Archive for the ‘Baby’ Category

CHDs and our babies

Monday, February 8th, 2016

BabyOnChest-When the month of February arrives, many people think of Valentine’s Day hearts and red flowers. February is also a time to raise awareness about another heart topic – congenital heart defects (CHDs).

Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Congenital heart defects are heart conditions that are present at birth. We’re not sure what causes most CHDs, but these defects can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works.

CHDs are the most common types of birth defects. Nearly 1 in 100 babies (about 1 percent or 40,000 babies) is born with a heart defect in the United States each year. They may be diagnosed before your baby is born, or soon after birth. Some CHDs are diagnosed much later in life.

There are different kinds of CHDs and their symptoms can be mild to severe. Treatment for each type of CHD depends on the heart defect. The seven most severe forms of CHD are called Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). Babies with CCHD need treatment within the first few hours, days or months of life.

Although the causes of most CHDs are not yet fully understood, certain medical conditions may play a role, such as diabetes, lupus, rubella, phenyletonuria (PKU) if not following the special diet, and being very overweight during pregnancy.

To become familiar with the different kinds of CHDs, possible causes, screenings and treatments, see our article.

As you send out a Valentine card or share in the spirit of love this week, consider learning and raising awareness about congenital heart defects. This condition affects the hearts of our smallest Valentines.

For information on where to find support and resources for your baby, please email or text us at AskUs@Marchofdimes.org

 

Understanding lead exposure

Friday, February 5th, 2016

water faucetYou have probably heard reports about lead being found in drinking water over the past few weeks. Lead is a metal. You can’t see, smell or taste lead, but it can be harmful to everyone, especially pregnant women and young children. You and your child can come in contact with lead by breathing it in from dust in the air, swallowing it in dust or dirt, or drinking it in water from pipes that are made of lead.

Here is some important information about lead:

High lead levels in the blood of pregnant women is associated with increased rates of preterm birth and other problems in their babies. Exposure to lead is more dangerous to children than to adults. About half a million to 1 million children in the United States have high levels of lead in their blood.

If you think your child has been exposed to lead from the water at home, tell your child’s health care provider. She can check your child’s blood for lead.

If you’re renting a home and are concerned about lead, talk to your landlord. He’s responsible for making repairs safely. If you need help talking to your landlord about lead, contact your local health department.

If you have lead pipes in your house or if you have well water, lead may get into your drinking water. Boiling water does not get rid of lead. If you think you have lead in your water:

  • Use bottled or filtered water for cooking, drinking and mixing baby formula.
  • If you’re using tap water, use cold water from your faucet for drinking and cooking. Water from the cold-water pipe has less lead and other harmful substances than water from the hot-water pipes.
  • Run water from each tap before drinking it or using it for cooking, especially if you haven’t run the water for a few hours. If the faucet hasn’t been used for 6 hours, run the water until you feel its temperature change.
  • Contact your local health department or water department to find out how to get pipes tested for lead. If you use well water, contact the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 for information on testing your well water and household for lead and other substances that can harm your health.

Our website has a lot more information about possible sources of lead and how you can minimize contact. If you have any concerns about lead exposure to lead, make sure you talk to your health care provider.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Cases of gastroschisis continue to rise

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

research_birthdefectsresearch_rdax_50New research shows that the number of cases of gastroschisis, a birth defect of the abdominal wall, has more than doubled over the past 18 years.

Gastroschisis is a birth defect where the baby’s intestines, and sometimes other organs, are outside of the baby’s abdomen. After birth, surgery is required to place the baby’s organs back inside the abdomen. In 2013, a study showed that the number of cases of gastroschisis had nearly doubled between 1995-2005. The highest rates were observed in non-Hispanic white teen mothers. Women younger than age 20 were over seven times more likely to have a baby with gastroschisis compared with women aged 25-29.

Researchers from the CDC wanted to determine if the rate of gastroschisis continued to increase after 2005. Looking at data from 14 states between 2006-2012, they found that the number of babies born with gastroschisis has continued to increase. This growth was not limited to young mothers. There were more cases of gastroschisis across all categories of maternal age and race/ethnicity.

While the highest number of gastroschisis cases still occurs in young (<20 years old) non-Hispanic white mothers, the most recent data shows a significant increase among young black mothers as well.

These increases in gastroschisis are seen in the US and internationally. The underlying cause has not been determined. “When you see something rising as fast as this is in all population groups, and in all ages, it tells you something serious is going on. We need to try and figure out what it is so we can prevent the rise,” says Edward R.B. McCabe, MD, PhD, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at the March of Dimes.

Most babies with gastroschisis recover and develop normally. But, some babies go on to have feeding problems in early childhood. Learn more about the different types of abdominal defects and surgeries here.

The March of Dimes continues to fund research to better understand how conditions such as gastroschisis develops and how we can prevent them.

Hearing loss in babies

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

baby's hearing testHearing impairment is the decreased ability to hear and discriminate among sounds. It is one of the most common birth defects.

We’re not sure what causes hearing loss in babies. Some possible causes are genetics (if you or your partner has a family history of hearing loss), viruses and infections during pregnancy, premature birth, low birthweight (less than 5.8 pounds), and infections after birth.

There are degrees of hearing loss, too. A baby can have mild, severe or complete hearing loss. Other times a child can hear but the sounds are garbled. Hearing loss is a common birth defect affecting 12,000 babies in the U.S. each year (nearly 3 in 1,000). If a child can’t hear properly, he may have trouble learning to talk.

Newborn screening

Ideally, your baby should have his hearing tested as part of the newborn screening tests which are done in the hospital after your baby is born. The CDC recommends that all babies be screened for hearing impairment before 1 month of age. Language and communication develop rapidly during the first 2 to 3 years of life, and undetected hearing impairment can lead to delays in developing these skills. Without newborn screening, children with hearing impairment often are not diagnosed until 2 to 3 years of age. By then, they have lost precious time to develop speaking skills. A timely diagnosis is important!

Getting help

If you have any concerns about your child’s hearing, don’t wait – have a conversation with his healthcare provider (a pediatrician or nurse practitioner). Here are other options:

  • Every state has an Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program. You can click here or call 1-800-CDC-INFO to locate your local EHDI program for services and information.
  • The CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities has a website on hearing loss in children, with specific pages for families, health care providers and others. The site contains information on prevention, signs and symptoms, screening and diagnosis, treatment of hearing loss, as well as statistical data on hearing loss. If you have any concerns about your child, start with the “Basics” and “Treatments” sections.
  • Additional resources and support networks related to hearing impairment and deaf children can be found here.
  • If your baby has a hearing impairment,  he may benefit from early intervention services, such as speech therapy. Learn how to access early intervention services in your area.

Bottom line

If your child has been diagnosed with hearing loss, getting help early is very important – preferably before 6 months of age.

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

Photo credit:  Baby’s First Test

Is donor milk right for your preemie?

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

feeding in the NICUFor premature babies, breast milk can be lifesaving. It is more easily digested and provides protection against many diseases. Providing breast milk, however, can be a challenge for some moms. Many moms are not able to provide their baby with their own breast milk for various reasons, they:

  • are recovering from surgery or have certain medical conditions that make it difficult to initiate and maintain a milk supply;
  • find it difficult to pump enough milk to meet their baby’s needs;
  • have chronic conditions and need to take medications that may make their breast milk unsafe.

In these cases, donor milk may be the best option for your preemie, and a better alternative to formula.

What is donor milk and where does it come from?

A milk bank is a service that collects, screens, processes and distributes safe human milk to babies in need. All donated milk goes through a pasteurization process to eliminate bacteria while keeping the milk’s essential nutrients. The milk is then packaged, stored and ready to ship to hospitals or individual recipients at home. Lactating women who wish to donate their breast milk may do so through a milk bank.

Does your preemie need donor milk?

The nutritional needs of each baby depends on many different factors. It’s important to talk to your baby’s doctor to see if donor milk is right for your baby. Some hospitals have their own donor milk bank or have a partnership with a milk bank near them. If your baby’s doctor indicates that your baby will benefit from donor milk, he can write a prescription. For more information about the milk bank closest to you, visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

Can you buy breast milk from another mom who has milk to spare?

There are risks with getting breast milk from a stranger or a friend; this milk is not tested or screened for infectious diseases or contamination. A study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that out of 101 samples of milk purchased online from different mothers, 74% of samples were contaminated with bacteria and 21% of samples contained cytomegalovirus (CMV) bacteria.

It’s important to be informed when making feeding decisions for your preemie. If you have any questions about donor milk or your baby’s nutritional needs, speak with your baby’s healthcare provider.

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICUNecrotizing enterocoloitis, also known as NEC, is a condition of the intestinal tract that almost only affects premature babies. It often begins 2 or 3 weeks after birth and appears in preemies who seem to be getting better. NEC occurs when the lining of the intestine becomes inflamed. Most of the time, the damaged section of the intestine will heal on its own. But in some cases, the tissue dies. When this happens, that part of the intestine no longer works the way that it should. This damage may cause the intestine to tear. The bacteria in the intestine can then enter the blood and this can then lead to infection throughout the body.

What causes NEC?

Researchers are still not exactly sure what causes NEC. But in premature infants, it is probably related to the immaturity of the baby’s intestine. Some other factors that may contribute to NEC include:

  • An injury to the immature intestine
  • Reduced blood flow to the intestine
  • Growth of bacteria in the intestine that damages the intestinal wall

What are the signs of NEC?

NEC can be difficult to diagnose. The early signs can be similar to other infections or to problems caused by feeding difficulties often seen in preemies. However, NEC can get worse very quickly. Some common symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite, not tolerating feedings
  • Red, painful, and swollen belly
  • Diarrhea or bloody stool
  • Decreased activity
  • Body temperature instability (may be lower than normal or fluctuate)
  • Episodes of low heart rate or apnea
  • Sometimes greenish vomit

Doctors can diagnose NEC with an X-ray of the belly.  When they examine the X-ray, they are looking for tiny gas bubbles inside the walls of the intestine. They can also see if air has leaked out of the intestine through a tear or hole.

How is NEC treated?

Early diagnosis and intervention is very important. Typical treatment includes:

  • Stopping oral (mouth) feedings and replacing with IV nutrition to give the bowel time to rest,
  • Inserting a tube through the nose and into the stomach to remove air and other secretions from the intestine,
  • Giving broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat and prevent infection,
  • Continuous monitoring using X-rays, blood and urine cultures,

If these interventions work, NEC typically lasts 2-3 weeks, although the critical stage is often over after a few days. Usually doctors will continue IV feedings until the intestines heal and the pockets of gas have been gone for 5 or more days. They will then start to gradually re-introduce oral feedings.

Surgery may be necessary for those babies who do not respond to the treatments above. In that case, the surgeon will remove the damaged section of intestines.

How can NEC be prevented?

Researchers are trying to better understand NEC so that they can prevent it. However, here are some things that seem to be beneficial:

  • It is important to start oral feedings early. The introduction of tiny amounts of milk to the digestive system may help the intestine to mature faster and possibly reduce the chance of your baby developing NEC.
  • Early feeding with colostrum and breast milk may be beneficial. It is easy to digest, supports the growth of good bacteria in the intestine, and helps to build your baby’s immune system.

If your baby has NEC or had it in the past, please go to Share Your Story where you can connect with other families and find comfort, support, and advice.

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

Skin to skin contact helps your baby AND you

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Skin to SkinResearch has shown that skin to skin holding, also known as “kangaroo care,” is one way to help stabilize your baby’s body temperature and help his heart rate become regular. It is comforting to your baby, and may help him gain weight. Even very sick or fragile babies can usually benefit from kangaroo care.

It’s good for parents, too. It helps you bond with your baby, which boosts your spirits. For moms, it encourages your breast milk supply, too.

What is skin to skin holding or kangaroo care?

It is when you hold your baby, skin to skin, bare chest to bare chest, in an upright position. Your baby is wearing only a diaper.

Does it have other benefits?

Yes. For your baby…

Skin to skin holding may help lower the risk of infection, improve survival rates, and encourage your baby to spend more time in deep sleep (which is important for growth and good health). It may also lessen your baby’s pain and help with brain development. Kangaroo care may help your baby spend more time being quiet when awake, and less time crying.

For you and dad…

Skin to skin increases the feeling of intimacy between the baby and parent, helping the mom or dad feel connected. Often dads are fearful of holding their baby – skin to skin may promote a sense of empowerment and confidence. It may decrease anxiety, fear and depression and encourages attachment. Parents say it is the most comforting activity they experience in the NICU.

One mom told us she wrote in her journal “Today I feel like a mother for the first time” – that was the first time she held her twin boys skin to skin, 5 weeks after they were born!

Should you ask to hold your baby?

Yes! If you have not yet held your baby skin to skin, ask if you can. Often, the NICU staff is just so busy with other important duties that they don’t think to offer it. Typically, your baby must be medically stable before he is ready for kangaroo care. But, you can do it even if your baby is hooked up to machines.

How much kangaroo care should you do?

The more you can do, the better. It has been shown that skin to skin contact should take place for a minimum of one hour, but several hours at a time are better. It takes a while for a baby to transition from the isolette to chest and back, so you must take that into account. In some countries, parents are encouraged to do kangaroo care round the clock – that’s how good it is for babies!

Still wondering if skin to skin holding is for you?

Watch this video.

Did you experience kangaroo care in the NICU? Please tell us about it.

 

Have questions? Email or text AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We are here to help.

RDS and BPD – breathing problems in preemies

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

NICU sign 1If your baby was born prematurely, you are probably concerned about his lungs. A baby’s lungs are not considered to be fully functional until around 35 weeks of pregnancy. If your baby was born before that, it is possible that he may struggle with breathing.

 

RDS

A serious breathing problem called respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is the most common illness in the NICU. But, the good news is that due to medical advances, babies with RDS have a 99% survival rate.

Babies with RDS struggle to breathe because their immature lungs do not produce enough surfactant, a protein that keeps small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing. March of Dimes grantees helped develop surfactant therapy, which was introduced in 1990. Since then, deaths from RDS have been reduced by half.

Babies with RDS also may receive a treatment called C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure). The air may be delivered through small tubes in the baby’s nose, or through a tube that has been inserted into his windpipe. As with surfactant treatment, C-PAP helps keep small air sacs from collapsing. C-PAP helps your baby breathe, but does not breathe for him. The sickest babies may temporarily need the help of a mechanical ventilator to breathe for them while their lungs recover. Learn more about the differences between C-PAP and a ventilator, as well as causes, symptoms and treatment of RDS.

BPD

BPD (bronchopulmonary dysplasia) is a chronic lung disease common in preemies who have been treated for RDS. These babies may develop fluid in the lungs, scarring and lung damage. Medications can help make breathing easier for them. Usually babies with BPD improve by age 2 but others may develop a chronic lung condition similar to asthma. Learn about asthma, including questions to ask your child’s health care provider and how to help your child understand his breathing problems.

Even though the outlook for babies born prematurely has improved greatly, many babies still face serious complications and lasting disabilities. Many March of Dimes grantees seek new ways to improve the care of these tiny babies, while others strive to prevent premature delivery.

Have questions?  Email or text AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We are here to help.

 

Grieve, connect & share on Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Infant lossThe loss of a baby is one of the most painful things that can happen to a family. The feelings of grief you and your family may experience can be overwhelming. The March of Dimes is so sorry for your loss.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and today we are remembering all angel babies. It is important to know that parents and families are not alone in their grief. We provide resources that may help you understand what happened and how to deal with the daily pain of your loss.

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 encourage you to visit our website if you are looking for resources for siblings, dealing with others while you grieve, and remembering your baby.

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

Send an e-card

If you know someone who has lost a baby, we have e-cards available for you to send to them. Share them today on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day or any other day to let a grieving parent know you are thinking about them.

We are here for you.

NICU parents can develop PTSD due to stress and trauma

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

parents in the NICUParents of NICU babies have been found to be at risk for developing stress disorders, according to research. It is very scary for parents to see their infant hooked up to monitors or undergoing serious medical procedures. Every parent’s reaction to the NICU journey is different and what is overwhelming or traumatic for one person might not be for another. But for some parents, it is possible for feelings of fear, grief, helplessness and continued anxiety to result in a stress disorder.

What is a stress disorder?

Stress disorders include ASD (acute stress disorder) or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). These can develop in anyone who has seen or lived through a crisis or terrible event. You may have heard about PTSD in the news – many military veterans returning from active duty have developed it. The prolonged stress of deployment or the witnessing of traumatic events can trigger debilitating symptoms. But, PTSD can occur in anyone who has gone through a traumatizing event, including a NICU experience.

Every parent comes to the NICU with varying coping mechanisms, and react or handle the situation in their own, unique way. According to Stanford University researcher Dr. Richard Shaw, the NICU experience can be so traumatic that almost 60% of NICU parents were found to be at risk for PTSD. In some cases, the stress disorder continues for years after the baby’s birth.

It might seem logical that the longer a baby stays in the NICU, the more traumatic the experience may be for the parents. However, research shows that the impact of a shorter NICU stay, even less than two weeks, can lead to a parent developing ASD or PTSD. A stress disorder can occur along with postpartum depression (PPD), too.

How do ASD and PTSD differ?

ASD and PTSD share many of the same symptoms. The biggest difference between the two is when a parent’s symptoms begin.

  • ASD refers to symptoms that begin during the period from 2 days following an event up to 4 weeks post trauma. (The “trauma” in this case is the baby’s experiences in the NICU.) Symptoms usually start to occur while the baby is still in the NICU. ASD is a good indicator that the parent may later develop symptoms of PTSD.
  • PTSD symptoms occur later than ASD, starting from at least 4 weeks post trauma, and can last for years.

Both ASD and PTSD include symptoms such as trouble sleeping or staying awake, avoiding reminders of the event, and experiencing flashbacks, dreams/nightmares.

Additional symptoms of ASD include a lack of emotional responsiveness – you feel numb and like you’re in a fog.

Other symptoms of PTSD symptoms include physical responses (like a racing heartbeat or sweating) when reminded of the event, a depressed mood, persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs about yourself, little interest in activities, irritability, difficulty concentrating, hyper vigilance and startling easily.

What can lessen the likelihood of developing a stress disorder?

Researchers have found that NICU parents cope better when they:

  • feel involved with their baby’s care, such as reading to their baby, practicing kangaroo care (skin to skin bonding), decorating the isolette, taking the baby’s temperature, etc.
  • feel heard – they feel free to ask questions and fully understand what is happening to their baby in the NICU.
  • take care of themselves.
  • reach out and receive support from other NICU parent graduates who have been in their situation. March of Dimes offers an online community, Share Your Story, which is specifically designed to provide support and comfort to parents of babies in the NICU.
  • understand that the feelings of fear, anxiety, sleep interruption or loss of appetite might pop up unexpectedly once they go home.

Bottom line

The NICU experience can be difficult and even traumatizing. If you or someone you know has a baby in the NICU, please share this post with them so that they get the help they need. Parents suffering from ASD or PTSD can receive treatment from a healthcare provider who is trained in stress disorders (such as a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist).

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

See other posts on how to help your child including how to transition from the NICU to Early Intervention services.