Archive for the ‘Hot Topics’ Category

Premature Birth Report Cards grades are not so good this year

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

The 2018 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Cards are in and the grades aren’t good. The United States received a disappointing grade “C.”

March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Cards monitor progress in reducing the number of babies born prematurely in the United States each year. The Report Cards grade all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico on their preterm birth rate, as well as the nation as a whole. The Report Cards also show racial, ethnic and geographic disparities (differences) in premature birth in each state. Premature birth is birth that happens early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies are more likely than babies born on time to have health problems at birth and later in life.

The number of babies born prematurely has increased for the third year in a row in the United States. Every two seconds a baby is born prematurely in our country. More than 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. each year, and more than 20 percent of them are born to black women.  Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributors to babies dying in the first year of life. We need to come together as a community to create awareness and find solutions that help moms and babies be healthy.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the overall United States preterm birth rate rose from 9.85 in 2016 to 9.93 in 2017. Compared to rates in 2016, in 2017:

  • 30 states had a worse rate
  • 6 states stayed the same
  • 16 states improved their rate

There is no single cause of premature birth, but research shows that unequal access to quality health care does have a negative impact on these rates. This was revealed in a recent March of Dimes report showing how certain counties in the United States don’t have access to maternity care. Communities with higher poverty rates tend to have less access to quality maternity care. These and other factors contribute to the continued increase in premature birth in this country.

Although we don’t know all the causes of premature birth, March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies by:

  • Working to ensure women have access to health checkups before, during and after pregnancy
  • Providing programs that help more women have access to care, like group prenatal care
  • Educating families and communities to help women have healthier pregnancies
  • Supporting moms through every stage of the pregnancy journey, even when things don’t go as planned
  • Researching the causes of premature birth
  • Advocating for policies to protect moms and babies and give them the best possible start
  • Helping the voices of all women and families be heard

Find out your state’s grade and visit marchofdimes.org/blanketchange to learn more about what you can do to help every pregnant woman in America get the care she needs.

Do you live in a maternity care desert?

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Maternity care is the health care women get during pregnancy, labor and birth and in the postpartum period after giving birth. Getting quality maternity care can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. But not every woman in the U.S. gets good maternity care. One reason for this is because they live in a maternity care desert. A maternity care desert is an area where there are not enough hospitals, health care providers or health care services for pregnant and postpartum women.

A new report from March of Dimes shows where maternity care deserts exist and how they affect the health of moms and babies. Here are some of the findings:

  • More than 5 million women in the U.S. live in a maternity care desert.
  • About 1,085 counties in the U.S. have hospitals without services for pregnant women.
  • Almost 150,000 babies are born to women living in maternity care deserts.
  • Counties with maternity care deserts have a higher number of people living in poverty.

Maternity care deserts are a problem for all of us.

Having good quality and on-time health care services can help women have healthier pregnancies and babies. Through health checkups, a provider can spot health conditions and treat them before they become serious. Women who live in maternity care deserts may be at higher risk of having serious health complications and even death. Babies who are born prematurely or with special health conditions may not get the medical care they need in counties with maternity care deserts. The health of moms and babies is at risk when they live in counties with maternity care deserts.

The United States is facing a maternal health crisis.

More than 700 moms died due to pregnancy-related causes this year alone, making the United States one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to give birth. Women of color are most at risk of facing life-threatening complications. Black women are three times as likely as white women to die from pregnancy-related causes. More than 50,000 women have a near-miss (nearly die) from severe complications from labor and childbirth every year.

What can you do?

You can take action now and help us fight for the health of all moms.

Stacey D. Stewart speaks to Congress about maternal death

Friday, September 28th, 2018

March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart spoke before the U.S. Congress yesterday (September 27, 2018). She urged lawmakers to pass legislation to help prevent the death of women from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. The United States is facing a maternal health crisis, making our country one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to give birth.

Stewart started her testimony by showing the members of Congress a hospital receiving blanket used to wrap a baby after birth. She said, “any of us with children will never forget that first moment when the doctor placed our precious baby boy or girl in our arms, wrapped warmly in one of these blankets.” Then she explained that more than 700 times a year a mother dies, leaving a baby without a mom to hold him.  Each year in the United States, 700 families face the devastating experience of losing a mom due to a pregnancy-related death.

Stewart also talked about another alarming problem affecting even more families and moms. In the United States every year, more than 50,000 women have a near-miss (nearly die) from severe complications from labor and childbirth. The emotional and disturbing effects of these experiences distress women and families sometimes for a lifetime.

In the United States almost every measure of mom and baby health and wellbeing is getting worse:

Stewart also highlighted how racial disparities are affecting Black women in our country. “Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women— a truly shocking and appalling disparity,” she said.

We all must address this public health crisis. Help us lead the fight for the health of all moms and babies. Join the March of Dimes advocacy network and take action now to support legislation that can help protect all moms and babies. And learn about the signs and symptoms of health complications after birth to help you know when something’s not right. Knowing what to look for can help save your life. And sharing this information may help save others.

March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart urges Congress to take action to save moms’ lives

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

Each year in the United States 700 women die from pregnancy-related causes and more than 50,000 have a near-miss (nearly-die) from severe complications from labor and childbirth. The U.S. is one of the most dangerous places in the developing world to give birth. This is simply unacceptable.

March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart speaks to the House of Representatives about the maternal and child health crisis happening in our country. Stewart testifies about the urgent need for legislation that can help save moms’ lives. Watch now!

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.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

It’s time to celebrate the old and welcome in the new! All of us at the March of Dimes and News Moms Need want to wish you and your family a very happy and healthy year ahead.

We will be on vacation between December 29, 2017 through January 1, 2018. We will return to answer your questions on January 2, 2018. Please contact your health care provider, go the the hospital, or call 911 if you believe that you are in preterm labor or have a medical emergency. The following pages on our website may be helpful to you:

Signs and symptoms of preterm labor

Pregnancy complications

Labor and birth

The newborn intensive care unit (NICU)

Loss and grief