Archive for the ‘Hot Topics’ Category

For the third year in a row, more babies are being born too soon.

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

According to recent data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the preterm birth rate in the U.S. rose in 2017. This is the third year in a row with an increase. In 2015, the rate increased to 9.63 percent, in 2016 to 9.85 percent, and in 2017 to 9.93 percent. This is a very alarming trend.

The data also shows great disparities among racial and ethnic groups. The most significant increase in the preterm birth rate was seen among non-Hispanic black women and Hispanic women, while the rate among non-Hispanic white women was essentially unchanged. Babies who are born too soon may face more health problems or need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born on time. Some of these babies also have long-term health effects, like problems that affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision. These problems are affecting more babies whose moms are black or Hispanic.

At March of Dimes, we recognize an urgent need for new solutions to address the serious problems of premature birth. We are working hard to help close the racial and ethnic gaps in preterm birth rates and achieve equity in birth outcomes. We won’t stop advocating, searching for answers or supporting all moms and babies. All babies deserve the best possible start in life and the opportunity to thrive and be healthy.

To learn more visit: marchofdimes.org

Treating for Two: Medication safety before and during pregnancy

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

 

During National Women’s Health Week this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) wants to raise awareness about the safety of medicines before and during pregnancy. March of Dimes supports them with this important message.

Many women wonder about the safety of medications during pregnancy. This is a great question that should be addressed. However the information to make educated decisions at times is limited. With this in mind, the CDC revamped their Treating for Two website to make this information easier to access.

Treating for Two is a program that provides information and resources to help women and their health care providers decide together what medication is best. CDC created this website to help close this information gap and to provide evidence-based guidance. This program will support shared decision making among women and their providers regarding medication safety before, during and after pregnancy.

According to the CDC, 9 out of 10 women in the United States take a medication during pregnancy. Chances are that you may need to take a medication during pregnancy or during the first weeks of pregnancy, when you might not even know that you are pregnant. Make sure you always discuss with your provider the safety of the medications he or she prescribes to you. Let him know if you think you are pregnant or if you have been trying to get pregnant. Some medications may cause premature birth, birth defects, neonatal abstinence syndrome (also called NAS), miscarriage, developmental disabilities and other health problems.

What can you do?

If you need to take medications during pregnancy, discuss with your provider all your concerns. Also make sure you:

  • Take the medication exactly as your provider says to take it.
  • Don’t take it with alcohol or other drugs. (Don’t take alcohol or drugs if you are pregnant.)
  • Don’t take someone else’s medication.
  • Don’t stop taking a prescription medicine without talking to your provider first.
  • Ask your provider if you need to switch your medication to one that is safer during your pregnancy.
  • Discuss with your provider all the medications you take, like: over-the-counter medicines, herbal and dietary supplements and vitamins.

For more information about prescription and over-the counter medications visit marchofdimes.org

Food safety during pregnancy: Protect yourself and your baby from harmful germs

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Your immune system is your body’s way of protecting itself from illnesses and diseases. During pregnancy your immune system weakens. This is a normal change, but it also means you need to be extra careful with the foods you eat. Certain foods can get contaminated with different germs and make you sick.

Foodborne illnesses can be especially dangerous during pregnancy. Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and fever, can become life-threatening. If you are infected during pregnancy, foodborne illnesses can cause birth defects, premature birth, miscarriage, or stillbirth.

How can you reduce the risk of becoming ill from contaminated foods?

Hygiene is key

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water 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 harmful germs.
  • 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.

Separate, cook, and chill food properly

  • Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Use a different board for fruits and vegetables.
  • Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • When you’re shopping, keep raw meat, poultry and seafood and their juices separate from other foods.
  • Cook foods to their proper temperature.
  • Make sure your refrigerator’s temperature is between 32-40 F and the freezer at 0 F or below.
  • Refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours after eating. At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes.
  • Chill foods that need to be kept cold. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
  • Thaw meat, poultry and seafood in the refrigerator, not on the counter or in the sink.

Food recalls

Every year many people get sick from eating contaminated foods. Pay special attention to the news to learn about recent recalls and safety alerts. Inspect your pantry and fridge and remove foods that have been recalled.

Contaminated food doesn’t always smell or look bad. Only a very small amount of germs are enough to make you very sick. If you are unsure about any food you have at home, it is best not to eat it. When in doubt, throw it out!

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.

For the most recent information on food recalls visit:

Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about how to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Healthy babies across the life course: Past reflections and future progress during National Minority Health Month

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

By Kweli Rashied-Henry, March of Dimes Director of Health Equity

Frederick Douglass once said “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” As a country, we have made tremendous strides in the health of all populations since this famed abolitionist spoke these words in the mid-19th century. Overall life expectancy has increased and infant death before the age of one has declined. However, health is still experienced disproportionately in the United States.

Nearly twenty years ago, April was established as National Minority Health Month to encourage health and health equity partners and stakeholders to work together on initiatives to reduce disparities, advance equity, and strengthen the health and well-being of all Americans. In the U.S., racial and ethnic disparities (or inequities) in preterm birth are worsening. Black women are about 50 percent more likely to give birth prematurely compared to other women and their babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday compared to babies born to white women. This stark reality signals the need for health equity, which means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. It also signals the need for healthy moms before, during and after pregnancy.

Being healthy across the course of one’s life is essential for having a healthy baby in the future. Most of us recognize the importance of prenatal care during pregnancy. Experts also advise screenings for medical and social risk factors, providing health education, and delivering effective treatment or prevention plans as a set of practices that could improve health prior to conception. Women and men of reproductive age who improve their preconception health can increase their likelihood of having a healthy baby if and when they desire. In short, healthy moms and dads can lead to stronger babies. Yet disparities can be stubborn and may require more than simply changing behavior.

According to the Office of Minority Health, your zip code can be a predictor of your health. In other words, your place of birth, where you work and play, your income and education, and a host of other factors – in addition to the choices you make each day about what to eat, when to work out and whether or not to see a doctor can impact your health. These factors are often referred to as the “social determinants of health,” and they contribute to health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in America. “Addressing the social determinants is key to ensuring that every baby is born healthy regardless of wealth, race or geography.”

According to the Pew Research Center, rapid growth among minority populations is projected by 2050.  If this trend holds, many of tomorrow’s parents will come from communities that share a disproportionate burden of preterm birth and infant death. Although advances in medicine and technology were likely responsible for much of the improvements in these health outcomes in the U.S. over the years, it is also likely that the collective actions of everyday people has helped us realize that better health is not just for ourselves but for future generations. Looking back on this progress can surely help us look forward to what it will take for our babies to continue to grow and thrive.  National Minority Health Month is a special occasion for us to acknowledge the struggles that continue to evade us and what’s needed to support future generations.

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

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Recently 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.

Care Women Deserve

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Today we are happy to help launch the Care Women Deserve campaign. Care Women Deserve is a partnership of organizations concerned about women’s health. It includes the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Black Women’s Health Imperative, March of Dimes, National Women’s Law Center, Power to Decide, the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy, UnidosUS, and the United State of Women. The goal of the campaign is to educate people about health services that are available to women with no out-of-pocket costs.

The Affordable Care Act (also known as ACA) requires insurance plans to cover recommended preventive health services without any additional cost to you. Preventive services are those that you get when you are not sick. They try to prevent health problems or detect them early so that you can get treatment. Many women may not be aware of these benefits or believe they have been eliminated.

If you have insurance, here’s a list of services that are available to most women across the United States at no cost:

“Under the Affordable Care Act, women gained access to a host of important preventive health services without having to pay out of pocket,” states March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart. “We want all women to understand these benefits, so they can be as healthy as possible at every stage of life.”

To learn more visit:

Join us to help all women get the care they deserve! Follow #CareWomenDeserve and #GetTheCare.

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.

Preparing for a natural disaster

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, wildfires, or hurricanes are events that bring an extreme amount of stress. Being prepared can help you cope better. As a pregnant woman or a family with babies, these guidelines will be helpful.

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 bottled 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.

Why is prenatal care so important?

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Doctor with pregnant woman during check-upGetting early and regular prenatal care can help you have a healthy and full-term pregnancy. However, a recent report shows that the preterm birth rate in the US has increased for the second year in a row. This is an alarming indication that the health of pregnant women and babies in our country is getting worse. As Stacey D. Stewart, president of the March of Dimes states, “Every mother needs healthcare throughout her pregnancy to help avoid preterm birth and birth complications, with the goal of every baby being born healthy.”

So, what can you do to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby? You should call your health care provider to schedule your first appointment as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Make sure you’re ready to talk to your provider about:

  • The first day of your last menstrual period (also called LMP). Your provider can use this to help find out your baby’s due date.
  • Health conditions. Such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and not being at a healthy weight. Conditions like these can cause problems during pregnancy. Tell your provider about your family health history.
  • Medicines. This includes prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, supplements and herbal products. Some medicines can hurt your baby if you take them during pregnancy, so you may need to stop taking it or switch to another medicine. Don’t stop or start taking any medicine without talking to your provider first. And tell your provider if you’re allergic to any medicine.
  • Your pregnancy history. Tell your provider if you’ve been pregnant before or if you’ve had trouble getting pregnant. Tell her if you’ve had any pregnancy complications or if you’ve had a premature baby (a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), a miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs and abusing prescription drugs. All of these can hurt your baby.
  • Stress. Stress is worry, strain or pressure that you feel in response to things that happen in your life. Talk to your provide about ways to deal with and reduce your stress. High levels of stress can cause complications during pregnancy.
  • Your safety at home and work. Tell your provider about chemicals you use at home or work and about what kind of job you have.

Make sure you go to all of your prenatal care appointments, even if you feel fine. Going to all of your checkups gives your provider the chance to make sure you and your baby are healthy and allows you to ask any questions you may have (write them down before your appointment so you don’t forget).

The March of Dimes work to give every baby a healthy start is more vital than ever. We urge everyone concerned about the health of babies to make their voices heard by going to marchofdimes.org.

More babies being born too soon

Friday, June 30th, 2017

pregnant woman blood pressureFor the second year in a row, the preterm birth rate in the United States has gone up. Preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. According to a preliminary report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the preterm birth rate rose to 9.84% in 2016, up 2% from 9.63% in 2015.

 After seven years of a steady decline in the preterm birth rate, this increase is alarming.

Reduce your risk

We don’t know why this is happening. But we do know that there are some things a woman can do to help reduce her chance of giving birth too soon. Here are some of them:

  • See your prenatal care provider as soon as you think you’re pregnant. And go to all of your prenatal care appointments. Go even if you’re feeling fine. Prenatal care helps your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, use street drugs or abuse prescription drugs. Ask your provider about programs in your area that can help you quit.
  • Talk to your provider about your weight. Ask how much weight you should gain during pregnancy. Try to get to a healthy weight before your next pregnancy.
  • Get treated for chronic health conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes and thyroid problems.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, caring for small children, or blowing your nose. Don’t eat raw meat or fish. Have safe sex. Don’t touch cat poop.
  • Reduce your stress. Exercise and eat healthy foods. Ask for help from family and friends. Get help if your partner abuses you. Talk to your boss about how to lower your stress at work.
  • Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. See your provider for a preconception checkup before your next pregnancy.

 

Know the signs

If you have any of these signs or symptoms before 37 weeks of pregnancy, you may be having preterm labor. Call your health care provider right away if you have even one of these signs or symptoms:

  • 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 think you’re having preterm labor, call your provider. Call even if you have just one sign or symptom. There are several treatments that may help slow or stop preterm labor. And there are treatments, like antenatal corticosteroids (also called ACS), that can help reduce your baby’s chances for having health problems (like lung problems) in case he’s born early.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.