Cleft lip and palate awareness

13
Jul
Posted by Lauren

baby with cleft lipI remember seeing a thin scar on my friend’s upper lip, and wondering how she had gotten it. “I was born with a cleft lip,” she said. I became curious about her cleft lip and how it turned into one tiny scar.

A cleft lip is a type of craniofacial abnormality. These are birth defects of the head (cranio) and face (facial) that are present when a baby is born. Another common type is a cleft palate (roof of the mouth). As July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month, it is a good time to learn more about these birth defects.

How does a cleft lip or palate form?

The lips of a baby form by about 6 weeks of pregnancy. When the lip doesn’t form completely and is left with an opening, this is called a cleft lip. A baby’s palate is formed by about 10 weeks of pregnancy. When the palate doesn’t form completely and has an opening, it’s called a cleft palate. A baby can be born with just one of these abnormalities or with both.

Each year in the U.S., 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. The causes of clefts with no other major birth defects among most infants are unknown.

In most cases, cleft lip and cleft palate can be repaired by surgery. Each baby is unique, but surgery to repair cleft lip usually is done at 10 to 12 weeks of age. Surgery for cleft palate usually is done between 9 and 18 months of age. A child may also need more surgery for his clefts as he grows.

My friend had corrective surgery to repair her lip when she was still a baby. Now all that is left is one thin scar above her upper lip leading to her nose, which you can hardly see.

Can these birth defects be prevented?

We are not always sure what causes a cleft lip or palate.  However, there are steps a pregnant woman can take to decrease her chance of having a baby with a cleft lip or palate.

• Before pregnancy, get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup to help make sure you are healthy before you get pregnant.
• Take a multivitamin that contains folic acid. Take one with 400 micrograms of folic acid before pregnancy, but increase to one with 600 micrograms of folic acid during pregnancy. Your provider may want you to take more – be sure to discuss this with him.
• Talk to your provider to make sure any medicine you take is safe during pregnancy. Your provider may want to switch you to a different medicine that is safer during pregnancy.
• Don’t smoke.
• Don’t drink alcohol.
• Get early and regular prenatal care.

If you have any question about cleft or craniofacial defects, causes or prevention, read more here or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

New study looks at link between antidepressants and birth defects

10
Jul
Posted by Sara

pregnant woman with MDThe use of certain antidepressants during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of birth defects, according to a new study. But other antidepressants do not carry the same risk.

The study looked at a specific group of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are medications used to treat depression and other mental health conditions. Previous studies gave conflicting evidence about potential links between the use of SSRIs during pregnancy and certain birth defects.

In this study, researchers from the CDC analyzed data from 17,952 mothers of infants with birth defects and 9,857 mothers of infants without birth defects, born between 1997 and 2009.

The researchers found that some birth defects occur about two or three times more frequently among babies born to women who took certain SSRI medications, like Prozac (fluoxetine) and Paxil (paroxetine) early in pregnancy. It is important to note that the actual risk for a birth defect among babies born to women taking Prozac or Paxil is still very low. For example, the risks for a specific heart defect could increase from 10 per 10,000 births to about 24 per 10,000 births among babies of women who are treated with Paxil early in pregnancy. Since these specific types of birth defects are rare, even doubling the risk still results in a low overall chance.

Researchers did not find a link between birth defects and other SSRIs such as Zoloft (sertraline).

“A pregnant woman should be reassured that she can choose a safe drug to treat her depression and not have to go off her medication because she is afraid her baby may develop a birth defect,” Dr. Edward McCabe, Chief Medical Officer of the March of Dimes said. “Not treating depression can be unhealthy for both the mom and her baby. It can cause stress, and stress during pregnancy is associated with early births and low-birthweight babies.”

If you are currently taking an antidepressant and are concerned, do not stop taking the medication until you talk to your health care provider. And if you are planning to become pregnant and are taking an antidepressant, schedule a preconception checkup and discuss what medications may be best for you.

Living with loss

08
Jul
Posted by Barbara

yellow butterflyFor families that suffer from the unspeakable pain of losing a baby, their grief continues for a lifetime. It may ebb and flow; it may be more acute at anniversaries or when something triggers a memory. It may even seem to be out of mind for periods of time, but it is never gone completely. A woman starts loving her baby from the moment of conception and this love continues throughout her entire life. Similarly, the feelings of sadness and loss continue because a parent’s love has no end.

At the March of Dimes, women have written to us after suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth, asking when they will “get over” the loss of their baby. This is a question that is impossible to answer. Your life will go on – all the chores, jobs, responsibilities and even parties continue. But, the reminders will be there always, with the sadness and deep disappointment to go along with it.

I know a woman who lost her baby boy 31 years ago. She had tried for years to become pregnant, so her pregnancy was an especially joyous time for her. The immense happiness was followed by intense grief on the day of her son’s birth, as he lived for only a few hours. Even though she eventually went on to have a healthy baby, she still mourns the loss of her son. She marks her son’s birth and death every year, and continues to remember him. Her pain is palpable, even though so many years have gone by since that heartbreaking time.

Acknowledging and talking about the loss of her baby has helped her to know that her son was real, and that her grief is legitimate. She had bonded with her baby from the moment she learned she was pregnant. To ask her to forget about this tiny person would be ridiculous.

The pain of losing a baby is one that many women struggle with for life. Perhaps it is because the baby never got the chance to grow up and follow his dreams. Or, maybe it is because the mom is denied the natural desire to nurture her child and watch him grow up. Losing a child is like a double wallop- you lose your child and the dreams that go along with him.

It’s so unfair.

If you have suffered a pregnancy or infant loss, you may want to reach out to others who will understand your unique pain. You may find a local support group in your area, or you can join our online community, Share Your Story where you will meet other women who know what living with loss is all about. You are not alone.

The March of Dimes has written a booklet called From Hurt to Healing to help families understand their grief. It explains grief and how men and women grieve differently. It talks about how to deal with your feelings, tells you how to ask for help, how to deal with family and friends, how to help other children understand. And it suggests ways to remember your baby. Two other booklets, What Can You Do? and When You Want to Try Again are part of a packet the March of Dimes offers free to bereaved parents who have suffered a loss. If you would like to receive a packet, send your name and address to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

You will never forget your baby, but in time the power of love will help you find the strength to move forward and love again.

 

Comments or questions? Send them to AskUs@machofdimes.org.

View posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

 

Bleeding during pregnancy – what does it mean?

06
Jul
Posted by Lauren

bleeding during pregnancyIf you are pregnant and experience spotting or bleeding, it can be very scary. When you see blood, your first thought may be “is my baby ok?” Bleeding and spotting from the vagina during pregnancy is common. Up to half of all pregnant women have some bleeding or spotting.

Bleeding? Spotting? What’s the difference?

Spotting is light bleeding and happens when you have a few drops of blood in your underwear. Bleeding is a heavier flow of blood, enough that you need a panty liner or pad to keep the blood from soaking your underwear or clothes.

Bleeding in early pregnancy

Bleeding doesn’t always mean there’s a problem, but it can be a sign of serious complications. There are several things that may cause bleeding early in your pregnancy, such as having sex, an infection, or changes in your cervix and hormones. You may bleed a little when the embryo attaches to the lining of your uterus (called implantation bleeding). This may occur 10-14 days after fertilization. Although this spotting is usually earlier and lighter than a menstrual period, some women don’t notice the difference, and don’t even realize they’re pregnant.

Sometimes bleeding and spotting in the first trimester can be a sign of a serious problem such as miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or molar pregnancy. But keep in mind that bleeding doesn’t always mean miscarriage. At least half of women who have spotting or light bleeding early in pregnancy don’t miscarry.

Bleeding in late pregnancy

Causes of late pregnancy bleeding include labor, sex, an internal exam by your provider or problems with your cervix, such as an infection or cervical insufficiency. It could also be a sign of preterm labor, placenta previa, placental abruption or uterine rupture.

How to tell if the bleeding is dangerous

Bleeding or spotting can happen anytime, from the time you get pregnant to right before you give birth. Bleeding can be a sign of a serious complication, so it’s important you call your prenatal care provider if you have any bleeding or spotting, even if it stops. If the bleeding is not serious, it’s still important that your provider finds out the cause. Do not use a tampon, douche or have sex if you’re bleeding.

Before you call your provider, write down these things:

• How heavy your bleeding is. Is it getting heavier or lighter and how many pads are you using?
• The color of the blood. It can be different colors, like brown, dark or bright red.

Go to the emergency room if you have:

• Heavy bleeding
• Bleeding with pain or cramping
• Dizziness and bleeding
• Pain in your belly or pelvis

Treatment for your bleeding depends on the cause. You may need a medical exam or tests performed by your provider.

Bottom Line

If you are bleeding or spotting at any point in your pregnancy, call your provider right away and describe what you are experiencing. It’s important that your bleeding or spotting is evaluated to determine if it is dangerous to you and your baby.

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

Food on the Fourth–safe eating tips

02
Jul
Posted by Sara

picnicFoodborne illness can be extremely dangerous—especially for pregnant women and young children. Symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea and fever, can become life-threatening.

So if you will be celebrating the 4th of July with family, friends, and a cookout, remember to keep foods fresh and safe. Here are some important safety tips:

Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water before eating, and remove surface dirt with a scrub brush, cutting away any damaged sections, which can contain bacteria.

Cook foods to their proper temperature. See the Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart for details on cooking meats, poultry, eggs, leftovers, and casseroles.

Chill foods that need to be kept cool if you will be outside for long periods. Foods made with mayo, such as pasta or potato salads, need to be kept cold and out of the sun. Or try using a recipe for an olive oil-based dressing. These will keep fresher longer.

Refrigerate any leftovers a.s.a.p., and never eat cooked food that has been out of the refrigerator longer than two hours. At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. The more bacteria there are, the greater the chance you could become sick. Cold temperatures keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.

If you’re pregnant, be sure to read more about foods to avoid or limit during pregnancy. And have a safe, happy, and healthy 4th of July weekend!

Fourth of July – fabulous or frightful?

01
Jul
Posted by Barbara

fireworksHolidays can be an especially stressful time for children with special needs; Fourth of July celebrations are no exception. Here are some tips to get through the holiday weekend happily.

 

Fireworks

It seems that people either love them or steer clear of them. The colors that light up the night sky are beautiful to watch. But, for children with sensitive hearing, it can be a painful experience. Learn how you can help your child enjoy a fireworks display without discomfort or a meltdown.

Even though fireworks may be legal to use in some areas, it does not mean they are safe. Use extreme caution if you will be handling fireworks. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on hand and take the time to learn about fireworks safety.

Firecrackers

The loud burst of noise from firecrackers can cause hearing problems. In fact, firecrackers can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing protection should be used whenever you are around firecrackers, as they can cause immediate hearing damage.

Sparklers

These little bursts of flames can heat up to 1,200 degrees! Although they look tempting to touch, every year, many children under the age of 5 end up in the emergency room due to injuries from sparklers. If you insist on using them, closely supervise the use of sparklers and be sure the lit end stays away from faces – especially eyes. Better yet, avoid them altogether or use glow sticks for some bright, colorful fun.

Noisemakers

Poppers, pop-its, snappers or other noisemakers that make popping noises when thrown on the ground, can be extremely hard for kids to tolerate, even without sensitive hearing. (They also make dogs go crazy!) If your child suffers from sensitive hearing, keep her away from these noisemakers.

26american-flagWith a little knowledge and some planning,  your child can enjoy the holiday, without distress or a trip to the ER.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day everyone!

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

 

Breastfeeding on demand vs. on a schedule

29
Jun
Posted by Lauren

breastfeedingWe often receive questions from new moms asking when they should start their newborn’s next feeding. If they breastfed their baby at 2pm, they wonder if they should wait to feed their baby until 5pm. The golden rule is to feed your baby when she’s hungry, called “on-demand” feeding. It is more important to watch your baby for cues that she’s hungry rather than worry about the timing of her feeding.

If you have ever gone to a party, the hostess usually will offer you food or a drink without first asking “are you hungry?” She offers you the food and then you can decide if you want to eat. The same should go for your baby. If she seems unsettled, try breastfeeding. If she is hungry and feeds, you made a good guess; but if not, then you know you can try to settle her in another way (rocking, walking, etc.)

Newborns may eat between 8 and 12 times over 24 hours, which is about once every 2 to 3 hours. If that seems like a lot, it is! Feedings may last about 15-30 minutes. But each baby is different and your baby may need to feed more often or for longer amounts of time.

Will you have enough milk for all these feedings?

The amount of milk a woman can produce and store varies greatly and is not determined by the size of her breasts. As your baby sucks on your nipple, she stimulates your hormones to send a message to your brain telling your body to produce milk. Your hormones, along with your baby’s suckling causes your breasts to “letdown” and provides the milk to your baby’s mouth. Letdown may also occur when you think about your baby, or hear her or even another baby cry.

The more often you nurse, the more milk your body will produce. Your milk production will slow between feedings when milk accumulates in your breast and will speed up when the breast is emptier. Your body is producing milk all the time, the only thing that changes is the speed of production. Your breasts do not need to feel “full” in order to produce enough milk for your baby. The key to breastfeeding on demand is to feed your baby when she wants for as long as she wants. Ignore the clock!

Still not convinced? Here’s the science behind milk production

Your body produces two hormones, prolactin and oxytocin. The hormone prolactin tells your body to use its proteins, sugars and fat from your blood supply to make breast milk. The oxytocin tells your body’s muscles to contract and push the milk into your ductal system and into your nipple as your baby sucks. As your baby continues to suck, your body releases more prolactin which triggers your body to make more breast milk. Between feedings your body’s prolactin levels off, but once you start feeding again, your milk production restarts. So, if you want to produce more milk, you will need to breastfeed or pump more often.

Tips to keep in mind

• If your baby feeds more often than every two hours, it does not mean there is a supply problem.
• For most babies, breast milk is easier to digest than formula. This is why a breastfed baby may feed more often than a formula fed baby.
• You do not need to wait for your breast to ‘refill’ before your baby’s next feeding.
• Certain factors can affect your letdown reflex such as being tired, being stressed or having pain in your breast. Seek support when you need it. 
• Read about common breastfeeding myths in Breastfeeding myths debunked -part 1 and part 2.
• Remember, any breast milk you provide your baby is beneficial. It’s important to find the methods and solutions that work best for you and your baby.

Worried if your baby is getting enough to eat? Visit our page.

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

Screening vs. diagnostic testing—what’s the difference?

26
Jun
Posted by Sara

DoctorPregnant_zps3ac96800If you are pregnant, you know that every visit to your prenatal care provider involves a number of tests. At each prenatal checkup, your provider checks your weight, blood and urine. But in addition to these routine tests, you will also be offered prenatal tests that can assess your risk to have a baby with certain birth defects.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all pregnant women, regardless of age, be offered prenatal testing for Down syndrome and some other birth defects. There are two different types of tests that you can have: a screening test or a diagnostic test. It’s important to understand the difference between a screening test and a diagnostic test. Screening tests help evaluate the risk for certain birth defects, but they cannot diagnose a birth defect. Screening tests pose no risk to mother or baby. Diagnostic tests are highly accurate at diagnosing or ruling out specific birth defects. However, these tests may pose a very small risk of miscarriage.

Screening tests offered during pregnancy include:

  • Cell-free fetal DNA testing (also called noninvasive prenatal screening or testing): Some of your baby’s cells can be found in your blood. This test uses a sample of your blood to look at your baby’s DNA to check for certain genetic conditions. You can have this test after 10 weeks of pregnancy. This test is not recommended for women who aren’t likely to have a baby with a birth defect or who are pregnant with multiples.
  • First-trimester screening: Using a blood sample and ultrasound measurements, first-trimester screening can tell you if your baby is at risk for some birth defects, like Down syndrome. It is usually done between 11 to 13 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Maternal blood screening: This test measures four substances in your blood to determine the chance that a woman has a baby with certain birth defects like Down syndrome and neural tube defects. The test is done between 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Diagnostic tests are done by obtaining samples of your baby’s actual cells and therefore are more invasive. Diagnostic testing can detect most birth defects caused by a change in the number or shape of chromosomes. And testing for many inherited disorders can be done as well. However, not all birth defects can be detected.

Some women may choose to have diagnostic testing done instead of screening tests based on their age or family history. Other women may choose to start with a screening test and then, depending on the results, decide whether to have a diagnostic test. Prenatal diagnostic tests do carry a small risk of miscarriage (about 1 in 300-500).

  • Chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS): During this procedure, the doctor removes a small sample of tissue from the placenta. This can either be done transvaginally or transabdominally. You can get CVS at 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Amniocentesis (also called amnio): Your health care provider will use a needle to remove a small amount of amniotic fluid. Amnio is done between 15 to20 weeks of pregnancy.

Remember, all of these tests are optional. Make sure that you discuss your questions and concerns with your health care provider.

Questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Having a baby in the NICU can be stressful for siblings

24
Jun
Posted by Barbara

IMG_9387Giving birth early and having a baby in the NICU is stressful for parents; but what is sometimes overlooked is how upsetting it is for the preemie’s siblings.

A change in routine is upsetting to children. Having mom and dad away from home for long periods of time can turn even the most well-adjusted child upside down. If your child has not been able to visit her sibling or she does not have a solid grasp on what is happening, the uncertainty of the situation can cause distress. What can you do to ease the anxiety that is trickling down to the smallest members of your family?

  • Talk to your child at a level that she can understand. There are children’s books that explain prematurity. These books can make the explanation much easier for parents. Check with your local library for appropriate titles.
  • Reassure your child that nothing she did or said caused her sibling to be born early. Some kids may blame themselves or feel guilty.
  • Your child might be very worried and fear that the baby may never come home. As best you can, let your child know that you and the doctors and nurses are taking good care of her baby sibling, just as they would take care of her.
  • Understand the signs of distress in your child. Any regression (loss) in developmental progress (such as bed wetting, not sleeping through the night, acting out or being excessively attached to you), may indicate that your child is feeling the negative effects of the situation.
  • If possible, have your child visit your baby in the NICU.
  • In the Preemies book, you can read about these and other ways to minimize the anxiety that having a baby in the hospital can have on your family.

Do you have any tips to share on how to help your older children got through the stress of having a baby sibling in the NICU? Please share.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

 

Water bottles recalled

24
Jun
Posted by Barbara

water glass and bottleCertain bottles of water produced by Niagara Bottling have been voluntarily recalled by the company even though reportedly no one has become sick from the water. The company is recalling the bottles to be extra careful, because one of the springs that supplies the water was found to have the E. coli bacteria at its source. Some kinds of E.coli bacteria can cause disease and even death in people.

The recall affects water bottles produced during June 10 – June 18th at two of Niagara’s bottling facilities.

You can check the label on your water bottle to see if you have any of the affected bottles by going to Niagara’s website. This recall affects the following brands:

Acadia Spring Water
Acme Spring Water
Big Y Spring Water
Best Yet Spring Water
7-11 Spring Water
Niagara Spring Water
Nature’s Place Spring Water
Pricerite Spring Water
Superchill Spring Water
Morning Fresh Spring Water
Shaws Spring Water
Shoprite Spring Water
Western Beef Blue Spring Water
Wegmans Spring Water

The company website states “If you don’t see your product on the list, it was completely unaffected by the recall and is completely safe to drink.”

If you have any concern, you can contact their Consumer Affairs Department at (888) 943-4894.