Archive for the ‘Baby’ Category

See how your state is doing on childhood vaccination rates

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

baby vaccinationYou know that vaccines are very important. They protect your baby from serious childhood illnesses. Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of disease and saved millions of lives.

However, immunization rates across the United States vary. In order to show how vaccination rates differ among individual states, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed an interactive digital map that shows state immunization rates for vaccine-preventable diseases, including:

  • Flu: The best way to protect your baby from the flu is to make sure he gets a flu shot each year before flu season (October through May). Even though your baby’s more likely to get the flu during flu season, he can get it any time of year. The flu shot contains a vaccine that helps prevent your baby from getting the flu. Children older than 6 months can get the flu shot. Your baby gets two flu shots in his first year life. He then gets one shot each year after.
  • Varicella: This vaccine protects your child from chickenpox, an infection that spreads easily and causes itchy skin, rash and fever.
  • Diptheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP): Diptheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat and can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death. Tetanus (lockjaw) is a serious disease that causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. And pertussis (also called whooping cough) is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that is dangerous for a baby.
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR): This vaccine protects your baby against measles, mumps and rubella (also called German measles). Measles is a disease that’s easily spread and may cause rash, cough and fever. Mumps may cause fever, headache and swollen glands. Rubella causes mild flu-like symptoms and a skin rash.
  • HPV (human papillomavirus): This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine.

According to the AAP, “The map also highlights recent outbreaks of disease that have occurred in communities where pockets of low-immunization rates left the population vulnerable. While immunization rates have remained steady or increased for many vaccines over the past decade, recent studies show that unvaccinated children are often geographically clustered in communities. These pockets of under-immunization are at higher risk of disease and have been the source of disease outbreaks, as seen with the 2014 measles outbreak in California.”

Vaccines don’t just protect the person who receives them, but they also protect more vulnerable populations, such as infants and children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Check out the map to find out what the childhood vaccination rate is in your state and how it compares to others. And remember to make sure that you and your children are up to date on all your vaccinations!

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

Looking for a reason to get a flu shot? Here are 10 good ones.

Monday, December 5th, 2016

DoctorPregnant_zps3ac96800Many myths abound about whether a flu shot is important. Here are 10 facts that should convince you that a flu shot is good for you and your family:

  1. Flu can be life threatening. Children younger than 5, and especially kids younger than 2 are at a higher risk of complications from flu.
  2. Children of any age with long term health conditions, including developmental disabilities, are at a higher risk of serious problems from flu.
  3. Children with neurologic conditions, and kids who have trouble with lung function, difficulty coughing, swallowing or clearing their airways can have serious complications from flu.
  4. Pregnant women can have consequences from flu that include miscarriage, preterm labor, premature birth or giving birth to a baby with a low birthweight. It’s safe to get a flu shot any time during pregnancy.
  5. Babies can’t get their own flu shot until they are at least 6 months of age. This is another reason why women should get a flu shot during pregnancy. The protection will pass to the baby when she is born.
  6. Since babies are at risk until they’re vaccinated, protect them by making sure the people around them are vaccinated – all caretakers, family members and relatives.
  7. Adults older than age 65 (grandparents!) can suffer serious consequences from the flu.
  8. You don’t get the flu from the flu shot. It is made up of inactivated (dead) flu virus. You may experience soreness at the injection site, have a headache, aches or a fever but these symptoms should go away within a day or two. The flu lasts much longer and is more severe.
  9. Aside from barricading yourself in a room all winter long (?!) the best way to protect yourself from flu is to get vaccinated.
  10. This year, the flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses. There are also different options available, including one for people with egg allergies. Your healthcare provider can advise you.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get protected!

Here’s more info about people at high risk of developing flu-related complications and answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.

Vote for us in Healthline’s Best Health Blog Contest

Friday, November 25th, 2016

We’re thrilled! News Moms Need has been nominated in Healthline’s “Best Health Blog Contest.” Now, we need your votes to win.

Won’t you take a moment each day, from now until December 12th, to cast your vote for us? It’s simple:

2016 Healthline winner widgetWe were grateful when we were selected as a winner in Healthline’s Best Pregnancy Blogs earlier this year.  Now, Healthline’s Best Health Blog award would be an even greater honor, especially as we cover topics from preconception to childbirth, to babies with special needs and staying safe from Zika.

Our goal is to keep you and your family healthy  – all News Moms Need!

We’d love to receive this award. But most of all, we’d love to know that you support our blog.

Thanks so much in advance for voting.

Your bloggers,

Barbara, Sara and Lauren

 

 

Understanding retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)

Friday, November 4th, 2016

baby-eyesRetinopathy of prematurity is an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye. It mainly affects babies weighing about 2¾ pounds (1250 grams) or who are born before 31 weeks of pregnancy. ROP affects about 14,000-16,000 babies in the United States each year. If your baby has ROP, getting treatment right away is really important. The disease can develop very quickly and cause vision problems or even blindness if it’s not treated.

What causes ROP?

During the last 12 weeks of pregnancy, the eye develops quickly. When a baby is born full-term, the growth of the blood vessels that supply the retina is almost complete. The retina then typically finishes growing the first few weeks after birth.

However, if a baby is born too early, the blood vessels may stop growing or not grow correctly. Scientists believe that the edge of the retina then sends signals to other areas of the retina for nourishment. This results in abnormal vessels growing. These abnormal vessels are fragile and can bleed easily and cause retinal scarring. If the scars shrink, they pull on the retina and cause it to detach.

Risk factors for ROP

Some things make a baby more likely than others to have ROP. They include:

  • Premature birth.
  • Apnea. This is when a baby’s breathing stops for 15 to 20 seconds or more.
  • Anemia. This is when the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of the body.
  • Heart disease
  • Infection
  • Trouble breathing or respiratory distress
  • Slow heart rate (also called bradycardia)
  • Problems with the blood, including having blood transfusions.

Stages of ROP

ROP is classified into 5 stages:

  • Stage 1 – Mildly abnormal blood vessel growth. These babies often get better without treatment and go on to have healthy vision.
  • Stage 2 – Moderately abnormal blood vessel growth. These babies often get better without treatment and go on to have healthy vision.
  • Stage 3 – Severely abnormal blood vessel growth. Some of these babies get better without treatment, but others develop a condition called plus disease. This means the retina’s blood vessels get big and twisted. Plus disease is a sign that ROP is getting worse, but treatment can help prevent retinal detachment.
  • Stage 4 – Severely abnormal blood vessel growth and part of the retina detaches. These babies need treatment because part of the retina pulls away from the inside wall of the eyeball.
  • Stage 5 – Total retinal detachment. The retina is completely pulled away from the inside wall of the eyeball. Without treatment, a baby can have severe vision problems or blindness.

Treatment options

Laser or cryotherapy are the most effective treatments for ROP. Laser treatment uses a laser to burn and scar the sides of the retina. This stops abnormal blood vessel growth and prevents scarring and pulling on the retina. Cryotherapy uses a metal probe to freeze the sides of the retina, thereby preventing additional blood vessel growth.

Laser treatments and cryotherapy are done on babies with more advanced ROP, such as stage III.

Later stages of ROP require more intense treatments. Scleral buckle involves placing a silicone band around the white of your baby’s eye (called the sclera). This band helps push the eye in so that the retina stays along the wall of the eye. The buckle is removed later as the eye grows. If it isn’t removed, a child can become nearsighted. This means he has trouble seeing things that are far away.

In a vitrectomy, the doctor removes the clear gel in the center of your baby’s eye (called the vitreous) and puts saline (salt) solution in its place. Your baby’s provider can then take out scar tissue, so that the retina doesn’t pull. Only babies with stage 5 ROP have this surgery.

About 90% of infants with ROP fall into the mild categories and do not need treatment. But ROP can get worse quickly so early diagnosis and appropriate treatment (if needed) are very important. Your baby should be seen by a pediatric ophthalmologist. This is a doctor who identifies and treats eye problems in babies and children. The first eye exam should take place 4 to 9 weeks after birth, depending on when your baby was born.

You can read more about ROP on our website.

If your baby has ROP, visit our online community at Share Your Story to find a network of parents of babies with ROP. You can connect with them for support and comfort throughout your baby’s treatment.

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

It’s Prematurity Awareness Month – Come chat with us!

Monday, October 31st, 2016

parents in the NICU

We have several Twitter chats scheduled in November, in honor of Prematurity Awareness Month.

Please join us:

Wednesday, November 2 at 1pm ET with neonatologist Dr. Suresh of Texas Children’s Hospital. Use #preemiechat

Topic:  Prematurity – causes, complications, and coping in the NICU

 

Wednesday, November 9 at 2pm ET with Mom’s Rising. Use #WellnessWed

Topic: Can your preconception health reduce your chances of giving birth early?

 

Tuesday, November 15th at 2pm ET with Genetic Alliance and Baby’s First Test. Use #preemiechat

Topic: Is prematurity caused by genetics? Can it run in families?

 

We hope to see you on Twitter!

For questions or more information about these chats, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

birth announcement

Safe sleep: room share, don’t bed share

Friday, October 28th, 2016

cropped sleeping babyIn an update to their safe sleep guidelines, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that infants should sleep in the same room, but not the same bed, as their parents ideally for the first year of life, but for at least the first 6 months. Evidence suggests that sleeping in the parents’ room but on a separate sleep surface decreases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by as much as 50%. In addition, this sleeping arrangement is most likely to prevent suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment that may occur when the infant is sleeping in the adult bed. The AAP’s safe sleep recommendations include:

Back to sleep for every sleep. Your baby should be put on his back every time, by every caregiver until he is 1 year old. Side sleeping is not safe and is not advised. Premature babies should be placed on their backs to sleep as soon as possible. The AAP states, “Preterm infants are at increased risk of SIDS, and the association between prone [stomach] sleep position and SIDS among low birth weight and preterm infants is equal to, or perhaps even stronger than, the association among those born at term.”

Use a firm sleep surface, such as a crib mattress covered with a tightly fitted sheet. Use only the mattress made for your baby’s crib. The mattress should fit snugly in the crib so there are no spaces between the mattress and the crib frame. The mattress shape should stay firm even when covered with a tightly fitted sheet or mattress cover. Don’t let your baby sleep in his carrier, sling, car seat or stroller. Babies who sleep in these items can suffocate. If your baby falls asleep in one of them, take her out and put her in her crib as soon as you can.

Babies should sleep in the parents’ room but on a separate sleep-surface. Parents should not bed-share. Bed-sharing is the most common cause of death in babies younger than 3 months old. Keep your baby’s crib close to your bed so your baby is nearby during the night. Share your bedroom with your baby but not your bed.

Breastfeeding is recommended. Breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.

Keep soft objects and loose bedding away from the sleep area. Crib bumpers, pillows, blankets, and toys in the crib put your baby in danger of getting trapped, strangled or of suffocating.

Offer your baby a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. It is not clear why, but studies show that pacifiers protect your baby from SIDS. This is true even if the pacifier falls out of the baby’s mouth. However, don’t hang the pacifier around your baby’s neck or attach the pacifier to your baby’s clothing or a stuffed animal.

Avoid smoke exposure, alcohol, and illicit drugs during pregnancy and after birth. Babies who are around secondhand smoke are more likely than babies who aren’t to die of SIDS. And there is an increased risk of SIDS with maternal use of alcohol or illicit drugs.

Avoid overheating and head coverings. It is difficult to provide specific room temperature guidelines but in general, dress your baby appropriately for the environment. A blanket sleeper can keep your baby warm without covering his head or face.

Avoid the use of sleep positioners, wedges, or other devices that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS. Don’t use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a way to reduce the risk of SIDS. These monitors track a baby’s heart rate and breathing. Some babies need this kind of monitor because of medical problems, but this is rare. There’s no evidence that the monitors help reduce the risk of SIDS in healthy babies.

Give your baby supervised tummy-time while he is awake. Babies need to develop their neck, shoulder and arm muscles and tummy time helps. You can find some tummy time activities here.

It is important that all people who will care for your baby know these guidelines and follow them to keep your baby safe while he sleeps.

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

Respiratory Therapists help babies and families breathe easier

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

help-breathingIf your baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), it can be nerve wracking to see him hooked up to machines, especially if he is having difficulty breathing. This is when a respiratory therapist (RT) can help.

“If a baby needs respiratory support, parents should not be afraid. We give them only what they need” says Ana Anthony, a respiratory therapist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., one of the finest children’s hospitals in the nation.  Ana notes that “Every day may be a different challenge. The babies will go through ups and downs – the body is very complex. Our goal is to have the baby breathe on his own.”

It’s Respiratory Care Week, a time to recognize the respiratory care profession and to raise awareness for improving lung health. According to the American Association for Respiratory Care, “Respiratory therapists provide the hands-on care that helps people recover from a wide range of medical conditions.”

Respiratory therapists work in a variety of settings including a hospital NICU. Babies born too early run the risk of having breathing problems because their lungs may not be fully developed. Other babies might have breathing issues because of an infection or birth defect.

Due to numerous medical breakthroughs, more and more babies who need treatment for breathing problems or disorders benefit from respiratory therapy. In fact, neonatal respiratory therapy has become its own medical sub-specialty. A neonatal-pediatric RT is trained to use complex medical equipment to care for the smallest babies with mild to severe breathing challenges. They visit their patients daily, as often as needed.

You may have been introduced to your baby’s respiratory therapist if you have a baby in the NICU. A respiratory therapist would have evaluated your baby’s breathing soon after your baby arrived. The RT looks to see if your baby is breathing too fast, if the breaths are shallow, or if your baby is struggling to breathe. Then, together with the NICU healthcare team of doctors, nurses and other specialists, the RT develops a care plan to help your baby.

Respiratory therapists are rigorously trained, first earning a college degree and then specific certifications. For example, Ana holds several credentials: a BSRC (bachelor’s degree in respiratory care), RRT-NPS, (registered respiratory therapist with a neonatal pediatrics specialty), AEC (asthma education certification) and ECMO (extra corporeal membrane oxygenation). If these titles sound impressive, it’s because they are! RTs are put through intense education and hands-on training and stay current with breakthroughs or changes in the field by obtaining different certifications.

Ana Anthony speaks for all RTs when she says “We love what we do and strive to have the best outcome possible for all our patients.”

 

You can learn more about respiratory issues that preemies may face, in our article. Did your baby receive care from a respiratory therapist? Tell us about your experience.

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

Note:  This post is part of the series “Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

 

Two vaccines that every grandparent needs

Monday, October 24th, 2016

grandma and babyInfants are at risk of serious complications from both whooping cough and the flu. Grandparents, caregivers, and anyone who is going to be in contact with your baby should be up to date on their vaccinations for these two illnesses.

Flu

With rare exception, the CDC recommends that ALL people, 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. Flu viruses change every year, so just because you got a flu shot last year, doesn’t mean that you are protected this year. The flu shot is designed to protect against the flu viruses that are predicted to be the most common during the flu season. Also, immunity from vaccination decreases after a year. This is why everyone needs a flu vaccine every season.

It is especially important that people who will be around children younger than 6 months get the flu shot. Children under 6 months cannot get the flu vaccine and they have the highest risk for being hospitalized from flu compared to children of other ages. When your baby is 6 months old, she can get her own flu vaccine.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough (or pertussis) is a very contagious disease that can be deadly for babies. It is spread from person to person, usually by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others. In most cases of whooping cough, someone in the baby’s family is the source of infection. It is possible for an adult to have whooping cough and not even know it.

Whooping cough can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening complications in babies, especially within the first 6 months of life. Many babies with whooping cough don’t cough at all. They stop breathing and turn blue. About half of babies who get whooping cough end up in the hospital.

Your baby can’t get her first whooping cough vaccine until she is 2 months old. And while most adults were vaccinated as children, or they may have even had whooping cough, protection unfortunately wears off over time. That is why it is especially important for pregnant women, dads, and ANYONE else who will be in close contact with your baby, including grandparents, to make sure that their whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine is current.

Cocooning your baby

Grandparents and other visitors to your newborn should get the Tdap and flu vaccines at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby. This strategy of surrounding babies with people who are protected against a disease, such as whooping cough, is called “cocooning.” A single Tdap shot is recommended for any adult (19 or older) who plan on having contact with your baby. If they already received their Tdap vaccine as an adult, they do not need to be vaccinated again. (However, pregnant women need to be vaccinated with Tdap during each pregnancy.)  And of course, everyone older than 6 months, should get their flu shot before spending time with your baby.

REMEMBER: Making sure that the people who will be in close contact with your baby are immunized is NOT a substitute for staying up to date with the childhood vaccination schedule. But it will help to your baby somewhat protected until she is old enough to get her own vaccines.

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

Grieve and connect during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Pregnancy and Infant loss awareness dayThe loss of a baby is one of the most painful things that can happen to a family. If your baby died during pregnancy, in the first days of life, or even as a toddler, you and your family may need help to understand what happened. You may need support to find ways to deal with your grief and ease your pain.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month – a time to pause and remember all angel babies. It is also SIDS Awareness Month (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

It is important to know that parents and families are not alone in their grief. Connecting with others going through the same or a similar situation can help you process your grief. We invite all families to share and connect in our online community Share Your Story. The families in our community know what you are going through and can offer support during this devastating time and in the days ahead.

We provide resources that may help you understand what happened and how to deal with the daily pain of your loss. We encourage you to visit our website if you are looking for resources for families that have lost a baby, ways to remember your baby, or other resources.

If you would like to receive our free bereavement materials, email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org with your mailing address.

The March of Dimes is so very sorry for your loss. We are here for you.

 

Infant loss affects the tiniest family members

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Loss affects entire families every day, in many different ways. In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day tomorrow, here is the heartfelt story of a family who lost their precious daughter Madeline, due to complications from prematurity.

We welcome guest blogger Heather as she shares the ripple effects of losing Maddie, as seen through the eyes of one of her children.

Maddie“Mom, we were counting our family members in school today.” The Kindergarteners have been doing a lot of exercises where they “find numbers” in the world, like counting steps, trees, etc.

“That’s fun. Do any of your classmates come from big families?”

“Yep! I didn’t know exactly how many to count. There’s four of us, but five if you count Rigby (our sweet dog). Six if Maddie hadn’t died.”

– – –

In our house, we don’t make a big deal about Madeline. We talk about her when she comes up naturally, which means sometimes we discuss her multiple times a day, and sometimes we’ll go several days without mentioning her.

I, however, say her name every day, even if it’s just to myself. I wonder what she’d be like, who her friends would be, which classroom she’d be in. I think about her without even thinking about it. Missing her has become one of my body’s automatic functions, like breathing.

Protecting myself has become automatic, too. I rarely bring her up with strangers anymore. I know many loss moms never hesitate to mention all of their children when given the chance, but I don’t. Basic questions like, “Oh, do you have other kids?” don’t hurt me the way they used to. I don’t feel like I am denying her when I don’t mention her. Instead, I am saving myself the agony of having to answer additional questions, having to relive it, having to watch a person I don’t know process this complicated answer to their simple question. I know about her, the people who love us know about her, and our future friends will one day know about her, too.

Of course, the people who surround Annabel at school every day aren’t strangers, not anymore. But this is her domain, so I follow her lead. Her drawings are of the four of us and Rigby. She said that one time she mentioned she had an older sister, but her friends were confused. I explained to her why they might be confused, and I reminded her that she only has to say what she is comfortable with – it’s okay to talk about her sister, and it’s okay not to.

“I told my teacher four or five or six, and I counted everyone for her.”

“…and what did she say?”

“She said all of my answers were right!”


Maddie’s story

After 28 weeks and 6 days of an extremely rocky gestation, Madeline Alice was born on November 11, 2007. She weighed three pounds one ounce, and was 15 3/4 inches long. Because she was over 11 weeks premature, she was rushed to a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She spent 68 long days there until the wonderful January afternoon we brought her home.

Maddie’s prematurity left her lungs scarred, but her amazing happiness remained unscathed. She lit up the lives of everyone she met (and countless more she didn’t) with her bright eyes, infectious laugh, and gigantic grin.

On April 6th, Maddie came down with a severe respiratory infection. She left the world suddenly and unexpectedly April 7, 2009.

We miss her with every fiber of our being.

News Moms Need thanks Heather for giving us a glimpse into how deeply the effects of loss are felt, and how it affects every family member for a lifetime. You can read more about Heather and her family here.