Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Prevent infections by preventing foodborne illnesses

Friday, January 13th, 2017

woman eating saladAt one time or another in our lives, we’ve probably all experienced the very unpleasant symptoms of food poisoning. Usually within a day, you bounce back to your normal self. But for pregnant women and babies, foodborne illness can be extremely dangerous. Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and fever, can become life-threatening. If you are infected during pregnancy, foodborne illnesses can cause premature birth, miscarriage, or stillbirth. And some foodborne illnesses, such as listeriosis, can infect your baby even if you don’t have any signs or symptoms of food poisoning.

There are ways to protect yourself

During pregnancy, make sure that you are doing all that you can to prevent infections due to bacteria and viruses that cause foodborne illnesses.

When preparing food:

  • Wash your hands before and after food preparation. You should wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Wash all 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.
  • Remove and throw away the outer leaves of leafy green vegetables, like lettuce and spinach.
  • Cut away damaged sections of fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash utensils and cutting boards with hot soapy water after each use. Don’t use cutting boards made of wood. They can hold more germs than other kinds of cutting boards.
  • After preparing food, clean countertops with hot soapy water.

Make sure food is separated, cooked, and chilled properly before serving:

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

Avoid these foods during pregnancy to prevent food poisoning:

  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meat (beef, poultry, pork, and fish).
  • Don’t eat raw or runny eggs or any foods made with them–this includes cake batter and raw cookie dough!
  • Raw meat, fish and eggs can contain harmful germs that can give you food poisoning, like salmonella infection. Cooking them fully kills the germs, which helps keep you and your baby from getting sick.
  • Avoid raw sprouts, especially alfafa sprouts.
  • Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and cheeses. Many dairy products, like milk, eggs and cheese, are pasteurized. This means they’re heated to kill germs. Avoid unpasteurized juice, milk, or soft cheeses, such as brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, queso fresco and Panela. If the product label doesn’t say “pasteurized,” pick a different product. Unpasteurized dairy products can give you food poisoning, like listeriosis.

If you think you may have food poisoning, call your health care provider right away. You can read more about foods that you should avoid during pregnancy here.

This may seem like a lot of foods to avoid. But, the truth is that there are many good foods you can eat during pregnancy. Visit our website for menu ideas.

“I just found out I’m pregnant and I haven’t been taking folic acid. What should I do?”

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Pregnant couple with providerThis is a question we often receive through AskUs@marchofdimes.org. The good news is that no matter when you find out you are pregnant, you will still benefit from taking a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid.

Folic acid is B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. It helps your body make red blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body.

Before pregnancy, we recommend taking a daily multivitamin that contains 400 mcg of folic acid to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, or neural tube defects. As soon as you find out you are pregnant, begin taking a daily prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid. Your health care provider can prescribe prenatal vitamins for you, or you can get them over the counter without a prescription – just be sure to check the label.

Folic acid is important before and during early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects in your baby. However, a pregnant woman needs extra folic acid throughout her pregnancy to help her produce the additional blood cells her body needs. Folic acid also supports the rapid growth of the placenta and your baby, and is needed to produce new DNA (genetic material) as cells multiply.

If you have not been taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid up until now, perhaps you have been getting folic acid from food sources. Fortunately, in the United States, most grain products are fortified with folic acid (such as cereals, breads, pasta, etc.), so you are likely getting a certain amount of folic acid from your diet. Products that say “enriched” or “fortified” usually contain folic acid, but check product labels to be sure.

You also can get folic acid from some fruits and vegetables. When folic acid is naturally found in a food, it’s called folate. Foods that are good sources of folate are:

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

Folic acid is very important throughout your pregnancy, so even if you have been eating the foods listed, you should still take a prenatal vitamin with the recommended amount of folic acid.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUS@marchofdimes.org

Prevent to protect: talk to your health care provider

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Pregnant woman talking with doctorJanuary is Birth Defects Prevention month. In the United States, a baby is born with a birth defect every 4 ½ minutes. Some infections before and during pregnancy can have serious consequences, including causing certain birth defects. Talking to your health care provider is an important way that you can help prevent infections and protect you and your baby.

During your preconception checkup or your first prenatal visit, talk to your health care provider about:

How to prevent infections

  • Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially when preparing food or caring for young children.
  • Take precautions to protect yourself from animals known to carry diseases and insects that may carry infections, such as Zika.
  • Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards, and turtles.
  • Do not clean a cat litter box during pregnancy.
  • Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Be sure to discuss any travel plans with your provider.
  • When mosquitoes are active, prevent mosquito bites using an EPA-registered bug spray containing one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or IR3535. Wear appropriate clothing (hat, long-sleeved shirt, pants, shoes, & socks).
  • Don’t have sex with a male or female partner who may be infected with Zika virus or who has recently travelled to a Zika-affected area.

Vaccinations before pregnancy

It’s best to be up to date on all your routine adult vaccinations before you get pregnant. These vaccinations are recommended before pregnancy:

  • Flu. Get the flu vaccine once a year before flu season (October through May). There are many different flu viruses, and they’re always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four flu viruses that are likely to make people sick during the upcoming flu season.
  • HPV (human papillomavirus). 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 (measles, mumps and rubella). This vaccine protects you against measles, mumps and rubella (also called German measles). Measles during pregnancy can cause miscarriage. Rubella can cause serious problems during pregnancy, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects.
  • Varicella. This vaccine protects you from chickenpox, an infection that spreads easily and causes itchy skin, rash and fever. During pregnancy, it can be dangerous for a baby and cause birth defects. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and haven’t had chickenpox or been vaccinated for it, tell your provider.

Vaccinations during pregnancy

The CDC recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:

  • Flu shot if you weren’t vaccinated before pregnancy. You can get a flu shot at any time during pregnancy.
  • Pertussis vaccine (Tdap) at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Pertussis (also called whooping cough) is an extremely contagious disease that causes violent coughing and is dangerous for a baby. Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, to protect their baby.

Remember, preventing infections before and during pregnancy can help to keep you and your baby safe. Speaking with your healthcare provider can help you become as healthy as possible before and during pregnancy.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

New year – healthy you

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Today we welcome guest blogger Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH, Executive Director, The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative.

January brings a time for reflection and a fresh start; a time when many women re-evaluate or set new goals. Health aims such as losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, sleeping more and stopping smoking are important and often on the top of many women’s lists.

Well woman visitHere’s one that should top yours in 2017:

Go for your annual well woman visit.

Why?

For one, we still have the Affordable Care Act, so preventive services, like an annual well woman visit, should be covered by insurance with no out-of-pocket costs. This means if you have health insurance and the provider is covered under that plan, the visit shouldn’t cost you anything. While this may not yet be true for all health plans, it is likely a benefit you have that you didn’t know was available.

“I’m healthy – so I don’t need to see a doctor. Right?”

Being healthy doesn’t mean you can skip the wellness visit. This annual check-up is more than an overall physical and mental screen – this is a time to talk to your doctor about your questions and get help on those health resolutions. Your doctor can help you stay on track with ways you can set yourself up for success, from the inside out. He or she can also help you take preventative measures if starting a family is not in your plans. And if you hope 2017 will bring the stork your way, this is a critical place to start.

So, is a wellness visit more than just the dreaded pelvic exam?

YES!

A well woman visit has often been thought of as primarily an appointment for a pelvic exam, but it is a much more comprehensive visit than that! In fact, a well visit may not even need to include a pelvic exam anymore. The contents of a well woman’s visit are up to each woman and her provider. Her visit could include nutrition and diet counseling, immunizations, family planning, and screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, anxiety, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

To make the most of a visit, you can create a list of questions and concerns to discuss during your appointment. Be sure to bring up if you would like to become pregnant in the next year. Whether you want to start a family or not- there are vital lifestyle, behavior and contraception topics to discuss to be sure you’re tracking toward your reproductive goals. Especially if you’re planning a trip south, ask about the Zika virus and ways you can protect yourself. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and a trip to the doctor is an essential step to #Prevent2Protect.

Where can you learn more?

The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative, a public-private partnership of 70+ national organizations working to advance preconception health, launched Show Your Love, the first national preconception consumer resource and campaign. On this site, you’ll find what you need to know about well visits and preconception health care. Show Your Love website and social media campaign is meant to spark action for consumers to “Show Your Love”—to yourself, your significant other, and your family/future family—by preventing to protect and taking care of your health today.

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPHSarah Verbiest is Executive Director at UNC Center for Maternal & Infant Health. She serves as Director of the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), a public-private partnership of over 70 organizations focused on improving the health of young women and men and any children they may choose to have. Sarah is also a clinical associate professor at the UNC School of Social Work.  You can follow Sarah on Twitter @S_Verbiest or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Looking for a New Year’s Resolution? We’ve got 9 for you.

Friday, December 30th, 2016

“Your health before and during pregnancy has a direct impact on your baby,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, the March of Dimes medical advisor and co-author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide. “The good news is that there are many things you can do as a mom-to-be that can protect your own health and help you have a healthy baby.”

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are pregnant or planning a baby this season, make a New Year’s resolution to be as healthy as possible.

Here are Dr. Dolan’s 9 New Year’s Resolutions for moms-to-be:

  1. Take a daily multivitamin containing the B vitamin folic acid, even if you’re not trying to become pregnant. Getting enoughmultivitamin folate or folic acid before pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine. It’s a good idea to eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice. In addition, some foods are fortified with folic acid, including enriched grain products such as bread, cereal, and pasta, and certain corn masa products such as tortilla chips and tacos. Be sure to check package labels.
  2. Be up-to-date with your vaccinations (shots). Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations you should receive before or during pregnancy.
  3. Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, raw or runny eggs, unpasteurized (raw) juice or dairy products, raw sprouts — or products made with them.
  4. Handle food safely. Be sure to wash all knives, utensils, cutting boards, and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before they come into contact with other foods.
  5. Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before preparing or eating foods; after being around or touching pets and other animals; and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.
  6. Do not put a young child’s food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth.
  7. Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus, including mosquitos. Find out more at ZAPzika.org.
  8. Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles during pregnancy.
  9. Let someone else clean the cat litter box!

Besides taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid to prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, women can take the above steps to avoid infections that can hurt them and their babies during pregnancy. Foodborne illnesses, viruses, and parasites can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month – the perfect time to learn what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. We’ll have posts every week on different birth defects topics. So, be sure to be on the look-out for more info!

Have questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Weight gain during pregnancy–how much is right for you?

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Holiday weight gain can be a problem for everyone. During pregnancy, it is especially important to gain a healthy amount of weight. Gaining too much or too little weight can cause problems for your baby including premature birth.

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. Don’t forget to talk to your provider about what is best for you. And check out our post for some healthy holiday food guidelines.

 

 

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

“Why am I crying all the time?”

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

cryingIf you’re pregnant, you may notice that tears come more easily to you. One of my pregnant friends started crying as she watched a Flintstones cartoon rerun of Pebbles and Bam-Bam as they got married. Another girlfriend burst into tears while watching a pet adoption commercial!  You may find that you cry much more easily at events or situations that previously would never have made you shed a tear.

What causes the extra tears?

Your changing hormones.

From the time you conceive, the hormones estrogen and progesterone start rising. This increase in your hormones causes changes in the chemicals that send signals to your brain to regulate your mood. You may find yourself crying more often or becoming irritated easily. These mood swings are a normal part of pregnancy, especially in the first trimester.

New responsibilities and impending life changes.

A lot is happening in preparation for your newest addition and your to-do list just got longer, especially if you are pregnant around the holidays. The change may be welcomed, but it can also make you feel stressed. The realization that your baby will be entirely dependent on you soon  can seem overwhelming.

Ways to cope

  • Join our online community Share Your Story. You may find it helpful to connect and talk with other women going through a similar experience – you may even find someone getting teary eyed at the same rerun episode.
  • Try to get a good night’s sleep every day or take cat naps.  Getting enough Zzzs will help you handle any irritation or stress that comes your way.
  • Eat healthy meals and snacks.
  • Try relaxation activities, like prenatal yoga or meditation. Or squeeze a walk into your afternoon – even ten minutes of brisk walking can reduce stress!
  • Chat with your prenatal care provider. Often, just voicing your concerns and listening to a trusted professional can be enormously calming.

Fortunately, many women find their moods become more manageable in the second trimester. But, if you find you are feeling down or have symptoms of depression that last more than two weeks, or are feeling overly stressed, speak with your prenatal provider. There is much that can be done to help you feel better.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Three quarters of a century young (yes – we’re 79 years old!)

Monday, December 19th, 2016

fdr-warm-springs-kidsIt’s that time of year, when magazines are full of stories and photos of the year in review, and people look back to take stock of their accomplishments. This post is taking it a step further…here is a celebration of our past 79 years!

Why the dimes? (we get this question a lot)

The March of Dimes was started in 1938 when Franklin Roosevelt’s personal struggle with polio led him to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. It was a time when polio was on the rise nationwide. The name for the fundraiser “March of Dimes” was coined by comedian and radio personality Eddie Cantor as a pun on a popular movie newsreel of the era, The March of Time. Cantor asked his radio audience to send dimes to the White House to help polio patients and support research. After billions of dimes were received, the organization became known as the March of Dimes. The end result of this effort was the development of the polio vaccines, which have almost completely rid the world of this disabling disease.

check in boxIt is very unusual for a nonprofit organization to fulfill its mission as completely as that of the March of Dimes. So, when the March of Dimes checked off the box on the successful development of the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines, we turned our focus to that of preventing birth defects and infant mortality. With thousands of birth defects on record, we’ve had our hands full.

Our work after polio

The March of Dimes has funded research looking for the underlying genetic causes of birth defects to help us better understand what can go wrong and hopefully how to prevent them. We’ve funded research into the development of surfactant therapy to treat breathing problems in premature infants, which has saved thousands of lives since 1990. We’ve successfully championed and promoted newborn screening so that more infants with devastating conditions are identified and treated in a timely manner; and we led the campaign to add folic acid to grain foods in the United States, thereby reducing serious birth defects of the brain and spine by 27%.

We began educating the public on how to have a healthy pregnancy by producing a robust website of articles, print materials, this blog, and using social media to help women understand what they can do to have a full-term, healthy baby. We began answering individual health questions from the public in 1996 and still continue to answer thousands of questions every year.

But we didn’t stop there.

Our work with babies, birth defects and infant mortality provided a natural transition into fighting premature birth, the number 1 cause of deathPassing the time while your baby is in the NICU among babies in the U.S. Nearly 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely. Despite the advances in neonatal medicine, many babies still die, and the ones who survive often face a lifetime of disability – from mild to severe. In short, it is simply something that we knew we needed to fight.

So, in 2003 we launched our Prematurity Campaign. And in 2011, we launched the first of five prematurity research centers, each one staffed by the best and brightest scientists, and each one focused on a different aspect of prematurity. The best part of this 5-pronged approach is that the researchers all talk to one another and collaborate, encouraging synergy. Our goal is to be as successful with ending prematurity as we were with eliminating polio.

We also continued in the quest to allow folic acid to be added to corn masa flour in the U.S., and…drum roll please…we were successful this year! This is very important for the Hispanic community as corn masa flour is a staple for many Hispanic families. Fortifying corn masa flour products such as tortilla chips, tacos, and tamales, with folic acid will help prevent more devastating neural tube birth defects like Spina Bifida.

Wait…there’s more…

In the meantime, another related mission has surfaced – stopping the Zika virus. The devastating effects that Zika can have on a developing baby are well documented (microcephaly, congenital Zika syndrome, and developmental delays).

The March of Dimes led a coalition of almost 100 organizations to educate Congress about the dangers of Zika and was successful in the passage of federal funding to combat the virus. We continue to raise awareness with our #ZAPzika campaign to let women know how to protect themselves. By working with the CDC, we‘re educating the public about this virus so that pregnant women can protect themselves and their babies from Zika.

Yes. We’ve been very busy. The past 78 years have gone by quite fast.

Is there anything else in our future? Glad you asked!

A new March of Dimes President.

With the start of 2017, we will be under the leadership of President, Stacey D. Stewart, MBA, a woman of experience, intelligence, creativity and integrity. We’re so excited to welcome her.

The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

We are confident that under the leadership of Ms. Stewart, we will once again check off the box on a mission accomplished.

 

 

Holiday foods and pregnancy don’t always mix

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Holiday mealThis time of year is often filled with family dinners, holiday parties and gatherings full of delicious food and lots of drinks. If you’re pregnant or thinking about pregnancy, you may need to reconsider indulging in some of your usual favorites.

Here’s a list of “no’s” and “maybes” to help you through your holiday celebration.

The no’s – foods to definitely avoid

  • Holiday spirits & cocktails: Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby. But, this doesn’t mean you need to miss the party – read our tips and substitutions to keep your holiday celebration going.
  • Soft cheeses: Unpasteurized soft cheeses, such as brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, queso fresco and Panela can cause listeriosis, a kind of food poisoning caused by listeria bacteria.
  • Raw or lightly cooked eggs or foods made with them, including cake batter, raw cookie dough and soft-scrambled eggs: These foods can contain salmonella bacteria, which can cause another type of food poisoning that can be dangerous during pregnancy.
  • Unpasteurized juice, milk or any foods made with unpasteurized ingredients are also a listeriosis and salmonella risk.

The maybes

  • Eggnog: Store-bought is usually ok, but you must check the label before drinking it. Read how to safely buy eggnog from a store. Homemade eggnog can contain raw or undercooked eggs. Our safe homemade recipe will help you create your own version that you can enjoy worry-free this year.
  • Coffee and hot chocolate: We don’t know a lot about the effects of caffeine during pregnancy so limit the caffeine you get each day to 200 milligrams. This is about the amount in 1½ 8-ounce cups or one 12-ounce cup of coffee. An 8 ounce cup of hot cocoa has 3-13 mg.
  • Holiday ham & meats: Be sure all meat is cooked thoroughly and never eat raw or undercooked meat, which can contain salmonella.
  • Too much sugar: During the holidays, you will find many desserts have added sugar or chocolate, which can put a dent in your healthy balanced diet. If you are eyeing that chocolate pie, try substituting another item with less sugar, to keep your overall sugar intake within reason. For example, switch out your juice for sparkling water with lemon.

With these ideas and a little extra attention to labels and how much you eat, you will be able to enjoy all your holiday festivities.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Got Zika questions?

Friday, December 9th, 2016

The March of Dimes is pleased to announce our partnership with Mother-to-Baby. Together, we are able to provide answers to your Zika questions by phone, email, text or live chat. Check this out:

MOD and mothertobaby org infographic ENG

Please reach out to us with your concerns. Our teams of trained health information specialists are available to answer your questions. Be sure to see our resources to learn how to keep yourself and your family Zika free.