Archive for the ‘Mommy’ Category

Chickenpox, vaccinations and Angelina Jolie

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

VaccineAngelina Jolie coming down with chickenpox is a good reminder for all of us to keep our vaccinations up to date! Chickenpox, also called varicella, is caused by a virus. Its symptoms include an itchy rash, blisters and fever. And before the varicella vaccine, people usually got chickenpox during childhood. Now, most kids get the vaccine in the first few years of life.

As a kid, I remember getting chickenpox along with several others in my kindergarten class. And as itchy and uncomfortable as I was, I still didn’t get it as bad as my little sister did years later – in fact, she got it twice, but that’s rare! Come to think of it, my sister was slammed three times by the virus when she got shingles last year. That’s right – the virus that causes chickenpox can also cause shingles later in life.

For most of us who were “lucky” enough to catch chickenpox in childhood, we probably don’t have to worry about getting chickenpox in adulthood, like Mrs. Pitt. But if you’ve never had chickenpox or aren’t sure, talk to your provider about getting the varicella vaccine, especially if you’re thinking about getting pregnant. Having chickenpox during pregnancy may cause some babies to get congenital varicella syndrome, a group of birth defects. Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy, so it’s best to get the varicella vaccine before getting pregnant.

In the meantime, here’s hoping Angelina has a speedy recovery!

Deck the halls…carefully

Monday, December 15th, 2014

holiday lightbulbsTis the season. Whether you are going to rock around your Christmas tree with bright lights and shiny ornaments, light up a menorah, or get ready for a festive New Year’s party, it is important to remember how to keep it safe for you and your family.

Every December, at this time, my family and I bring out the storage bucket filled with coils of holiday lights. This year we went through each of our many coils to check for broken or burned out bulbs and frayed wires. The last thing you want is to be half way up the tree with your strand of lights and realize a bulb has been shattered. Or worse, to have a defective strand of lights on your tree which could pose a risk of fire.

Here are some tips to decorate safely

Lights

Check your new and old holiday lights to make sure they are in good condition. If you see any broken bulbs, cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections, discard those strands. Use no more than three sets of lights per extension cord. Remember to turn off all of your holiday lights when you go to bed or leave your house as they can short out and start a fire.

Christmas trees and wreaths

Some trees and wreaths contain small mold spores that may trigger allergy and asthma symptoms and are irritating to the nose and throat. If your child is prone to allergies or asthma, you may want to purchase a fire resistant artificial tree to use during the holidays.

“Real” trees can dry out quickly causing needles to fall off easily. Not only does this make a mess on your floor, but it is also a fire hazard. Try to buy as fresh a tree as possible, and check your tree every day to make sure it always has enough water.

Trimmings

Decorate your tree with your child in mind. Ornaments are not only sharp and breakable, they can be a choking hazard. Put all of your fragile, small ornaments and decorations that look tempting to a toddler or young child towards the top of the tree to keep them out of reach. If you decorate with artificial snow sprays, they can irritate little lungs if inhaled. To avoid this, make sure you read all labels and directions on how to properly use the snow.

Plants

Holiday plants spice up any room, but keep them out of reach from your small children and pets. Plants such as poinsettias, mistletoe berries, holly and Jerusalem cherry can be poisonous if chewed or eaten.

Candles

Although lit candles are warm and welcoming, they are a fire hazard and dangerous for children to be around. Instead, consider purchasing battery operated candles. They look and flicker like “real” flames! You can even find ones with timers so that they turn on and off by themselves. But if you do use “real” candles, remember to keep matches and lighters in a safe place away from your little ones, and keep lit candles away from your Christmas tree.

Batteries

Check all the batteries in electronic holiday toys or ornaments to make sure they are secure and hidden. Button batteries are a choking hazard if they get into a curious toddler’s hands.

Take a couple of seconds before you start decking your halls to read all instructions and warning labels on products. With just a few extra moments of care, you and your family can decorate safely, and enjoy the holidays.

If you have any questions, email us at askus@marchofdimes.org.

Are you ready to have another baby?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

pregnant woman and toddlerEveryone has a different opinion about how far apart in age their children should be. Some people like to have their babies very close together, while others like a little more time between each child. But there may be more to consider than just personal preference. A recent study found that women who wait less than 18 months between pregnancies are more likely to give birth before 39 weeks.

The study found that mothers who had less time between pregnancies were more likely to give birth before 39 weeks when compared to women whose pregnancies were 18 months apart or more. Women with pregnancy intervals of less than 12 months were more than twice as likely to give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks) when compared to women whose pregnancies were at least 18 months apart.

“Short interpregnancy interval is a known risk factor for preterm birth, however, this new research shows that inadequate birth spacing is associated with shorter overall pregnancy duration” states  Emily DeFranco, Assistant Professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio and the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and co-author of the study. She adds: “This study has potential clinical impact on reducing the overall rate of preterm birth across the world through counselling women on the importance of adequate birth spacing, especially focusing on women known to be at inherently high risk for preterm birth.”

So if you are thinking about having another baby, make sure you schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider.  The two of you can discuss any health concerns you may have as well as the time between your pregnancies.  Also, if you have had a premature baby in the past, make sure you discuss ways to reduce your risk of having another premature birth.

Wind chill, hypothermia and frostbite, oh my

Monday, December 8th, 2014

snowstorm1Outdoor activities during this season can help you and your family beat the winter blues. The days are getting colder and the sun is going down earlier, but if you’re busy having fun, you may hardly notice. Last week I talked about keeping you and your baby warm during the winter. But even if you and your little one are bundled, things like wind chill, hypothermia or frostbite can still happen.

Wind Chill

• Wind chill is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop.
• Always be aware of what the wind temperature is before you or your children go outside. If you are unaware of the wind chill, it could be only a matter of time before frostbite and hypothermia set in.

Frostbite

• Frostbite is when the skin and outer tissues of the body have become frozen. This can happen on fingers, toes, ears and nose. They may appear pale, gray and blistered. Your child may complain that his/her skin burns or has become numb.
• Frostbite can happen quickly. The risk is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among those not dressed properly for extremely cold temperature.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say a victim is usually unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.
• If frostbite occurs, bring your child inside and place the frostbitten part in warm (not hot) water or apply warm washcloths to the area. Call your child’s health care provider if numbness continues for more than a few minutes.

Hypothermia

• Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. This can happen when your child is playing outside in extremely cold weather, if his clothing gets wet or if he is not dressed appropriately for the weather.
• Hypothermia is most likely to occur at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40 degrees Fahrenheit) if you become chilled from rain, sweat or submerged in cold water.
• Signs of hypothermia include shivering, becoming lethargic or clumsy and slurring speech. Infants will become bright red, have cold skin and very low energy.
• If you notice any of these signs in your child, contact his health care provider immediately or call 911. Take your child indoors, remove any wet clothing and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes until help arrives.

With a little knowledge and some advance preparation, you and your child will enjoy the cold, winter season without any problems. Click here for more information on how to stay warm and safe this winter.

 

Keeping you and your baby warm in winter

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Staying warmDecember is here and the temperatures in many parts of the country have turned from cold to freezing. Sipping hot chocolate under a blanket and ice skating at the local rink are some of my favorite activities during this month. But, staying warm and healthy this season is my top priority. Here are some tips to help keep you and your little one safe and warm.

Brrrrrrrr, it’s cold outside! Dress for the weather.

Listen to weather forecasts -

Before you or your child gets dressed to go outside, especially for outdoor activities, it is important to know the weather conditions. Dressing for 20 degree weather is different than dressing for 40 degree weather.

Layer it on -

Dress your little one in several thin layers, such as a T-shirt, long sleeved shirt, sweater or sweatshirt and a winter jacket, preferably waterproof and wind resistant. Your child should also have warm socks and waterproof boots, gloves or mittens and a hat. For older babies and young children, dress them in one more layer of clothing than you would wear in the same conditions.

Limit time outside-

Snow is fun and great to play in, but your little one should come inside frequently to warm up and change out of wet clothes, if needed. Wet clothing chills a body rapidly. If your child starts sweating while playing outside, remove an extra layer of clothing. Excess perspiration can increase your child’s heat loss. And remember, if you see your child shivering, that is a sure sign to go indoors and warm up.

Stay healthy through the cold weather-

The low temperatures outside can cause your home to become colder and dryer. You may find your skin feels much more dry than usual. Many pediatricians feel that bathing an infant 2 or 3 times a week is enough for the first year. Bathing more frequently may dry out your baby’s skin, especially during this cold season.

As the temperatures drop at night, you may be tempted to put a warm blanket over your infant, but keep all blankets, bumpers, sheepskins and other loose bedding out of your infant’s crib. Instead dress your baby in a warm onesie sleeper.

Keeping hands clean is also important to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. Make sure your family frequently washes their hands to keep viruses like colds and flu from spreading.

December is a great time to take your children out for fun winter activities, but make sure they are dressed appropriately and take precautions to keep your whole family healthy this winter. With a few extra steps, everyone in your family will be warm and healthy despite frigid temperatures.

These and other tips may be found on the CDC website.

Holidays are a time for family

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Family at Thanksgiving dinnerAnd learning about family health history! I recently visited some relatives that I had not seen in years. After we caught up, they mentioned to me that colon cancer runs in that side of the family. This was news to me, as I did not know much about our family’s health history. At my next doctor’s appointment I told my doctor what I had learned from my relatives, and we made a plan on how to manage my health care going forward.

At Thanksgiving, you may be getting together with your family over a delicious turkey dinner. This is a great time to bring up your family’s health history. You may discover important information to keep in mind at your next doctor’s visit like I did.

On our website, we have a lot of helpful tips on how to talk to family and relatives, how to use the information they share, and what to do if some family members don’t want to talk about their health.  You can also use our Family Health History form to help you start a conversation with your family.

Knowing your family’s health history is helpful, especially if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. If you learn that your family has a health condition that gets passed from parent to child, you may want to see a genetic counselor. This is a person who is trained to help you understand how conditions run in families and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health.

Enjoy spending time with your family this Thanksgiving, and learn about each other’s health at the same time. You may discover a few new things that can help you make healthy decisions for your future.

Time to chat about World Prematurity Day

Friday, November 14th, 2014

globeCome one…come all tweeters for the #WorldPrematurityDay 24-hour Twitter Relay beginning on November 13 at 7 PM EDT and ending November 14 at 8 PM EDT.  Join 28 global partners and friends from around the world, including member organizations from our World Prematurity Network, to commemorate World Prematurity Day and drive awareness to the issue of preterm birth.

The March of Dimes will tweet about preterm birth @modhealthtalk by hosting an hour on November 14 at 1 PM EDT on “Parenting in the NICU.”  Please join us, retweet, offer your tweets about your activities for #WorldPrematurityDay and help us surpass this year’s goal of reaching over 30 million people on Twitter!

Staying positive in the NICU

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

parents in the NICUHaving a baby in the NICU is stressful. Very stressful. When a baby is born prematurely, the roller coaster ride of the NICU experience is emotionally, physically and mentally taxing for parents.

Premature birth is the birth of a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy. One in 9 babies is born prematurely, or 15 million babies globally! Of these babies, one million will die. Babies who survive often have lifelong health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, intellectual disabilities and learning problems. Just knowing these statistics provokes anxiety and worry in parents. If you are a parent with a baby in the NICU, observing the ups and downs of your baby’s progress day to day can be heart wrenching and particularly wearing.

Depression more common in the NICU

Studies have shown that “in the month after delivery, parents of preemies are significantly more depressed and anxious than parents of term babies,” according to Linden, Paroli and Doron MD in the book Preemies – The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies, 2nd Edition. The authors report that “Besides depression and anxiety, they (parents) were more apt to feel hostile, guilty, and incompetent at parenting and to isolate themselves socially…An early delivery is itself so scary that even many parents of healthy preemies react with shock and anxiety.” Given the stress associated with seeing your baby in the hospital, and the ups and downs of slow progress – it is not hard to imagine that depression is seen more often in parents of preemies than in parents of children born at term.

Many new mothers experience the “postpartum blues” or the “baby blues.” Baby blues are feelings of sadness you may have three to five days after having a baby. These feelings most likely are caused by all the hormones in your body right after pregnancy. You may feel sad or cranky, and you may cry a lot. By about 10 days after the baby’s birth, the baby blues should go away. If they don’t, tell your health care provider who will determine if you may have postpartum depression (PPD), which lasts longer and is more serious than baby blues.

Signs of PPD include feeling tired all the time, having no interest in your usual activities, gaining or losing weight, changing your eating habits, having trouble sleeping or concentrating, and thinking about suicide or death. If you have five or more of these signs and they last for two weeks or longer, you may have PPD. Sometimes mothers of preemies develop postpartum depression as a result of the severe stress and anxiety experienced by having a premature baby. Even fathers of preemies can become depressed.

What can help?

There are many ways to feel better.  Treatments for depression may include all or some of the following: healthy eating, regular sleep and exercise, talking with friends, family or a professional counselor/therapist, lowering your stress by taking time to relax and avoiding alcohol. In addition, your health care provider may give you medication specifically designed to help with depression.

Talking to other parents who have gone through the NICU journey can be very helpful. The parents on the March of Dimes’ online community, Share Your Story, “talk” to one another and share their experiences. It is a comforting and supportive community, where all NICU families are welcomed.

When will you feel better?

The length of time a parent feels down, anxious or depressed can vary, and may depend on the health of your baby, and the length of NICU stay. But usually, parents of preemies begin to feel more balanced as their baby grows, and “by the end of the baby’s first year, their psychological distress, on average, has been found to be similar to those of mothers of term babies” according to the Preemies book. But, each baby and NICU stay is unique, so each parent’s journey to feeling better is unique.

Bottom line

Having a baby in the NICU is extraordinarily stressful and difficult. You need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your baby. It is important to be aware of the signs or symptoms of depression and to speak with your health care provider if you have any concerns at all.

The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will feel better.

 

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also view the Table of Contents of prior posts.

Feel free to ask questions. Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Diabetes and premature birth: know the facts

Monday, November 10th, 2014

speak to your health care providerDid you know that having diabetes during pregnancy is a risk factor for preterm labor and premature birth? Diabetes is a serious health concern, especially when left untreated or undiagnosed. November is prematurity awareness month and we want to make sure you’re aware of the risks diabetes can have on your pregnancy.

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.

Some women also develop diabetes during pregnancy, which is called gestational diabetes. Four out of every 100 pregnant women (4 percent) develop this type of 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.

How can you find out if you have diabetes?

If you are not pregnant yet, speak with your health care provider about your concerns. He will ask you about your family health history, and evaluate your present health. He can give you a glucose tolerance test and measure your blood glucose levels to see if you have diabetes.

If you are pregnant already, you may 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.

Who is at risk for developing gestational diabetes?

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

• You’re 30 years old or older.
• 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.

What else can you do?

It’s important for you to take care of yourself, but especially if you have diabetes or a risk factor for gestational diabetes. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider about taking a glucose tolerance test. 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.

 

Prematurity awareness month: here’s what’s happening

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

prematurity awareness monthIt’s November, and everyone at March of Dimes is excited because it is Prematurity Awareness Month. We will be very busy getting the word out about the serious problems of preterm birth. There are ways that you can participate in helping us end prematurity.

Take a look at what we have in store:

November 17th is World Prematurity Day

Help raise awareness by wearing purple (the color of prematurity and the March of Dimes).

Twitter chats

Join in the conversation on one or all of the following chats:

November 5th – Chat on premature birth with Mom’s Rising. What is premature birth? Are you at risk? Is it ok to schedule your baby’s birth? What if you had a prior premature birth – will it happen again? What can you  do?  Ask questions and get answers on this chat at 2pm ET. Use #WellnessWed.

November 11th –  Have you or someone you know lost a baby due to prematurity or birth defects? The loss of a child is so unfair. Please join us as we share stories at 8pm ET. Use #losschat.

November 13th – Chat on Early Intervention (EI) services with the CDC, NCBDDD and CPIR. Many preemies are developmentally delayed or have disabilities. In fact, premature birth is the leading cause of lasting childhood disabilities. Early Intervention services can help your child improve. Learn how to access them and get your questions answered at 2pm ET. Use #ActEarlychat.

November 14th  – A 24 hour chat relay is happening all across the globe! The March of Dimes will be chatting about parenting in the NICU at 1pm ET. Join us at that time and tune in any other time during the day for the 24 hour chat relay. Use #worldprematurityday to watch or participate.

November 19th – Chat on Preemies with NICHD. One in 9 babies is born preterm. Learn who is at risk, what you can do to have a healthy baby, and what is being done to help end prematurity. Join us at 2pm ET and use #preemiechat.

November 20th – Chat on all things prematurity with Johnson & Johnson Global Health. Join us at 1pm ET and use #prematuritychat.

News Moms Need blog topics

We will be blogging throughout the month on topics related to prematurity including: NEC, diabetes, new research, “who’s who” in the NICU, and other important topics.

Facebook

“Like” and follow us on Facebook on the World Prematurity Day page and on the March of Dimes page.

These are just a few of the events we have on our calendar. Check back throughout the month for the most up-to-date prematurity news and information. We hope you join us and tell all your friends! With your help, we will get closer to achieving our mission of ending prematurity.