Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Repeat lead tests are advised for certain children, pregnant women and breastfeeding moms

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

blood-testsToday, the FDA and CDC issued a notice that some lead tests done by Magellan Diagnostics may be incorrect.

The FDA says “certain lead tests manufactured by Magellan Diagnostics may provide inaccurate results for some children and adults in the United States.”

If you have a child age 6 years old or younger, are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your healthcare provider or local health department to determine if retesting is needed.

The dangers of lead

Lead is a metal that comes from the ground, but it can be in air, water and food. You can’t see, smell or taste it. High levels of lead in your body can cause serious health problems for you and your family.

Children younger than 6 years of age can be severely affected by lead. It can cause developmental problems, hearing loss, vomiting, irritability, belly pain and weight loss. Very high levels of lead may even cause death.

Lead poisoning (high levels of lead in your body) can cause serious problems during pregnancy, such as premature birth, miscarriage, and high blood pressure. It can also cause fertility problems, mood disorders, headaches, muscle or joint pain, trouble concentrating, belly pain, anemia and fatigue in adults.

Where is lead?

Most lead comes from paint in older homes. When old paint cracks or peels, it makes dust that has lead in it. The dust may be too small to see. You can breathe in the dust and not know it.

Lead may be found in drinking water, at construction sites, in arts and crafts materials used to make stained glass, lead crystal glassware, and some soil.

For more information on lead poisoning, see our web article and the CDC’s information.

Bottom line

If you have a child age 6 or younger, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding, contact your healthcare provider to determine if a lead test should be repeated.

Have questions? Contact our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

You can find more news on our News Moms Need blog.

 

Prevent syphilis in your baby

Monday, May 8th, 2017

doctorCongenital syphilis (present at birth) can cause serious lifelong health conditions, or even death, for a baby. Unfortunately, the number of congenital syphilis cases in the United States increased 46 percent between 2012 and 2015.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), also known as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can get it by having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with syphilis. You can also get it by having direct contact with an infected person’s syphilis sore which may be on a person’s lips, in their mouth or on their genitals.

If a woman has syphilis and gets pregnant, she needs to be treated for syphilis. If she doesn’t receive treatment, syphilis can pass to her baby.

The good news is that congenital syphilis is preventable:

  1. Protect yourself first. Either don’t have sex or have safe sex by using a condom or other barrier method.
  2. Go to all your prenatal care checkups; your provider will test you for syphilis.
  3. If you have syphilis, your provider will begin treatment. The sooner you receive treatment, the less likely you and your baby may have complications from the infection.
  4. Ask your partner to be tested (and treated) for syphilis, so that you don’t get infected or re-infected.

If you’re not sure whether you have syphilis, or think you may have been exposed to it, contact your healthcare provider.

See our article for more details about protecting yourself and your baby from syphilis. Our article includes diagnosis and treatment information, too.

If you have questions, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Headache? Nausea? Could be more serious then you thought

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

2014d037_1495We receive many questions from expectant moms who are experiencing symptoms such as headaches or swelling. They worry it might be something serious, like preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is a kind of high blood pressure some women get after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth.  Along with high blood pressure, a pregnant woman can have signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly.

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in the urine
  • Severe headaches
  • Changes in vision, like blurriness, flashing lights, seeing spots or being sensitive to light
  • Pain in the upper right belly area or pain in the shoulder
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week)
  • Swelling in the legs, hands and face
  • Trouble breathing

Without treatment, preeclampsia can cause serious health problems for both you and your baby. The condition can cause kidney, liver and brain damage for you and premature birth, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) or low birthweight for your baby.

Many of the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia are just normal discomforts of pregnancy.

So how do you know if your symptoms are a sign of something more serious?

Your health care provider can diagnose preeclampsia by measuring your blood pressure and checking your urine for protein – both of these are routinely checked at every prenatal care visit.

If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, your provider can help you manage most health complications through regular prenatal care. This is why it’s important to go to every appointment, even if you are feeling fine.

So, to know if your severe headache or sudden swelling is cause for concern, reach out to your health care provider. He can determine if your symptoms are normal pregnancy discomforts or something more serious like preeclampsia.

For more details about this serious condition, visit our website.

 

Allergies and pregnancy – can you get relief safely?

Monday, May 1st, 2017

allergies2It seems that everyone I know is struggling with allergy symptoms right now. The chief complaints are itchy eyes, sneezing, congestion, and generally feeling like a marshmallow invaded your head. Spring looks so beautiful but taking a deep breath outside can make you miserable!

There are many over-the-counter remedies and prescription medications available to help with symptoms, but if you’re pregnant it may not be wise to use any of them.

Here’s the low-down…

Pros and cons of possible allergy relief remedies during pregnancy

First of all, check with your health care provider before you take any over-the-counter medicine, supplement or herbal product to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby. Your provider will weigh the risks and benefits of taking any medication during pregnancy.

  • As a general rule, nasal saline (salt water) is good to use as it keeps your nasal passages moist and helps you blow away the allergens that accumulate in your nose. Avoid nasal steroids though, unless prescribed by your prenatal provider.
  • Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, usually should be avoided, especially during the first trimester, as there is a possible association between its use and certain birth defects in babies. There are too many brand name decongestants to list here. Your best bet is to ask your prenatal provider about a medication before you take it.
  • Antihistamines, such asdiphenhydramine, doxylamine and chlorpheniramine, block your reaction to an allergen. You may know them by their brand names, such as Benadryl, Nytol, Unisom, Triaminic, and others. Some are considered safe to use during pregnancy, with the ok of your provider.
  • Read labels. Many symptom relief medications contain more than one ingredient. Also, these meds are meant for short-term, not long-term use. Your prenatal provider is the perfect person to ask if/when/how long you should be on any particular medication.

How about allergy tests and shots?

  • If you’re thinking about being tested for allergies, either test before you become pregnant, or wait until after your baby is born. Allergy skin testing is not done during pregnancy due to a small risk that a severe reaction can occur. Reactions such as hives, swelling of your tongue and throat and even loss of consciousness may occur. During pregnancy, a severe reaction may be harmful to your baby.
  • If you are currently receiving allergy shots (known as immunotherapy), be sure you let your allergist know you are pregnant or hoping to become pregnant. He may decide to continue the shots, adjust your dosage or stop them entirely during your pregnancy.

Other suggestions

  • Decreasing exposure to allergy triggers is key in helping you breathe easier. Some allergy healthcare providers recommend keeping windows and doors shut and running an air conditioner to keep the indoor air as free from outdoor allergens as possible. You may find it helpful to run a small air purifier in the bedroom at night to help you sleep.
  • Breathing steam or taking a warm shower may also help to decongest your nasal passages.

Bottom line

Every woman and every pregnancy is different; your provider will know the remedy that is best for you. The good news is that once you give birth, you will have more options available to you to combat Mother Nature’s pollen parade.

Have questions? If you are wondering about taking a specific medication during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, you can text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Do you know the signs of preterm labor?

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

If you’re pregnant, it’s important to know the signs of preterm labor and what to do if you experience any symptoms. Watch our video with Dr. Siobhan Dolan to learn more:

You can get more information about preterm labor and premature birth on our website.

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

Spring is here and so are ticks

Friday, April 7th, 2017

pregnant women walkingI remember the anxiety I felt after discovering a tick attached to my skin. I was reaching my hands behind my head and found a tick at the top of my neck where my hairline begins. The tick had already bitten me and was enlarged with blood. I never even felt the bite. That’s the tricky part about ticks, they crawl onto you and are so small they may be hard to see and nearly impossible to feel.

Why are these little creatures so dangerous?

Ticks can spread Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by an infected black-legged tick (also called a deer tick). This type of tick usually lives in wooded areas, like forests, or in places with high grass and bushes. A tick with Lyme disease can spread Lyme by biting you and has to be on your body for about 2 days before you can get infected.

If you get infected with Lyme disease during pregnancy, it may cause complications, including:

  • An infection in the placenta. The placenta grows in your uterus (womb) and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
  • Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Congenital heart defects. These are heart conditions that are present at birth. They can affect the heart’s shape or how it works, or both.
  • Urinary tract defects. The urinary tract is the system of organs (like the kidneys and bladder) that helps your body get rid of waste and extra fluids. Urinary tract defects can cause pain, urinary tract infections, kidney damage and kidney failure.
  • Problems with your baby’s blood, like hyperbilirubinemia, which is when your baby’s blood has too much bilirubin in it. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that forms as red blood cells break down. Too much bilirubin can cause your baby to have jaundice. This is when your baby’s skin and the white parts of his eyes look yellow because his liver isn’t fully developed or working properly.

Untreated Lyme disease also may cause your baby to have a rash after he’s born.

How do you know if you have Lyme disease?

Early signs may include: headache, fever and chills, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes  (glands throughout the body that help fight infection), and/or a rash called erythema migraines (also called EM). This rash looks like a bull’s eye around where the tick bit you.

Later signs may include: being short of breath, dizziness, stiff neck, severe headache, EM rash, joint pain and swelling, and/or facial paralysis (when you can’t feel or move parts of your face.)

If you have any signs or symptoms of Lyme disease, or you find a tick attached to your skin, call your health care provider. You can get a blood test to see if you have Lyme disease. Antibiotics are available and most women who get treatment during pregnancy have healthy babies.

Prevent Lyme disease by protecting yourself from tick bites

  • Use an EPA registered insect repellant.
  • Shower and check your body and clothes for ticks after being outside.
  • If you find a tick on you, remove it with tweezers – be sure to grab the tick near its head. Slowly pull the tick up and off your skin and be sure not to squeeze or crush the tick. Check with your healthcare provider or local Department of Health as to whether you should bring it in to be examined and tested for Lyme disease.  If not, flush the tick down the toilet. After removing the tick, clean the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

For more information about Lyme disease and pregnancy, see our article.  

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

The latest Zika news: pregnant women still need to take precautions

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

microcephalyJust when you may have thought that Zika was a thing of the past, a new report provides a wake-up call.

Here are the facts:

  • Last year in the United States, 1,300 pregnant women were infected with the Zika virus.
  • The virus was reported in pregnant women in 44 states; most of these women became infected as a result of travel to an area with Zika.
  • Of women with confirmed Zika evidence during pregnancy, 1 in 10 gave birth to a baby with birth defects.
  • Confirmed infections in the first trimester posed the highest risk – with about 15% of the babies having Zika-related birth defects.
  • Only 1 in 4 babies with possible congenital Zika syndrome were reported to have received brain imaging after birth.

What we know

If a pregnant woman becomes infected with Zika, the virus can pass to her baby.

Zika virus during pregnancy can cause damage to the baby’s brain, microcephaly (smaller than expected head) and congenital Zika syndrome, which includes eye defects, hearing loss, and limb defects.

Zika virus during pregnancy has also been linked to miscarriage and stillbirth.

What we don’t know

A very troubling aspect of this virus is that we don’t know the long-term effects it has on babies.

Dr. Siobhan Dolan, OB/GYN and medical advisor to the March of Dimes says “We don’t yet know the full range of disabilities in babies infected with Zika virus. Even babies who don’t have obvious signs of birth defects still may be affected.”

Care for babies

The report emphasizes that babies born to moms who have laboratory evidence of Zika virus during pregnancy will need additional medical monitoring and care after they are born. They should receive a comprehensive newborn physical exam, hearing screen, and brain imaging. Follow-up care with specialists is extremely important, as the full extent of congenital Zika virus on babies is not known.

Dr. Dolan emphasizes “Babies should receive brain imaging and other testing after birth to make a correct diagnosis, and to help us understand how these babies grow and develop.”

If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, how can you protect yourself and your developing baby from the Zika virus?

Avoid Zika exposure.

The most common way Zika spreads is through mosquito bites, but it can also spread through unprotected sex, blood transfusions or lab exposure.

  • Do not travel to a Zika-affected area unless you absolutely have to. If you must travel, talk to your health care provider first, and take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Don’t have sex with a partner who may be infected with the virus or has recently travelled to a Zika-affected area.
  • If you live in an area where Zika is present, take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Bottom line

Prevent infection to protect your baby.

Dr. Dolan puts it in perspective: “Protect yourself from Zika before and during pregnancy, and that includes avoiding travel to affected areas. But remember — it’s not forever. Yes, you may miss a family event now, while you’re pregnant. But after the baby is born, in a few months, you’ll be able to travel safely and with peace of mind.”

Our website has detailed information on Zika and pregnancy, microcephaly and congenital Zika syndrome.

Stay tuned to learn about the Zika Care Connect website coming soon.

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

Pregnant? Drinking alcohol is not worth the risk to your baby

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

alcoholThere is NO safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy and there is NO safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or think you might be pregnant, the best thing to do for your baby is to avoid alcohol.

When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to your baby. According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS), “When you drink alcohol, so does your developing baby. Any amount of alcohol, even the alcohol in one glass of wine, passes through the placenta from the mother to the growing baby. Developing babies lack the ability to process or metabolize alcohol through the liver or other organs.”

Drinking any amount of alcohol at any time during pregnancy can harm your baby’s developing brain and other organs. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases your baby’s chances of:

  • Premature birth. This is when your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies may have serious health problems at birth and later in life.
  • Brain damage and problems with growth and development.
  • Birth defects, like heart defects, hearing problems or vision problems.
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (also called FASDs). Children with FASDs may have a range of problems, including intellectual and developmental disabilities. They also may have problems or delays in physical development. FASDs usually last a lifetime.
  • Low birthweight (also called LBW). This is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Being low birthweight can cause serious health problems for some babies.
  • Miscarriage.
  • Stillbirth.

The good news is that FASD is entirely preventable. If you stop drinking alcohol before and during pregnancy, you can prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and other conditions caused by alcohol.

Remember, there is no safe amount, no safe time, and no safe alcohol during pregnancy. If you need help to stop drinking, talk to your health care provider. And if you are looking for some fun, non-alcoholic alternatives, check these out.

Questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Why is 39 weeks so important?

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

midwife measuring pregnancy bellyIf your pregnancy is healthy, it is best to wait for labor to begin on its own. And if you do decide to induce labor, ask your provider if you can wait until at least 39 weeks.

Most people think that pregnancy lasts 9 months. But that isn’t exactly true. Pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks (280 days) from the first day of your last menstrual period (also called LMP) to your due date. A first trimester ultrasound can also help to determine your due date.

In the past, a pregnancy that lasted anywhere between 37 to 42 weeks was called a term pregnancy. Health care providers once thought this 5-week period was a safe time for most babies to be born.

But experts now know that scheduling your baby’s birth a little early for non-medical reasons can cause problems for both mom and baby. Getting to at least 39 weeks gives your baby the time he needs to grow.

Why is 39 weeks so important?

Here’s why your baby needs 39 weeks:

  • Important organs, like his brain, lungs and liver, get the time they need to develop. At 35 weeks, a baby’s brain weighs just two-thirds of what it does at 39 weeks.
  • There is more time to gain weight. Babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warm than babies who are born too small.
  • Your baby will be able to feed better. Babies born early can sometimes have difficulties with sucking, swallowing, and staying awake long enough to eat.
  • Your baby is less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth.

Why can scheduling an early birth cause problems?

There are some risks associated with inducing labor:

  • Your due date may not be exactly right. Even with an ultrasound, your due date can be off by as much as 2 weeks. If you schedule an induction and your due date is wrong, your baby may be born too early.
  • Pitocin, the medication used to induce labor, can make contractions very strong and lower your baby’s heart rate.
  • You and your baby have a higher risk of infection if labor doesn’t begin soon after your water breaks.
  • If the medications used to induce labor do not work, you may need to have a c-section.

What if there are problems with your pregnancy?

You may not have a choice about when to have your baby. Your provider may need to induce labor to help keep you and your baby safe. If your provider does decide to induce labor for the health and safety of you and your baby, you can learn more about how labor is induced on our website.

Remember: If your pregnancy is healthy, it is best to let labor begin on its own. If you and your baby are healthy, and you and your provider decide to induce labor, make sure you wait until at least 39 weeks. Healthy babies are worth the wait!

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

Managing diabetes during pregnancy

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

glucose screeningDiabetes is a serious health concern. About 9 out of 100 people (9 percent) in the U.S. have diabetes – a condition in which your body has too much sugar (called glucose) in the blood. Glucose is your body’s main source of fuel for energy. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. If your body does not produce insulin or cannot use it efficiently, then over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerve cells. You can develop diabetes at any time in your life, including during pregnancy.

There are three different types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes happens most often in children and young adults but it can develop at any age. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. In this case, your body does not make insulin or can’t use it normally. You are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes if you are older, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, or do not exercise.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. Seven out of every 100 pregnant women (7 percent) develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is tested for at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy. It usually goes away after you give birth. However, if you have it in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in your next pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop diabetes later in life.

Managing your diabetes during pregnancy

If you have diabetes, it is very important that you control your blood sugar. High blood sugar can be harmful to your baby, especially during the first few weeks of pregnancy when the brain, heart, kidneys and lungs begin to form.

Your blood sugar is affected by pregnancy, by what you eat and drink, and how much physical activity you get. If you have preexisting diabetes (diabetes BEFORE pregnancy), what worked to control your blood sugar before you became pregnant, may not work as well during pregnancy.
Here are some things that you can do to have a healthy pregnancy:

  • Go to all your prenatal care visits, even if you’re feeling fine.
  • Follow your provider’s directions about how often to check your blood sugar. Call your provider if your blood sugar is too high or too low.
  • Tell your provider about any medicine you take, even medicine that’s not related to your diabetes. Some medicines can be harmful during pregnancy, so your provider may need to change them to ones that are safer for you and your baby.
  • If you don’t already have a registered dietician (RD), your provider can recommend one for you. An RD is a person specially trained in nutrition. An RD can help you learn what, how much and how often to eat to best control your diabetes.  She can help you make meal plans and help you know the right amount of weight to gain during pregnancy. Check to see if your health insurance covers treatment from an RD.
  • Do something active every day. With your health provider’s OK, being active every day can help you manage your diabetes.

Diabetes can be a challenge, especially when you are pregnant. But it is possible to manage it and have a healthy pregnancy.

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