important that all women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant know about CMV.

What is CMV?

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common viral infection that most of us get at some point in our lives, frequently during childhood. It is usually harmless and does not cause any symptoms. But if a woman becomes infected with CMV for the first time, while she is pregnant, she can pass the virus to her baby. This can lead to serious illness, lasting disabilities or even death.

Why is CMV a concern during pregnancy?

CMV is the most common congenital (present at birth) infection in the United States. Fortunately, most babies born with CMV never have symptoms or problems caused by the infection.

However, some babies born with CMV develop one or more conditions during the first few years of life, such as hearing loss, vision loss, learning disabilities, and intellectual disabilities.

A woman who contracts CMV for the first time during pregnancy has about a 1-in-3 chance of passing the virus on to her fetus. She can pass CMV on to her baby at any stage of pregnancy. However, studies suggest that babies are more likely to develop serious complications when their mother is infected in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

How do you get CMV?

You can get CMV by coming into contact with bodily fluid from a person who carries the virus. You may be more likely than other people to get CMV if you have young children at home, work with young children, or work in health care. Most people with CMV have no signs or symptoms, so if you’re a health care or child care worker talk to your doctor about getting tested for CMV before pregnancy to see if you’ve already been exposed to the virus.

How can you prevent CMV?

You can help prevent CMV infection by doing the following:

• Wash your hands well, especially after being in contact with children and body fluids. Wash your hands after changing diapers, wiping noses and picking up toys.

• Carefully throw away used diapers and tissues.

• Don’t kiss young children on the mouth or cheek.

• Don’t share food, glasses, cups, forks or other utensils with young children or with anyone who may have CMV.

Is the March of Dimes conducting research on CMV?

Yes! March of Dimes grantees and other researchers are developing and testing vaccines that may help protect babies against CMV. Recent March of Dimes grantees have been studying how this virus multiplies and spreads in the unborn baby, in order to develop effective drugs that can help prevent disabilities in infected babies.

Sunscreen safety for pregnant women

Friday, June 6th, 2014

mom and child in sunSummer is here! 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.

There are two types of rays that can cause skin damage. These are ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation (UVA and UVB). Both of these can cause premature aging and skin cancer however UVB rays are what cause sunburn. It is important to choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB. But, choosing the right sunscreen to slather on can be confusing.

Here are tips on choosing the right sunscreen for you:

•    Avoid retinyl palmitate This type of vitamin A has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer and is associated with a risk of birth defects.
•    Choose sunscreen with a sun protected factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
•    Only use products that have UVA and UVB protection – also called Broad Spectrum protection
•    Use a water resistant sunscreen if you intend to go swimming
•    Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating (even if you use water resistant sunscreen).
•    Limit your time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun rays are most intense.

Combination products

To fend off those pesky mosquitoes, there are also combination sunscreen products that include bug spray. These can be  great two-for-one products, but combination sunscreens may be more hazardous that you thought. A combination product has the possibility of toxic exposure, due to overdosing on the bug repellant. It’s safe to apply the combination lotion first, but when it’s time to reapply, skip the combination and just use sunscreen.

Read our post for specific tips on how to keep your baby safe in the sun.

Have fun outside this summer, but wear your hat, sunglasses, stay well hydrated and remember your sunscreen!

How preeclampsia affects your baby

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

preemieLast week we reviewed the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. Today we’ll talk about how preeclampsia can affect your baby.

If you have preeclampsia, your health care provider can help you manage most health complications through regular prenatal care.

Treatment for preeclampsia depends on how severe your preeclampsia is and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Even if you have mild preeclampsia, you need treatment to make sure it doesn’t get worse.

Treatment for mild preeclampsia may include seeing your prenatal care provider more frequently for tests to make sure you and your baby are doing well. You may be able to stay at home and just be monitored.

More severe preeclampsia may require you to be admitted to the hospital or for you to be induced before your due date.

The high blood pressure that is a part of preeclampsia can narrow blood vessels in the uterus (womb) and placenta. The placenta supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. If the blood vessels in the placenta are narrow, your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients, causing him to grow slowly. This can lead to a low birthweight baby, a baby who weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.

In many cases the only treatment for preeclampsia is the birth of your baby. This may result in your baby being born prematurely, or before 37 weeks of pregnancy.  Although the thought of having a premature baby can be frightening, it is important to remember that most babies of moms with severe preeclampsia before 34 weeks of pregnancy do better in a NICU than if they stay in the uterus.

Premature babies and low birthweight babies may have more health problems and need to stay in the NICU longer than babies born full-term. The earlier in pregnancy a baby is born, the more likely he is to have health problems. Some babies may have complications that can affect them their whole lives. But thanks to advances in medical care, even babies born very prematurely are more likely to survive today than ever before.