Archive for the ‘Baby’ Category

What is newborn screening?

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Newborn screening looks for rare but serious and mostly treatable conditions. Babies with these conditions often look healthy at birth, but if the disorder is not diagnosed and treated early, a baby may develop serious health problems. Newborn screening identifies babies with these conditions so they can get the treatment that they need. Newborn screening includes blood, hearing and heart tests.

When is newborn screening done?

All babies in the United States get newborn screening before they leave the hospital, when they are 1 or 2 days old. Some states require that babies have newborn screening again, about 2 weeks later.

If your baby is not born in a hospital, talk to her provider about getting newborn screening before she is 7 days old.

What happens if your baby is in the NICU?

Babies in the NICU may require a special process for newborn screening. If your baby is born prematurely, at a low birthweight, or needs special care in the NICU, it’s possible that some of the treatments and procedures she’s receiving may affect newborn screening results. Often, babies born early will require more than one newborn screening blood draw to make sure that the results are accurate. Talk to your baby’s NICU team if you have questions about newborn screening.

How is newborn screening done?

Newborn screening is done in 3 ways:

  1. Your baby’s baby’s heel is pricked to get a few drops of blood. The blood is collected on a special paper and sent to a lab for testing. The lab then sends the results back to your baby’s health provider.
  2. For the hearing screening, the provider places a tiny, soft speaker in your baby’s ear to check how your baby responds to sound.
  3. For heart screening, a test called pulse oximetry is used. This test checks the amount of oxygen in your baby’s blood by using a sensor attached to his finger or foot. This test is used to screen babies for a heart condition called critical congenital heart disease (CCHD). CCHDs are the most severe heart defects. Babies with CCHD need treatment within the first few hours, days or months of life. Without treatment, CCHD can be deadly.

When will you get the results?

In most cases after your baby has had newborn screening, you won’t hear any more about them. Most newborn screening results are normal and if that is the case, families are not contacted. But you can always ask your baby’s health care provider for the results.

In rare cases when the screening results are out-of-range, you will receive a phone call about 2-3 weeks following the screening. This call can come from either the state newborn screening program or your baby’s health care provider and it usually means that your baby simply needs more testing.

How many health conditions should your baby be screened for?

The March of Dimes would like to see all babies in all states screened for at least 34 health conditions. Many of these health conditions can be treated if found early. Each state decides which tests are required. You can find out which conditions your state screen for here.

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

Preparing for a natural disaster

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

As Hurricane Irma makes its way to the Florida area, residents are preparing for the worst. Natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes or hurricanes can cause extreme stress and affect your everyday life. If you’re pregnant or have a baby at home, being prepared for a disaster can help you cope.

Here’s some ways you can prepare:

  • If you’re pregnant, talk to your health care provider. Make a plan together about what to do in case of a disaster, especially if you’ve had pregnancy complications or you’re close to your due date. If your baby is in the NICU, ask about the hospital’s plan.
  • Follow local and state evacuation instructions. If you do evacuate to a shelter, make sure to let staff there know if you are pregnant.
  • Tell your providers where you plan to go if you’re evacuated and how to contact you.
  • Write down important phone numbers and get copies of important medical records for you, your partner and children.

Pack a “disaster bag” of supplies that may be helpful if you need to leave your home. Here’s what you can put in your bag:

  • Clothes and medicine for you and your family. Make sure everyone has comfortable shoes.
  • Diapers, toys, pacifiers, blankets and a carrier or portable crib for your baby.
  • Food, snacks and bottles water. If your baby eats formula or baby food, pack those items. Include chlorine or iodine tablets to treat water from a faucet.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Batteries & flashlights
  • Prenatal vitamins
  • If you’re breastfeeding, a manual pump and clean bottles

Being pregnant during and after a hurricane can be very hard on your body.  Rest when you can, drink plenty of clean water, and make sure you eat throughout the day. Go to your regular prenatal care appointments as soon as it is safe for you to do so. If you cannot get to your regular health care provider, ask the shelter or local hospital where you can go for care.

Following a disaster, some women may experience preterm labor. Make sure you know the signs of preterm labor. 

  • Change in your vaginal discharge (watery, mucus or bloody) or more vaginal discharge than usual
  • Pressure in your pelvis or lower belly, like your baby is pushing down
  • Constant low, dull backache
  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea
  • Regular or frequent contractions that make your belly tighten like a fist. The contractions may or may not be painful.
  • Your water breaks

Contact your provider, go to a hospital , or tell someone at the shelter if you have ANY signs or symptoms. Even if you have just one sign or symptom, it is important to contact a health care provider. Getting help quickly is the best thing you can do.

Learn more about how to prepare and cope with a natural disaster.

Breastfeeding is beneficial for moms and babies

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

In the United States, most new moms (about 80%) breastfeed their babies. And about half of these moms breastfeed for at least 6 months. You may know that breastfeeding is best for your baby, but did you know that you can benefit as well? Here is some information about why breastfeeding is good for both you and your baby.

For your baby, breast milk:

  • Has the right amount of protein, sugar, fat and most vitamins to help your baby grow and develop.
  • Contains antibodies that help protect your baby. In general, breastfed babies have fewer health problems than babies who aren’t breastfed.
  • Has fatty acids, like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), that may help your baby’s brain and eyes develop. It also may lower the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Is easy for your baby to digest. A breastfed baby may have less gas and belly pain than a baby who is given formula.
  • Changes as your baby grows, so he gets exactly what he needs at the right time. For the first few days after your baby is born, your breasts make colostrum. This is a thick, yellowish form of breast milk. Colostrum has nutrients and antibodies that your baby needs in the first few days of life. In 3-4 days the colostrum will gradually change to breast milk.

For you, breastfeeding:

  • Increases the amount of a hormone in your body called oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract. These contractions help your uterus to go back to the size it was before pregnancy and help you to stop bleeding.
  • Helps to reduce stress. Oxytocin is often referred to as the “anti-stress” hormone. It is associated with a decrease in blood pressure and cortisol levels (the hormone released in response to stress). Oxytocin also increases relaxation, sleepiness, blood flow, digestion and healing. Studies have shown that moms who breastfeed have a lower response to stress and pain.
  • Burns extra calories (up to 500 a day). This can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight in a gradual and healthy way.

Want more information about breastfeeding? Check out Breastfeeding 101.

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

 

Fact vs. fiction: the truth about vaccines

Monday, August 7th, 2017

Vaccines are important. They help protect your baby from serious childhood diseases and help keep children healthy. Vaccines work by helping children become immune to a disease without actually getting sick. However, there are still a lot of misconceptions about vaccines. So, to debunk some common myths, here are the facts:

Myth: Spacing out vaccines is better for my baby.

Truth: There are no known benefits to following a delayed vaccination schedule. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) childhood immunization schedule is the ONLY vaccination schedule for children that has been studied and tested for safety and effectiveness.

The CDC immunization schedule is based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This is a group of medical and public health experts that make recommendations about what vaccines should be given and when these vaccines should be given based on a number of factors, including when the vaccine is expected to produce the strongest immune response.

The CDC immunization schedule is designed to help protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to serious and often life-threatening diseases. Children are immunized early because they are susceptible to diseases at a young age, and the consequences of these diseases can be devastating.

Myth: Too many vaccines will overwhelm my baby’s immune system.

Truth: A baby’s immune system fights off thousands of germs every day. Vaccines are made with weakened or killed viruses. But, they look enough like the live virus to make your baby’s body react and produce antibodies.  This allows your baby to become immune to the disease without first getting sick.

According to the CDC, “Even if babies receive several vaccinations in one day, vaccines contain only a tiny fraction of the antigens [parts of germs that cause the body’s immune system to go to work] that they encounter every day in their environment. Vaccines provide your child with the antibodies they need to fight off the serious illnesses for which they have been vaccinated.”

Myth: Vaccines cause autism.

Truth: Vaccinations do not cause autism. Studies have shown and continue to show no association between vaccines and autism. Some people are concerned that thimerosal, a chemical that contains a form of mercury and is used in some vaccines, causes autism. Research has shown that thimerosal in vaccines does not cause autism. In 2001, thimerosal was removed from nearly all vaccines as a precautionary measure. Today, certain types of flu vaccines contain small amounts of thimerosal to help prevent contamination. You can ask for a thimerosal-free flu vaccine if you want. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about thimerosal in vaccines.

Myth: Vaccines are not necessary because the diseases are no longer found in the United States.

Truth: It is largely due to the success of vaccines that many of the vaccine-preventable diseases are no longer seen in the US. However, some diseases, like pertussis (whooping cough) and chickenpox, are still common.

If people stopped vaccinating, it is likely that we would start to see more and more cases of vaccine-preventable diseases. Also, some of the diseases that are not seen in the US still exist in many other countries. If a child who is not vaccinated comes into contact with someone who has a vaccine-preventable disease, the unvaccinated child can become very sick and possibly spread the disease throughout the community.

Myth: My child is sick, so she can’t be vaccinated.

Truth: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “a child with a minor illness such as low-grade fever (<100.4°F), an ear infection, cough, a runny nose, or mild diarrhea can safely be immunized.”

There are children with certain health conditions that may not be able to be vaccinated or who may need to get vaccinated later. In order for these children to be protected, other people need to get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of contagious conditions throughout a community. Vaccinating your baby helps protect her as well as those around her.

Over the years, vaccines have helped to prevent countless cases of disease and save millions of lives. Make sure your baby gets vaccinated. This schedule shows every vaccine recommended for your baby up to 6 years of age. It also shows how many doses your child should receive of each vaccine and when the vaccines are needed.

 

This post is brought to you in partnership with Sanofi Pasteur, a global immunization leader. To learn more about our work together, please visit marchofdimes.org/Sanofi-Pasteur.

The March of Dimes does not endorse specific brands or products.

Breastfeeding and support: two peas in a pod

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

sg_breastfeeding1You may have heard that breastfeeding is natural. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. That’s why breastfeeding women need support. Support can come in many different forms and from different people. Studies show that with a supportive partner, women breastfeed longer and feel more confident about their ability to breastfeed. Whether you are a partner, friend, or family member, there are many things you can do to help support mom while she breastfeeds her little one.

How can you provide support?

  • If mom is experiencing a breastfeeding problem, offer to research the issue online to see if you can learn about solutions to relieve any discomfort.
  • Does mom need to schedule a visit with a Lactation Consultant or her health care provider? Find one in your area and offer to bring the phone, a notebook and pen and the phone numbers to her.
  • Be available to greet guests, run errands or bring mom items she may need such as water, snacks or pillows.
  • Before feedings, bring baby to mom and soothe her until mom is ready to feed. After feedings, offer to burp her.
  • Offer to cuddle baby with skin-to-skin, bathe, or read to her while mom relaxes.

Let the breastfeeding mom in your life know you are there to support her and help give her baby the best start.

Read about other helpful tips in our Breastfeeding 101 series.

Fever and your baby

Monday, July 17th, 2017

mother with sick babyWhen your baby has a fever, it can be very frightening. Here is some information that can help you better understand why your baby has a fever and what you can do to help him.

What is a fever?

A fever is a body temperature that is higher than normal. Your child’s temperature will vary with age, activity, and even the time of day. Babies have a higher temperature than older children. And everyone’s temperature is highest between late afternoon and early evening and lowest between midnight and early morning.

A normal temperature can be anywhere from 97.5°F (36.4°C) and 99.5°F (37.5°C). Most health care providers consider a temperature above 100.4°F (38°C) as a sign of a fever.

What causes a fever?

A fever is important in helping your baby or child fight an infection. If your baby has an illness of some kind, his body temperature will increase. This increase in body temperature signals certain other defenses, such as white blood cells, to work and start attacking the infection. A fever will make your baby feel uncomfortable, increase his need for fluids, and make him breathe faster and his heart beat faster.

How can I treat my baby’s fever?

First, it is important to get an accurate temperature. Feeling your baby’s forehead will not give you a precise measurement—you need to use a thermometer to get the best information. For a baby, a rectal thermometer is the most accurate way to measure temperature.

It isn’t always necessary to see your health care provider when your child has a fever. Here are some things that can help:

  • Acetaminophen (Tyleno®l) or ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) will usually bring down your baby’s temperature. But make sure you give the correct dose.
  • Do not overdress your child. Alcohol bath, ice packs, etc. are NOT recommended and should not be used.
  • Make sure your baby gets a lot of fluids to help prevent dehydration. Signs of dehydration include crying without tears, a dry mouth, and fewer wet diapers.

When should I call my baby’s provider?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you should call your child’s health care provider right away if he has a fever and:

  • Is younger than 3 months (12 weeks) and has a temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher. Call even if you baby doesn’t seem sick. Babies this young can get sick very quickly.
  • Fever rises above 104°F (40°C) repeatedly for a child of any age.
  • Looks very ill, is unusually drowsy, or is very fussy.
  • Has been in a very hot place, such as an overheated car.
  • Has other symptoms, such as a stiff neck, severe headache, severe sore throat, severe ear pain, an unexplained rash, or repeated vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Has signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth, sunken soft spot or significantly fewer wet diapers and is not able to take in fluids.
  • Has immune system problems, such as sickle cell disease or cancer, or is taking medications, such as steroids.
  • Has had a seizure.

Also call your child’s doctor if:

  • The fever persists for more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2 years.
  • The fever persists for more than 3 days (72 hours) in a child 2 years of age or older.
  • Your child still “acts sick” once his fever is brought down.
  • Your child seems to be getting worse.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

What are cleft lip and cleft palate?

Friday, July 7th, 2017

cleft lipCleft lip and cleft palate occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form completely during pregnancy. A cleft lip is an opening in a baby’s upper lip. Cleft palate occurs when a baby’s palate (the roof of the mouth) has an opening in it. About 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate each year in the United States.

What causes cleft lip and cleft palate?

Cleft lip and palate happen very early in pregnancy. Your baby’s lips form between 4 and 7 weeks of pregnancy, and the palate forms between 6 and 9 weeks of pregnancy. Oral clefts don’t have to happen together—a baby can have one without the other.

We’re not sure what causes cleft lip and cleft palate. They may be caused by a combination of factors, like genes and things in your environment, such as medicines you may take. Some risk factors include:

  • Smoking.
  • Diabetes. If you have diabetes before pregnancy, you have an increased risk of having a baby with a cleft lip with or without cleft palate, compared to women who do not have diabetes.
  • Taking certain medicines. If you have epilepsy and take anti-seizure medicines (like topiramate or valproic acid) during the first trimester, you’re more likely to have a baby with cleft lip (with or without cleft palate) than women who don’t take these medicines.

How are cleft lip and cleft palate treated?

In most cases, surgery is needed. Each baby is unique, but surgery to repair cleft lip usually is done at 10 to 12 weeks of age. Surgery for cleft palate is done between 9 and 18 months of age. Children who have a cleft lip or palate may need services such as speech therapy and special dental care as they get older.

Can cleft lip and cleft palate be prevented?

These conditions cannot always be prevented. But here are some things you can do to reduce the chance of your baby having a cleft:

  • Take folic acid. Before pregnancy, take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. During pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid in it every day.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Get a preconception checkup.
  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and talk to your provider about gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your provider to make sure any medicine you take is safe during pregnancy. Don’t stop taking any medicine without talking to your provider first.
  • Get early and regular prenatal care.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Make sure all your vaccinations are up to date, especially for rubella. Wash your hands often.

You can learn more about cleft lip and cleft palate on our website.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Preeclampsia: Impact on mom and baby

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

May was Preeclampsia Awareness Month. We blogged about the signs, symptoms and causes of preeclampsia and how it may lead to premature birth. We also hosted a Twitter chat with Dr. Kjersti Aagaard of Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, which generated some follow-up questions.

We’re happy to welcome back Dr. Aagaard and her colleague Dr. Martha Rac as guest bloggers. Both doctors are maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Texas Children’s. They will share some insight into who is most at risk of developing preeclampsia and how it can impact both mom and baby.

First, we must ask, who is at the highest risk for developing preeclampsia?

 Risk factors for preeclampsia include:

  • First time mothers
  • Pregnancy with a new partner than previous pregnancies – different partners may have varying genetic factors that may increase preeclampsia risk
  • Older mothers (>35 years old)
  • Black women
  • Medical problems including chronic high blood pressure, kidney disease, lupus, diabetes and heart disease
  • Pregnancies with multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Obesity
  • Preeclampsia in prior pregnancies
  • IVF pregnancies – particularly those with donor eggs. This is thought to occur as a result of genetic differences between the mother and fetus, causing the mother’s immune system to attack the “foreign” fetal tissue and cause excess inflammation.

In addition to the risk factors above, mothers with pregnancies spaced too closely together or very far apart can be at risk. Too close may be defined as 18 months or less and far apart as 4-5 years between pregnancies.

How does preeclampsia affect pregnancy?

Preeclampsia is classified as either mild or severe based on a woman’s symptoms, and how severely it affects her organs. It is a progressive disorder, which means that mild cases will eventually develop into severe preeclampsia, if not treated.

Preeclampsia can be very dangerous to both the mother and the baby. The very high blood pressure associated with preeclampsia can result in anything from seizures, stroke, liver and kidney dysfunction, bleeding problems, placental detachment and even death if left untreated.

If a mother-to-be suspects she may be experiencing preeclampsia, she should contact her doctor immediately.

How does preeclampsia impact the baby?

 This dangerous disorder can cause the baby’s growth to be restricted and increases the risk of stillbirth. In the most severe cases, preterm delivery may be required which may then expose the baby to the complications of prematurity such as under-developed organs, breathing difficulties, jaundice, anemia, a lowered immune system, etc.

In the worst cases, fetal death can occur from a sudden detachment of the placenta from the uterus.

For these reasons, women diagnosed with preeclampsia undergo additional monitoring such as: ultrasounds every 4 weeks to evaluate fetal growth, lab work to determine if there is multi-organ involvement, etc. and delivery no later than 37 weeks.

If you are worried you are at risk of developing this dangerous disorder, please be sure to consult with your doctor and discuss your concerns immediately.

Dr. Kjersti AagaardDr. Martha Rac

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many thanks to Dr. Aagaard  (left) and Dr. Rac  (right) for contributing their expertise. 

If you have questions, send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

 

Heat and pregnancy – what’s dangerous and how to cope

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

heatIf you live in the northeast, you know we’ve been experiencing a heat wave. Just going from my car to the front door of the office seems too far to walk in this heat. If you’re pregnant, having an increased exposure to heat may cause problems for you or your baby.

Exposure to excessive heat affects people differently. When you are pregnant, your body works hard to cool you and your baby. So, if you are pregnant, you are more likely to develop a heat related illness sooner than someone who is not pregnant.

Heat illnesses occur when your body’s efforts to cool itself (eg. sweating) are no longer effective. Heat illnesses include a rash often known as “prickly heat,” cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion symptoms include a headache, nausea, dizziness, heavy sweating, weakness, thirst, being irritable, and having an increased body temperature.

Heat stroke is an emergency condition. It is when your body temperature goes above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms include hot and dry skin or extreme sweating, a rapid pulse, throbbing head-ache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, and seizures. If untreated, it could result in permanent organ damage or even death. Seek medical attention or contact 911 immediately if someone you know has these symptoms.

Prevention is key

It is important that you take steps to stay cool and prevent heat related conditions, especially if you are pregnant. Here’s how:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink water frequently. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Stay in rooms with air-conditioning.
  • Avoid going outdoors during peak heat hours (11am – 3pm).
  • If you must go outdoors, stay in the shade, limit your physical activity, and stay hydrated. Use a cold or wet cloth to cool down by putting it on the inside of your wrists or forehead so you don’t get too hot.

Keep kids out of the heat, too

One more thing…each year at about this time, we hear of children being left in a hot car “for just a few minutes.” Tragic deaths from heat stroke can occur from leaving a child in an overheated closed car for a very short while.

Never leave a child unattended in a closed car – NEVER.

Children don’t have the same chemical makeup as adults, making it harder for their bodies to regulate temperature. Take steps to protect your child from heat-related illnesses by setting reminders. Here are a few tips to prevent a tragedy, from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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

No fruit juice for children under 1 year

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

hapy babyThe American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently changed its recommendations regarding how much fruit juice children should drink. They now state that children under the age of 1 year should NOT drink fruit juice.

The updated recommendations also state that:

  • Toddlers ages 1-3 should not get more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice each day.
  • Toddlers should not be given juice from bottles or sippy cups. This allows them to easily consume juice throughout the day and can lead to cavities. Also, toddlers should not be given juice at bedtime.
  • Breast milk or infant formula is enough for infants to drink, and low-fat/nonfat milk and water are appropriate drinks for older children.

The new policy encourages eating more whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juice. Drinking too much fruit juice can contribute to cavities. And fruit juice does not have the fiber that is generally found in fresh fruit.

“Parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, but it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs in more sugar and calories,” said Melvin B. Heyman, MD, FAAP, co-author of the statement. “Small amounts in moderation are fine for older kids, but are absolutely unnecessary for children under 1.”

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