Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

It’s time to schedule your flu shot

Friday, September 29th, 2017

The flu is more than just a runny nose and sore throat. It’s a serious disease that can make you very sick. The flu can be especially harmful if you get it during pregnancy or right after you’ve had your baby. Although it is only September, flu season is fast approaching. So now is the time to schedule flu shots for you and your whole family.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu shot. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop full protection against the flu. Getting the flu vaccine is especially important for children over 6 months, children with special needs, pregnant women and other high-risk groups.

Do you need to get a flu shot every year?

Yes! Flu viruses change every year, so just because you got a flu shot last year, doesn’t mean that you are protected this year. The flu shot is designed to protect against the flu viruses that are predicted to be the most common during the flu season. Also, immunity from vaccination decreases after a year. For these reasons, everyone needs a flu vaccine every year.

Are flu shots safe for pregnant women?

YES! All women who are pregnant should get a flu shot. It is safe to get the flu shot during pregnancy and it will protect you and your baby from serious health problems during and after pregnancy. However, remember that if you’re pregnant, the flu mist is not safe to use during pregnancy.

Why is the flu so harmful during pregnancy?

The flu can be dangerous during pregnancy because:

  • Pregnancy affects your immune system. During pregnancy your immune system doesn’t respond as effectively to viruses and illnesses. This means you are more likely to catch the flu.
  • You are more likely to have serious complications. Health complications from the flu, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, can be very serious and even deadly.
  • Pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to have preterm labor and premature birth (before 37 weeks).

Will getting a flu shot protect your baby?

Getting the flu shot during pregnancy helps to protect your baby from the flu after he’s born. If you get the flu shot during pregnancy, you pass on your immunity to your baby. Some studies have shown that vaccinating a pregnant woman can give her baby antibodies to protect against flu for several months after birth. You baby should get his own flu vaccine at 6 months.

Where can you get a flu shot?

You can get the vaccine from your health care provider. Many pharmacies and work places also offer it each fall. You can use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find where the flu vaccine is available in your area.

The flu shot is the best way to protect you and your baby from the flu. You can learn more at flu.gov.

Have any questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Anemia and pregnancy

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Anemia occurs when your blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of your body. Without the right amount of oxygen, your body can’t work as well as it should, and you feel tired and run down. Your body needs iron to make red blood cells. During pregnancy, you must produce about 50% more blood to meet the oxygen needs of your growing baby. If you do not get enough iron during pregnancy, you can become anemic (have anemia). If you have anemia during pregnancy, it can deprive both you and your baby of oxygen.

Iron deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of premature birth and low birthweight.

Getting the right amount of iron

Before getting pregnant, women should get about 18 milligrams (mg) of iron per day. During pregnancy, the amount of iron you need jumps to 27 mg per day. Most pregnant women get the right amount of iron by taking prenatal vitamins and eating foods that contain iron.

You can help to lower your risk of anemia by eating iron-rich foods throughout your pregnancy. Foods high in iron include:

  • Poultry
  • Dried fruits and beans
  • Eggs
  • Iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas
  • Organ meats (liver, giblets)
  • Red meat
  • Seafood (clams, oysters, sardines)
  • Spinach and other dark leafy greens

Foods containing vitamin C can increase the amount of iron your body absorbs. So it’s a good idea to eat foods like orange juice, tomatoes, strawberries and grapefruit every day.

Calcium (in dairy products like milk) and coffee, tea, egg yolks, fiber and soybeans can block your body from absorbing iron. Try to avoid these when eating iron-rich foods.

Signs of anemia

Anemia develops over time. As it progresses, you may have these signs and symptoms:

  • Fatigue (very common)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale skin
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain

Your health care provider uses a simple blood test to check for anemia several times during pregnancy. Make sure you let your provider know if you have any of the signs or symptoms. If you are anemic, your provider may prescribe an iron supplement.

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

September is Infant Mortality Awareness month

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. According to the CDC, in 2015 the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. That means that in 2015 over 23,000 infants died before their first birthday.

Causes of infant mortality

In the US, the leading causes of infant mortality are:

  1. Birth defects
  2. Premature birth and low birthweight
  3. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  4. Maternal pregnancy complications
  5. Injuries (such as suffocation).

What can you do?

Not all causes of infant mortality can be prevented. But there are some steps that you can take to reduce the risks of certain birth defects, premature birth, some pregnancy complications, and SIDS.

Take a multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid. While there are many different types of birth defects, taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs). Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects and cleft lip and palate.

Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy. Being healthy before pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy complications when you do get pregnant. Your provider can also identify any risk factors and make sure they are treated before you get pregnant.

Get early and regular prenatal care. This lets your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy. She can also identify and treat any problems that may arise during your pregnancy.

Stay at a healthy weight and be active. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help you to avoid some complications during pregnancy.

Quit smoking and avoid alcohol and street drugs. Alcohol, drugs and harmful chemicals from smoke can pass directly through the umbilical cord to your baby. This can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage, birth defects and premature birth.

Space pregnancies at least 18 months apart. This allows your body time to fully recover from your last pregnancy before it’s ready for your next pregnancy. Getting pregnant again before 18 months can increase the chance of premature birth, low birthweight, and having a baby that is small for gestational age.

Create a safe sleeping environment for your baby. Put your baby to sleep on his or her back on a flat, firm surface (like a crib mattress). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you and your baby sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed, for the first year of your baby’s life, but at least for the first 6 months.

The March of Dimes is helping improve babies’ chances of being born healthy and staying healthy by funding research into the causes of birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

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

 

 

 

Food safety for fall

Friday, September 15th, 2017

When preparing food for yourself or your family, it’s important to practice safe food handling to prevent foodborne illnesses. Bacteria can invade areas and surfaces in kitchens and on foods. There are easy steps for you to take to keep your family away from harmful bacteria and enjoy meals together at the same time.

What’s the best way to clean food?

• Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

• Wash all fruits and vegetables. Use a scrub brush. If you can’t get the skin clean, peel it off. This can help remove dirt and chemicals, like pesticides. A pesticide is a chemical used to keep bugs and other pests away from crops. Wash all fruits and vegetables, even if the package says it’s already been washed. Dry everything with a paper towel or clean cloth.

• 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.

What’s the best way to separate food?

• Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Use a different board for fruits and vegetables.

• When you’re shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and their juices separate from other foods.

• Store raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers so that their juices don’t get on other foods.

What’s the best way to cook food?

• Use a food thermometer. It can help you cook food—especially meat—to a safe temperature. You may not be able to tell if a food is fully cooked by how it looks, so use these temperature guidelines here.

• When using the microwave, cover the food. Stop cooking to stir the food and rotate the dish to ensure the food’s warm all the way through.

• When reheating sauces, soups and gravies, bring them to a rolling boil.

What’s the best way to chill food?

• Keep the refrigerator at 40 F or below and the freezer at 0 F or below. If you don’t think your temperature is correct, use an appliance thermometer to check it. You can buy this kind of thermometer at hardware or home-supply stores.

• Refrigerate all fruits and vegetables that have been cut or peeled.

• Refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours after eating. Use shallow containers so that the food cools quickly. When you’re ready to use the leftovers, eat them within 2 hours of taking them out of the refrigerator.

• Thaw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator, not on the counter or in the sink.

• Don’t crowd the refrigerator. This may make it hard to keep food cool and safe.

Fall means school is in session and Halloween is around the corner. Learn important food safety tips for all your fall activities here.

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

 

Just had a baby, but pregnant again?

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

If you’ve already had a baby and are planning for more children, it’s best to wait at least 18 months between birth and getting pregnant again. Getting pregnant before 18 months increases your risk for certain health problems for your baby like premature birth, low birthweight and being small for gestations age (SGA).

We receive many questions through AskUs@marchofdimes.org from women who have become pregnant again in less than 18 months and want to know how to have a healthy pregnancy.

As soon as you learn you are pregnant schedule your first prenatal care appointment with your health care provider. After your first appointment be sure to continue to go to all of your prenatal care visits, even if you are feeling fine. If you have not already, start taking a prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid in it every day to help prevent neural tube defects in your baby.

Experts don’t know for sure why getting pregnant again too soon increases your chances of complications like premature birth. So the best thing you can do is be prepared – know the warning signs of preterm labor:

  • Change in your vaginal discharge (watery, mucus or bloody) or more vaginal discharge than usual
  • Pressure in your pelvis or lower belly, like your baby is pushing down
  • Constant low, dull backache
  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea
  • Regular or frequent contractions that make your belly tighten like a fist. The contractions may or may not be painful.
  • Your water breaks

If you have even one sign or symptom of preterm labor, call your health care provider right away. If you have preterm labor, getting help quickly is the best thing you can do.

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

Preparing for a natural disaster

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

As Hurricane Irma makes its way to the Florida area, residents are preparing for the worst. Natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes or hurricanes can cause extreme stress and affect your everyday life. If you’re pregnant or have a baby at home, being prepared for a disaster can help you cope.

Here’s some ways you can prepare:

  • If you’re pregnant, talk to your health care provider. Make a plan together about what to do in case of a disaster, especially if you’ve had pregnancy complications or you’re close to your due date. If your baby is in the NICU, ask about the hospital’s plan.
  • Follow local and state evacuation instructions. If you do evacuate to a shelter, make sure to let staff there know if you are pregnant.
  • Tell your providers where you plan to go if you’re evacuated and how to contact you.
  • Write down important phone numbers and get copies of important medical records for you, your partner and children.

Pack a “disaster bag” of supplies that may be helpful if you need to leave your home. Here’s what you can put in your bag:

  • Clothes and medicine for you and your family. Make sure everyone has comfortable shoes.
  • Diapers, toys, pacifiers, blankets and a carrier or portable crib for your baby.
  • Food, snacks and bottles water. If your baby eats formula or baby food, pack those items. Include chlorine or iodine tablets to treat water from a faucet.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Batteries & flashlights
  • Prenatal vitamins
  • If you’re breastfeeding, a manual pump and clean bottles

Being pregnant during and after a hurricane can be very hard on your body.  Rest when you can, drink plenty of clean water, and make sure you eat throughout the day. Go to your regular prenatal care appointments as soon as it is safe for you to do so. If you cannot get to your regular health care provider, ask the shelter or local hospital where you can go for care.

Following a disaster, some women may experience preterm labor. Make sure you know the signs of preterm labor. 

  • Change in your vaginal discharge (watery, mucus or bloody) or more vaginal discharge than usual
  • Pressure in your pelvis or lower belly, like your baby is pushing down
  • Constant low, dull backache
  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea
  • Regular or frequent contractions that make your belly tighten like a fist. The contractions may or may not be painful.
  • Your water breaks

Contact your provider, go to a hospital , or tell someone at the shelter if you have ANY signs or symptoms. Even if you have just one sign or symptom, it is important to contact a health care provider. Getting help quickly is the best thing you can do.

Learn more about how to prepare and cope with a natural disaster.

Common pregnancy concerns: when should you call your provider?

Monday, August 28th, 2017

During pregnancy, it’s common to worry about every ache, pain, and unfamiliar feeling. But do you always need to contact your health care provider? Here is information to help you decide.

Bleeding

Up to half of all pregnant women have some bleeding or spotting during pregnancy. Although it may be common, it’s still important to let your health care provider know. Make sure you:

  • Keep track of how heavy you are bleeding, if the bleeding gets heavier or lighter, and how many pads you are using.
  • Check the color of the blood. It can be brown, dark or bright red.
  • Don’t use a tampon, douche or have sex when you’re bleeding.

Call your provider or go to the emergency room right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Heavy bleeding,
  • Bleeding with pain or cramping,
  • Dizziness and bleeding,
  • Pain in your belly or pelvis.

Abdominal Pain

As your baby grows, the muscles around the uterus pull and stretch. This can cause pain low in your belly. You may feel it most when you cough or sneeze. It usually goes away if you stay still for a bit or if you change to a different position.

But if your pain is severe, doesn’t go away, gets worse, or is accompanied by bleeding, you should call your provider right away.

Headaches

Headaches are common during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. They’re often caused by pregnancy hormones, stress or body tension caused by carrying extra weight throughout pregnancy.

However, headaches may be sign of preeclampsia or other complications. You should call your provider if your headache:

  • Is severe or doesn’t go away,
  • Comes with fever, vision changes, slurred speech, sleepiness, numbness or not being able to stay alert,
  • Comes after falling or hitting your head,
  • Comes with a stuffy nose, pain and pressure under your eyes or a toothache. These may be signs of a sinus infection.

Vomiting

Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that happens in the first few months of pregnancy. Even though it’s called morning sickness, it can happen any time of day.

At least 7 in 10 pregnant women (70%) have morning sickness in the first trimester. It usually starts at about 6 weeks and is at its worst at about 9 weeks. Most women feel better in their second trimester, but some have morning sickness throughout pregnancy. If you are experiencing any nausea or vomiting, let your provider know.

For most women, morning sickness is mild and goes away over time. But call your provider if:

  • Your morning sickness continues into the 4th month of pregnancy.
  • You lose more than 2 pounds.
  • Your vomit is brown in color or has blood in it. If so, call your provider right away.
  • You vomit more than 3 times a day and can’t keep food or fluids down.
  • Your heart beats faster than usual.
  • You’re tired or confused.
  • You’re making much less urine than usual or no urine at all.

Don’t take any medicine, supplement or herbal product to treat your symptoms without talking to your provider first. And if you are ever unsure whether or not you should call your provider, it’s better to call. Most likely your provider will be able to answer your question and put your mind at ease.

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

Amusement parks and pregnancy

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

For a lot of people, summer means a trip to the amusement park or water slides. But are these activities still OK if you’re pregnant? Here are some tips:

  • Roller coasters and thrill rides can be a lot of fun. But it is important to make sure the rides are safe. Most amusement parks post warning signs if a ride is not safe for a pregnant woman—make sure you follow their guidelines.
  • Avoid rides that have a lot of jerky, bouncing movements. Research suggests that a jolting force can cause the placenta to separate from the uterus. This is known as placental abruption. Although the force is typically stronger than what you would experience on a ride, it is still best to not go on any rides that start and stop suddenly.
  • Stay away from water slides that cause you to hit the water with excessive force or drop you from a great height.
  • Be careful on rides that have a moving entry or exit. Your center of gravity may have shifted and you can lose your balance more easily.

While studies have not shown that amusement park rides pose a risk to pregnancy, they have not shown that they are safe either. For this reason, if you have any questions about whether a certain ride is OK during pregnancy, it’s probably best to avoid it. You can always return next year!

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

 

Pregnancy after a preterm birth: can you prepare?

Monday, August 21st, 2017

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant after having a premature baby, you may have many questions and concerns. Having had a premature baby in the past makes you more likely to have preterm labor and give birth early in another pregnancy.

When you’re ready to become pregnant again, schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. This is the best time to discuss your previous pregnancy and ask all of your questions and concerns about becoming pregnant again.

Not sure where to start? Here are some questions to ask your provider:

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

How to stay healthy and safe at work

Friday, August 18th, 2017

Most women who work will continue to do so during pregnancy—some will work up to the day of their baby’s birth. But sometimes working during pregnancy can have some challenges. Here are some tips that can help you stay safe and comfortable at work throughout your pregnancy.

Common pregnancy discomforts

  • Nausea: Unfortunately morning sickness can happen at any time during the day. To help manage your nausea, try to avoid foods and smells that bother you and snack on crackers or other bland foods. And make sure you are drinking lots of fluids!
  • Fatigue: Being pregnant can be exhausting—especially during the first trimester. During your work day, try to get up and walk for a few minutes or even take a power nap in your car during your lunch break. Get to bed early, exercise, and eat healthy foods.

Workplace safety

  • Dangerous substances: If you work with metals (such as mercury or lead) chemicals, or radiation, talk to your health care provider. Describe your work environment and any safety equipment you or your company uses. Your provider can then tell you if it’s safe for you to keep working during pregnancy.
  • Heat: Working in places that are very hot can raise your body temperature. If your body temperature is too high, it could be dangerous to the baby. Make sure you talk to your provider.
  • Heavy duty jobs: If your job includes heavy lifting or climbing, it might not be safe during pregnancy. Nausea, fatigue and dizziness can make it hard to do these jobs safely. And your added weight can throw off your sense of balance and make you more likely to fall. You may need to talk to your employer about taking on other job responsibilities during your pregnancy.
  • Infections: If you work with children or in a health care setting, you may be at risk for infections. Wash your hands regularly. If you think you were exposed to an illness, talk to your provider right away.

Computers and desks

If you work on a computer or sit at a desk for most of the day, comfort is key. To avoid wrist and hand discomforts, neck and shoulder pains, backaches and eye strains, follow these tips:

  • Take short breaks often and walk around your office or building.
  • Adjust your chair, keyboard and other office equipment to be more comfortable.
  • Use a small pillow or cushion for lower back support.
  • Keep your feet elevated by using a footrest.
  • Be sure to use the correct hand and arm positions for typing.
  • Use a non-reflective glass screen cover on your computer monitor.
  • Adjust the computer monitor for brightness and contrast to a setting that is comfortable for your eyes.

It’s important that the work environment around you is safe for you and baby. If you have concerns, speak with your health care provider and your supervisor at work.

You can learn more ways to stay safe at work on our website

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