Archive for the ‘Hot Topics’ Category

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.

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

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.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@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.

Zika in New York City

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

New York CityIf you live in the New York City area, you may have seen or heard the advertisements about the Zika virus.

There has been an increase in the number of babies born in NYC who have shown signs of the virus.

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reports that since January 2017, 402 pregnant women have shown laboratory evidence of the Zika virus infection. Twenty three babies have been born with lab evidence of the infection, and 16 babies have been born with birth defects consistent with Zika virus infection during pregnancy.

It is important to note that all of these cases resulted from either travel to a Zika affected area, or through sex with an infected individual. The majority of the cases are believed to have resulted from travel to the Dominican Republic.

None of the cases are reported to have been due to local transmission, meaning no one became infected as a result of being bitten by a NYC mosquito.

What does all this mean?

Zika is still a threat, especially to pregnant women and babies. If a woman gets infected with Zika during pregnancy, the virus can pass to her baby. It can cause serious birth defects including microcephaly.

The most common way Zika is spread is by being bitten by an infected mosquito, or by having sex with an infected partner.

How can you protect yourself?

  • If you are trying to get pregnant, or you are pregnant, do not travel to areas with risk of Zika.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing long sleeved shirts and pants, using bug spray, and staying in air conditioned buildings. Learn more about how to stay safe from Zika in our article.
  • If your partner has travelled to an area with Zika and may be infected, use a barrier method of birth control (such as a condom) every time you have sex or don’t have sex at all.
  • If you’re pregnant and think you may have been exposed to Zika, see your health care provider right away.
  • If you think you may have been exposed to Zika during pregnancy and you give birth, be sure to let your baby’s pediatrician know, so that your baby can be closely monitored.
  • You can find special doctors to care for a baby potentially affected by Zika on the Zika Care Connect website.

We’re closely monitoring the Zika virus and its potential effects on women, babies and entire families. Stay tuned for more updates.

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

 

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.

 

U.S. study shows fewer babies are dying in their first year of life

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. A new report released by the CDC shows that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. dropped 15% from 2005 to 2014. In kangaroo-care-242005 the rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2014, the rate dropped to 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births.

While the study did not look at the underlying causes of the decline, it did report valuable information:

  • Infant mortality rates declined in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The other 17 states saw no significant changes.
  • Declines were seen in some of the leading causes of infant death including birth defects (11% decline), preterm birth and low birthweight (8% decline), and maternal complications (7% decline).
  • The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) declined by 29%.
  • Infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives.
  • Infants born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

“On the surface, this seems like good news. But it is far from time to celebrate,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes. “What is concerning, though, is that the inequities between non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians and the Caucasian population have persisted.” Dr. Jarris adds, “This report highlights the need to strengthen programs that serve low income and at-risk communities, especially those with the highest infant mortality rates.”

The infant mortality rate is one of the indicators that is often used to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants.

What can you do?

Having a healthy pregnancy may increase the chance of having a healthy baby. Here are some things you can do before and during pregnancy:

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

Is the Zika virus affecting babies in the U.S.?

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

microcephalyShort answer…Yes.

The CDC just released a report that measured the number of brain related birth defects in the U.S. before and after the arrival of Zika. The study focused on data from three areas of the U.S. that track brain related birth defects – Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia – in the year 2013-2014, before Zika arrived in the U.S.

It found that during that time, brain related birth defects occurred in 3 out of 1,000 births (.3%).

A study done looking at 2016 data shows that among women in the US with possible Zika virus infection, similar brain related birth defects were 20 times more common, affecting 60 of 1,000 pregnancies (6%).

This is a huge increase.

Here’s what we know

If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, the virus can pass to her baby. Zika has been shown to cause a range of birth defects including brain problems, microcephaly, neural tube defects, eye defects and central nervous system problems. Although none of these birth defects are new to the medical field and they can occur for other reasons, it has been clearly established that the Zika virus can cause these serious problems, too.

Babies will require coordinated, long-term care

Babies born with Zika related birth defects will require access to coordinated medical care among a team of specialists. Such care may seem daunting to the parents and even to the medical community as they gather new information about the effects of the virus on a daily basis.

Enter the Zika Care Connect Network (ZCC)

This new website will launch in April 2017 to help parents and providers coordinate care for babies with complex medical needs due to Zika infection. The ZCC aims to improve access to medical care, which will jump-start early identification and intervention. The goal is to reduce the long-term effects of Zika on children and families by making it easier to locate a network of specialists knowledgeable about services for patients with Zika. The searchable database will feature a Provider Referral Network, patient resource tools, and a HelpLine.

Bottom line

Zika is still here, and it is seriously affecting babies and families. The best line of defense is to protect yourself from infection. Our website has detailed information on how to stay safe.

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

Zika virus case believed to be found in Texas

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Aedes aegypti mosquitoHealth officials in South Texas believe they have identified their first locally transmitted case of Zika virus in a woman living in Brownsville.

A locally transmitted case means that the person who got the Zika virus did not get it by traveling to a place where it is commonly found nor did the person have sex with someone who has the virus. She also did not get it through a blood transfusion or in a lab setting. In other words, it was most likely spread by an infected mosquito.

Texas health officials have set up surveillance sites in the Brownsville area where the infected woman lives, to test mosquitoes for possible infection. They are also trying to find out if anyone else in the area has been infected with the virus.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said “Even though it is late in the mosquito season, mosquitoes can spread Zika in some areas of the country. Texas is doing the right thing by increasing local surveillance and trapping and testing mosquitoes in the Brownsville area.”

The CDC’s press release states: “As of Nov 23, 2016, 4,444 cases of Zika have been reported to CDC in the continental United States and Hawaii; 182 of these were the result of local spread by mosquitoes. These cases include 36 believed to be the result of sexual transmission and one that was the result of a laboratory exposure. This number does not include the current case under investigation in Texas.”

Now that the cold weather has arrived, you may think that the Zika virus is a thing of the past. But, this announcement of a likely locally transmitted case of Zika should be a reminder that Zika is still here, and it is still a threat.

If a woman gets infected with Zika during pregnancy, she can pass it to her baby. It can cause a birth defect called microcephaly, congenital Zika syndrome, and other developmental problems.

Read why Zika is harmful to pregnant women and babies, and what you need to know to keep you and your family safe.

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

 

CDC’s 8 fast facts about Zika if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

microcephalyIf you get infected with Zika during pregnancy, you can pass it to your baby. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as microcephaly, and other brain problems. Here’s what the CDC wants you to know:

1. All pregnant women in the United States should be assessed for possible Zika virus exposure and signs or symptoms of Zika during each prenatal care visit.

2. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye). Other symptoms could include muscle pain and headache.

3. Zika virus is most commonly spread through mosquito bites.

4. Zika virus may be passed through sex by a person who carries the virus, even if he or she never develops symptoms.

5. For women and men who have been diagnosed with Zika, have symptoms, or have had possible exposure to the Zika virus, CDC recommends that women wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant, and that men wait at least 6 months before trying to get their partner pregnant.

6. In addition to microcephaly, doctors have found other problems among babies infected with Zika virus before birth, such as missing or poorly developed brain structures, defects of the eye, hearing problems, and impaired growth.

7. Zika also may be linked to miscarriage and stillbirth.

8. Zika virus has been found in breast milk, but there are no reports of babies getting infected with Zika from breastfeeding.

Researchers are collecting data to better understand the extent of the Zika virus’ impact on mothers and their babies.

Share these facts with friends, family, and coworkers. For more information about Zika, please visit cdc.gov/PreventZika or our web article. 

Thanks to the CDC for sharing these facts, so you can protect yourself and your family from Zika.

Photo courtesy of CDC.

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

Study finds parents make medication dosing mistakes

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

medicine syringe for kidsMore than 80 percent of 2,110 parents made dosing mistakes when measuring liquid medicine, a new Pediatrics study reveals. And, the majority of those mistakes were overdoses. The study was in the form of a lab experiment (so no children were harmed). Researchers found  that 4 times more errors occurred when a dosing cup was used instead of an oral syringe.

Manufacturers of liquid medication may have different kinds of cups, droppers, spoons or syringes to use to give your child his medicine. These various kinds of measuring items can be confusing and lead to accidentally using one that wasn’t intended for a particular medication.

What should you do?

  • Always use the oral syringe or dropper that comes with the medication. Do not use a syringe or dropper from a previous medication.
  • Measure calmly, carefully, and exactly.
  • Never use kitchen teaspoons because they are not intended for medication use. Kitchen spoons vary widely and can hold vastly different amounts of liquids.
  • The researchers in this study recommend using oral syringes instead of cups, especially if small doses (eg. for babies) are needed.

There is no doubt that having a sick baby or child is very stressful. When our kids are sick, we are worried and probably sleep deprived from being up with them at night. You can reduce the odds of making a medication mistake by using only the syringe or dropper that comes with the medicine bottle, or ask your pharmacist to help you select a syringe. Be sure you understand the label and the markings on the syringe.

Other tips

  • If you are giving a non-prescription medication (such as Tylenol or any over-the-counter medicine), be sure to give the dose that is based on your child’s weight, not his age. If in doubt, ask a doctor, nurse, physician assistant, pharmacist or other healthcare provider.
  • AAP has helpful dosage charts for acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil).
  • Check out the AAP’s video guide on how to measure meds and read about useful medication tips.