Archive for the ‘Prematurity’ Category

The last weeks of pregnancy are important

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

In the last weeks of pregnancy, lots of important things happen to your baby. These changes help your baby have a healthy start. If your pregnancy is healthy, it is best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks, and wait for labor to begin on its own. If you choose to induce labor, talk to your provider about waiting until you’re at least 39 weeks pregnant. Inducing labor or scheduling a c-section should only be for medical reason.

In the last week of pregnancy:

  • Your baby’s brain is still growing and developing. At 35 weeks, your baby’s brain weighs just two-thirds of what it does at 39 weeks.
  • Important organs like the lungs and liver need this time to develop and function properly. Babies born too early may have breathing problems and jaundice after birth.
  • Your baby is gaining weight. Babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warm than babies born too small.
  • Your baby is still learning how to suck and swallow. Learning these skills will help your baby feed better and avoid certain feeding problems.
  • Your baby’s eyes and ears are going through important changes. Babies born too early are more likely to have vision and hearing problems.

Your due date may not be correct

It’s hard to know exactly how many weeks of pregnancy you are. An ultrasound can help estimate your due date, but it can still be off by as much as 2 weeks. This means you may not be as far along in your pregnancy as you might have thought. This is why, if your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best if your baby is born at least at 39 weeks. This gives your baby the time he needs to grow.

However, in some instances, you may not have a choice about when to have your baby. If there are problems with your pregnancy or your baby’s health, you may need to have your baby early. If this happens, here are some questions you can you ask your provider about scheduling your baby’s birth before 39 weeks?

  • Is there a problem with my health or the health of my baby that may make me need to have my baby early?
  • Can I wait to have my baby until I’m closer to 39 weeks?

About inducing you labor:

  • Why do you need to induce labor?
  • How will you induce my labor?
  • Will inducing labor increase the chance that I’ll need to have a c-section?

About c-section:

 

Choosing a car seat for your premature baby

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

This is an exciting moment! Your baby has been discharge from the newborn intensive care unit (also called, NICU) and is ready to go home.

Now you need to make sure your baby gets home safe. The law requires that you use an infant car seat when transporting your baby home from the hospital. However, the federal government’s standard for car seat safety has no minimum weight limit nor does it account for the special needs of a premature baby.

Learn about how to keep your baby safe while riding in his car seat before your baby is discharged from the hospital. Here are few tips that may be of help.

Look for these specific guidelines for car seat safety for premature babies or low-birthweight baby:

  • The car seat needs to have a three point harness system. Convertible car seats with a five-point harness system are also good.
  • Don’t pick a car seat with a shield, abdominal pad or armrest. Your baby might have trouble breathing behind the shield or may hurt his face and neck in a sudden stop or crash. Premature babies have weaker breathing airways, be extra cautious with this.
  • A car seat with the shortest distance between the crotch strap and the seat back is best. Ideally, pick one with a crotch-to-seat back distance of 5 1/2 inches. This helps prevent your baby from slipping forward feet first under the harness. You can also place a rolled diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and your infant to prevent slipping.
  • Car seats with multiple harness-strap slots are also good. They offer more choices than other seats and are better for small but growing infants. It’s best to pick a car seat with harness straps that can be placed at or below your infant’s shoulders.

How to place your baby in the car seat

  • Place your baby rear-facing. Keep your baby rear-facing until she reaches the highest weight and height allowed by its manufacturer.
  • Place your baby’s buttocks and back flat against the seat back. The harness should be snug, with the car seat’s retainer clip halfway between your baby’s neck and stomach. The clip should not be on his belly or in front of his neck.
  • Use only the head-support system that comes with your car safety seat. Avoid any head supports that are sold separately. If your baby is very small and needs more support for her head and body, then place blanket rolls on both sides of your baby.

Other safety tips

  • Recline a rear-facing car seat at about 45 degrees or as directed by the instructions that came with the seat. If your baby’s head still falls forward, place a tightly rolled blanket or pool “noodle” under the car seat.
  • Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front passenger seat of any vehicle.
  • Remember, the back seat is the safest place for all children to travel while in a car.
  • Whenever possible, have an adult seated in the rear seat near the baby in the car seat. If a second caregiver is not available, know that you may need to safely stop your car to assist your baby, especially if a monitor alarm has sounded.
  • Never leave your baby unattended in a car seat, either inside or out of a car.
  • Avoid leaving your baby in car seats for long periods of time to lessen the chance of breathing trouble. It’s best to use the car seat only for travel in your car.

For more information visit Car Safety Seats tips for parents of preemies.

What are antenatal corticosteroids?

Friday, February 9th, 2018

Preterm labor is labor that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. If you have preterm labor, your health care provider may recommend antenatal corticosteroids to help speed up your baby’s lung development and reduce the chances of some complications.

How do antenatal corticosteroids work?

There are two types of corticosteroids that may be used if you’re in preterm labor, betamethasone and dexamethasone. Both of these steroids help your baby’s lungs produce surfactant. Surfactant is a protein that helps keep the small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing. When a baby is born full-term, her lungs produce surfactant naturally. But babies born premature do not produce enough surfactant, and that means the air sacs in the lungs do not expand the way they should. This results in premature babies having breathing difficulties.

When should you get antenatal corticosteroids?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends a single course of corticosteroids for pregnant women who are at-risk of premature birth within the next 7 days. This includes women whose membranes have ruptured and women pregnant with twins or other multiples. If you’re pregnant and at-risk for giving birth early, talk to your health care provider and discuss the best treatment options for your specific situation.

Are antenatal corticosteroids effective?

If you’re in preterm labor and you receive antenatal corticosteroids, your baby’s chances of having certain health problems after birth are reduced, including:

  • Respiratory Distress syndrome (RDS). This is a breathing problem most common in babies born before 34 weeks of pregnancy. Babies with RDS don’t have enough surfactant and it results in breathing problems.
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). This is bleeding in the brain. It usually happens near the ventricles in the center of the brain. A ventricles is a space in the brain that’s filled with fluid.
  • Necrotizing enterocoloitis (NEC). This is a problem with a baby’s intestines. It can cause feeding problems, a swollen belly and diarrhea. It sometimes happens 2 to 3 weeks after a premature birth.

Are there side effects?

Possible side effects of medicines like betamethasone and dexamethasone for mom may include fluid build-up in the body and increased blood pressure. There are no side effects for your baby.

If you’re at risk of giving birth early, talk to your provider about antenatal corticosteroids and how they may be able to help your baby. You can learn more about other treatments for preterm labor on our website. And all pregnant women should learn the signs and symptoms of preterm labor. If you have even one sign or symptom, call your health care provider. If you’re having preterm labor, getting help quickly is the best thing to do.

Diabetes during pregnancy: a risk factor premature birth

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Diabetes is a serious health concern, especially when left untreated. About 9 out of 100 women in the U.S. have diabetes – a condition in which your body has too much sugar (called glucose) in the blood. You can develop diabetes at any time in your life.

Seven out of every 100 pregnant women (7 percent) develop diabetes during pregnancy, also called gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth. But 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.

Having diabetes or gestational diabetes can cause you to go into preterm labor, before 37 weeks gestation. Babies born this early can face serious health problems including long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Are you at risk?

You may be more likely than other women to develop gestational diabetes if:

  • You’re older than 25.
  • You’re overweight or you gained a lot of weight during pregnancy.
  • You have a family history of diabetes. This means that one or more of your family members has diabetes.
  • You’re African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Pacific Islander. These ethnic groups are more likely to have gestational diabetes than other groups.
  • You had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
  • In your last pregnancy, you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 1/2 pounds or was stillborn.

You can develop gestational diabetes even if you don’t have any of these risk factors. This is why your health care provider tests you for gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

How do you know if you have gestational diabetes?

If you’re pregnant, you will get a glucose tolerance test at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy, or earlier if your provider thinks you’re likely to develop gestational diabetes. You may have heard of other pregnant women having to drink an 8oz cup of a thick syrupy drink – this is part of the glucose tolerance test, along with measuring your blood glucose levels.

What else can you do?

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider. Getting diabetes under control could help prevent preterm labor and premature birth. Being active, eating healthy foods that are low in sugar and losing weight may help reduce your chances of developing diabetes later in life.

Learn more about managing pre-existing diabetes and gestational diabetes.  And, as always, visit your health care provider before and during pregnancy.

Home from the NICU: how to handle visitors and trips outside

Monday, November 20th, 2017

You’ve finally brought your baby home from the NICU and you’re looking forward to taking her out into the world and introducing her to your friends and family. But before you send out a group text telling everyone to come on over, we have some tips to keep in mind.

Since babies who have stayed in the NICU have a greater chance of getting infections than other babies, you want to take steps to keep them healthy. Here are some things you can do:

  • Limit the number of people who come to your home.
  • Ask visitors to wash their hands before touching your baby.
  • Do not let visitors smoke in your home or near your baby.
  • Do not let adults or children who are sick, have a fever or who may have been exposed to an illness near your baby. Any adult who will have contact with your baby should get a pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine.
  • Do not take your newborn to crowded places like shopping malls and grocery stores.

This does not mean that you can’t invite people to your home or that you have to stay in your house for the first months after your baby comes home. It’s fine to take your baby for walks outside in nice weather and go visit friends or family members. Just make sure your baby is going to a smoke-free and illness-free home.

If you have questions about your child’s health or condition, especially if your baby has medical equipment at home, reach out to your baby’s health care provider. She will be the ideal person to advise you.

Life at home after the NICU can be challenging, but you may find that you have new strength. And there is much to celebrate. Share your baby’s birth story and get support from other families on Share Your Story. Your experience and story will resonate with others as well as provide you with encouragement as you create new memories at home.

World Prematurity Day: Why it matters

Friday, November 17th, 2017

In the United States,

About every eight seconds, a baby is born.

Every hour, about three babies die.

African-American infants are more than two times as likely as white infants to die before their first birthday.

About one in ten infants is born preterm (less than 37 weeks gestation).

About every 1½ minutes, a baby is born with low birthweight (less than 5 pounds 8 ounces).

Prematurity/low birthweight and related conditions account for more infant deaths than any other single cause (about 1 in 3).

Every year, about 4,400 babies are born weighing less than one pound.

Premature birth is birth that happens too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Each year 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely and more than a million die as a result. Babies born too early may face life-threatening complications and have lifelong health problems. Today, in honor of World Prematurity Day, we are raising awareness of this serious health crisis.

We don’t always know what causes preterm labor and premature birth. Sometimes labor starts on its own without warning. Even if you do everything right during pregnancy, you can still give birth early. However, there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk for preterm labor and premature birth.

  • Schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. A preconception checkup helps your health care provider make sure that your body is ready for pregnancy.
  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. Use birth control until you’re ready to get pregnant again.
  • Get treated for health conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and thyroid problems.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Get vaccinated, wash your hands frequently, and don’t eat raw meat, fish or eggs. Have safe sex.
  • Reduce your stress. Eat healthy foods and do something active every day.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use street drugs. Ask your provider about programs that can help you quit. Tell your provider about any medicines you take, with or without a prescription.
  • Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. Prenatal care helps your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of preterm labor. This won’t reduce your risk of preterm labor but it will allow you to get treatment quickly and that may help stop your labor.

There is no single cause of premature birth and therefore there is no simple solution. The March of Dimes is working towards giving every mom the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy and every baby the chance to survive and thrive.

Premature birth and the NICU: a personal experience

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Every day I read and answer lots of questions on topics like preconception care, prenatal care, and how to have a healthy pregnancy. I also answer many questions about complications in pregnancy, like premature birth. So when I found out I was pregnant last year, I felt pretty well-prepared and knowledgeable. However, like many first time moms, I had a little anxiety those first few weeks.

The first half of my pregnancy was completely healthy and free of problems. However, at 23 weeks during my prenatal check-up, my doctor told me that there was a problem with my cervix. She told me that the ultrasound was showing I had a short cervix and explained I would need to go on bed rest and be treated with progesterone in order to help me stay pregnant longer. Unfortunately, having a short cervix is ​​a risk factor for preterm labor.

I had been on bed rest for 11 weeks, when during a routine prenatal check-up, the doctors told me that they would need to induce labor. My amniotic fluid was very low and they suspected that I had preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) I was 34 weeks and 1 day. My son, Theodore (Theo), was born the next day, November 22nd, weighing 4 pounds and 14 ounces.

Although I was able to hold him in my arms for about 10 minutes after delivery, while in the recovery room, he was quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for testing and put in the incubator. Theo was born with very high levels of bilirubin (jaundice) and had problems controlling his body temperature. Despite knowing that he was in good hands and receiving the necessary treatment, it was such a hard moment.

When I saw my son in the NICU for the first time I felt so many emotions. He was in the incubator, with the special blue lights for jaundice, and a small IV that was supplying his first nutrients. A few days after, they inserted a tube through his nose to feed him my breast milk because he didn’t have enough strength to suck and swallow on his own properly. The good news is that he had no breathing problems.

Despite these challenges, I was determined to practice kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) and feed him breastmilk. Since Theo was still learning to suck and swallow, he couldn’t latch, so I pumped my breast milk for his feedings. Kangaroo care is especially good for preemies because it helps them stay warm, helps them sleep better, and helps with bonding.

Having to leave our son in the hospital was a very difficult experience for my husband and me. Every day we headed out to the NICU early and came back home to eat dinner and sleep. I pumped every 2 to 3 hours and stored the milk to bring to the NICU for the next day. Theo stayed in the NICU a total of 10 days from birth until being discharged. The day we took him home was one of the happiest days of our lives.

The month of November will always be special month for me. In exactly 9 days, we will be celebrating Theo’s first birthday. He is a healthy, curious, independent, and sweet boy who can make anyone’s heart melt with his sweet smiles and giggles. It’s amazing how time flies.

November is also Prematurity Awareness Month. As overwhelming as the experience of having a premature delivery and birth was, I feel even more connected to March of Dimes’ mission, to all the women and families who share their story with us, and to all those who fight to give babies a happy and healthy tomorrow.

Thinking about pregnancy after premature birth

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Even if you do everything right, you can still have a premature birth. We don’t always know what causes premature birth, but we do know that if you’ve had a premature baby in the past, you’re at increased risk of having a premature birth in another pregnancy. If you have given birth early, here are some ways you may be able to reduce the chances of premature birth in another pregnancy:

Wait 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again

Waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies gives your body time to recover from one pregnancy so that is it ready for the next one. Use birth control so you don’t get pregnant again too soon. Talk to your provider about the best birth control option for you.

Schedule a preconception checkup

Being as healthy as possible when you get pregnant can help you have a healthy, full-term pregnancy. At your preconception checkup you and your provider can talk about:

Talk to your provider about progesterone shots

Progesterone is a hormone that helps your uterus grow and keeps it from having contractions. Progesterone shots may help prevent you from giving birth early again if:

  • You’re pregnant with just one baby.
  • You were pregnant before with just one baby and had spontaneous premature birth.

Get treatment for short cervix

Your cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. The cervix opens, shortens and gets thinner and softer so your baby can pass through the birth canal during labor and birth. Having a short cervix increases your risk for giving birth early. Talk to your provider about cerclage and vaginal progesterone.

Take low dose aspirin to help prevent preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a kind of high blood pressure some women get after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth. If not treated, it can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including premature birth. If you have risk factors for preeclampsia, like you’ve had it before or you have high blood pressure or other health conditions, your provider may want you to take low-dose aspirin during pregnancy.

Quit smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs and misusing prescription drugs.

All of these can put your health and your baby’s health at risk and make you more likely to give birth early. Quitting or getting help to quit is the best thing you can do. Talk to your provider about programs that can help.

Learn the signs of preterm labor

Learning the signs and symptoms of preterm labor doesn’t reduce your risk of premature birth. But if you know them and know what to do if you have them, you can get treatment quickly that may help stop your labor. If you have any signs or symptoms of preterm labor, call your provider right away or go to the hospital.

Premature birth rate in U.S. increases for second year

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

For the second year in a row, the rate of preterm birth in the United States has increased. The premature birth rate went up from 9.6 percent of births in 2015 to 9.8 percent in 2016, giving the U.S. a “C” on the March of Dimes 2017 Premature Birth Report Card. The report card also shows that across the U.S., black women are 49 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women. American Indian/Alaska Native women are 18 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women.

More than 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. each year. An additional 8,000 babies were born prematurely in 2016 due to the increase in the preterm birth rate. Premature babies may have more health problems or need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born on time. Some of these babies also face long-term health effects, like problems that affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision.

The Premature Birth Report Card provides rates and grades for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Preterm birth rates worsened in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The rates stayed the same in three states (AL, AZ, WA), and improved in only four states (NE, NH, PA, WY).

  • Four states earned an “A” on the 2017 Premature Birth Report Card;
  • 13 states received a “B”;
  • 18 states got a “C”;
  • 11 states and the District of Columbia got a “D”;
  • 4 states and Puerto Rico received an “F.”

Among the 100 cities in the U.S. with the greatest number of births (latest data is for 2015), Irvine, California had the lowest rate of preterm birth (5.8 percent), and Cleveland, Ohio had the highest preterm birth rate (14.9 percent).

This year’s Report Card also includes a preterm birth disparity ratio. This measures the disparities in preterm birth rates across racial/ethnic groups in a geographic area. The disparity ratio shows that the differences in preterm birth rates among racial/ethnic groups are getting worse nationally and no state has shown improvement since the measurements started being recorded in 2010-2012.

There is no single cause of premature birth and therefore there is no simple solution. However, things like expanding research, increasing education, strengthening advocacy, and improving clinical care and community programs can all help. The March of Dimes continues to work towards giving every mom the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy and every baby the chance to survive and thrive.

If you want to learn how you can help increase awareness of the serious problem of premature birth throughout November, check out our blog post.

Prematurity Awareness Month has arrived and here’s how you can help

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Here at the March of Dimes November means Prematurity Awareness Month. Although we work all year round to fight preterm birth, this month we are working especially hard to get the word out about the serious problems of preterm birth and how you can help us end prematurity.

Each year in the U.S., 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely. And being born too soon is not only the leading cause of death for children under the age of five, but it can also lead to long-term disabilities. This is a heartbreaking reality for too many families. That is why we are hard at work funding groundbreaking research, education, advocacy and community programs to help give every mom the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy and every baby the chance to survive and thrive.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Join our Twitter chat with Show Your Love on November 16th at 12pm ET. Just use #PreemieChat
  • November 17th is World Prematurity Day. Share/Retweet/Repost March of Dimes social messages with your friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Change your profile picture on Facebook with our branded World Prematurity Day frame.
  • Add a #worldprematurityday profile picture to your Twitter account with the WPD Twibbon.
  • Add your voice and sign-up to automatically post a message of support and awareness of prematurity on your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts on World Prematurity Day.
  • Participate virtually in our Imagine a World event! Make a short video sharing what you imagine for future generations. Post your video on social media using #MODImagines. Together, we’re imagining a world where every baby has the chance to thrive!

Create a purple movement!

  • Wear your March of Dimes gear and share photos using #prematurityawarenessmonth and/or #worldprematurityday and @marchofdimes.
  • Light your front porch/home/office lobby/building. Purchase purple lights through Amazon Smile! For every light purchased Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of the price of your purchase to the March of Dimes. Go to smile.amazon.com, select March of Dimes and use the search term “purple lights.”
  • Host an information booth in a prominent spot, such as outside your cafeteria, to promote November as Prematurity Awareness Month to your employees or coworkers.
  • Spread your gratitude by celebrating, thanking and remembering anyone who has helped you and/or the people you care about who have been affected by our mission.

We have much more in store this month, so stay tuned as we work to spread the word about World Prematurity Month.