Stress can affect your pregnancy

11
Apr
Posted by Sara

Research demonstrates that stress during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for some pregnancy complications. Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy. Your body and your family are going through many changes. While a little stress is fine, serious stress may cause problems.

Causes of stress

The causes of stress are different for every woman. Some common causes of stress during pregnancy include:

  • Managing the typical discomforts of pregnancy, such as nausea, constipation, and exhaustion.
  • Mood swings. Your changing hormones can causes changes in your mood.
  • Worries about childbirth and being a good mom.
  • Work deadlines and managing job-related responsibilities before you give birth.

A little stress can help you take on new challenges and regular stress during pregnancy probably doesn’t add to pregnancy problems. But serious types of stress during pregnancy may increase your chances of certain complications.

Serious stress during pregnancy

While most women who experience significant stress during pregnancy have healthy babies, high levels of stress do increase your chances of certain pregnancy problems.

  • Acute stress in early pregnancy has been linked with an increased risk for premature birth. Acute stress results from a reaction to a traumatic event, such as natural disasters, death of a loved one, or terrorist attacks.
  • Chronic stress can cause complications such as preterm birth, low birthweight, hypertension and developmental delays in babies. Examples of events that can cause chronic stress include financial problems, divorce, serious health problems, or depression.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) disorder coupled with a major depressive disorder has been associated with an increased risk for preterm birth. PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have seen or lived through a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

How does stress cause problems in pregnancy?

We don’t completely understand the effects of stress on pregnancy. But certain stress-related hormones, such as cortisol and norepinepherine, may play a role. Also, serious or long-lasting stress may affect your immune system, which protects you from infection. Infections can be a cause of premature birth.

Stress also may affect how you respond to certain situations. Some women deal with stress by smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking street drugs. These behaviors can lead to pregnancy problems, including preterm birth and low birthweight.

How can you reduce stress during pregnancy?

There are many ways that you can manage your stress during pregnancy. Watch our video to learn more.

 

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

 

STDs can be harmful to you and your baby

08
Apr
Posted by Lauren

Pregnant woman talking with doctorSexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause problems such as premature birth, ectopic pregnancy, birth defects, miscarriage or stillbirth. Most babies get infected with an STD through the birth canal during labor and birth, but other STDs can cross the placenta and infect your baby in the womb.

What can you do?

April is STD awareness month, and this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have come up with three steps to prevent or treat a STD:  Talk, Test and Treat.

Talk

Have a conversation with your sexual partner about the last time you were tested and how you both plan to have safe sex. You should also talk with your healthcare provider about STD testing and to make sure your vaccines are up to date. Certain vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine, can help protect against genital warts.

Life can get busy; if you aren’t sure of the last time you were tested for STDs or if you received a certain vaccine, a visit with your provider is the best time to ask.

Test

Many people with STDs don’t know they’re infected because some STDs have no symptoms. And if you’re pregnant, STDs can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies. See your healthcare provider and get tested.

Treat

If you find out you have an STD, get treatment right away. Receiving treatment can help protect you and your baby during pregnancy and birth.

Don’t wait. Be sure to talk, test and treat to protect your health and that of your baby.

Read our top STD questions answered for lots more info.  

 

Prematurity, disabilities and special education

06
Apr
Posted by Barbara

Preemi in NICU_smA mom recently wrote to AskUs inquiring about services for her child who was born 12 weeks early. Her child was now in elementary school, had a hearing impairment, and was falling behind in school. She wanted to know how she could help him.

Research has shown that children born prematurely may have difficulties with learning, experience developmental delays, or have a disability. But, whether your child was born prematurely or not, if he is evaluated and has one of 14 conditions, he may be eligible to receive special education and/or related services. Often, a “developmental delay” is enough for a child age three or older to be eligible for services. In order to qualify, a child’s educational performance must be adversely affected due to the disability.

The 14 qualifying conditions are:

Autism
Deaf-blindness
Deafness
Developmental delay (subject to each state’s specific criteria, and usually only up to age 9 and sometimes younger)
Emotional disturbance
Hearing impairment
Intellectual disability
Multiple disabilities
Orthopedic impairment
Other health impairment
Specific learning disability
Speech or language impairment
Traumatic brain injury
Visual impairment

Next steps

You can request an evaluation (which is free to you) through the special education administrator of your school district or the principal of your local elementary school. Sending the request in writing is always a good idea – such as an email. Then, the school should contact you to set up an appointment for an evaluation.

Learn more about who will test your child, the steps involved in the process and what happens next, in this blog post. If your child qualifies for services, they could be life changing. The first step is to seek help and ask for the evaluation.

Find other relevant posts in our series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

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

 

Thinking of having a baby? Now is the time to stop drinking alcohol

04
Apr
Posted by Lauren

2015D015_3603_rtYou’ve probably heard that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby. But did you know you should also stop drinking alcohol before trying to conceive?

It can be difficult to determine an accurate date of conception. It takes two weeks after conception to get an accurate pregnancy test result. This means that you may be drinking alcoholic beverages during the early stages of your pregnancy, before you learn you are pregnant.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a range of serious problems including miscarriage, premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and stillbirth. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) states that alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities.

FASDs can be costly, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The lifetime cost for one individual with FAS in 2002 was estimated to be $2 million. This is an average for people with FAS and does not include data on people with other FASDs. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs. It is estimated that the cost to the United States for FAS alone is over $4 billion annually.

The good news is that FASD is entirely preventable. If you stop drinking alcohol before and during pregnancy, you can prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and other conditions caused by alcohol.

So if you are trying to become pregnant or are already pregnant, steer clear of alcohol. If you have problems stopping, visit us for tips.

If you have a child with FASD, see our post on how to help babies born with FASD.

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

Smoking during pregnancy can affect your baby’s DNA

01
Apr
Posted by Sara

pregnant woman in greenYou already know that smoking during pregnancy is bad for you and your baby. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and can cause serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, gum disease and eye diseases that can lead to blindness.

A new study published yesterday in the American Journal of Human Genetics suggests that smoking during pregnancy causes chemical changes in a baby’s DNA. These differences are similar to changes found in the DNA of adult smokers.

The study analyzed the umbilical cord blood of over 6,000 newborns. The researchers found that when women smoked every day during pregnancy, their baby’s DNA was chemically different in over 6,000 places when compared with the DNA of babies whose mothers did not smoke. Some of the places where the DNA was chemically different could be linked to specific genes that play a role in cleft lip and palate, asthma, and some adult smoking-related cancers, such as lung cancer.  This new study is important because it adds to our understanding of how smoking during pregnancy affects fetal DNA and it suggests that these DNA changes may play a role in the development of certain birth defects or medical conditions.

It is well known that smoking during pregnancy has been linked to a number of pregnancy complications and medical problems for the baby. When you smoke during pregnancy, chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar pass through the placenta and umbilical cord into your baby’s bloodstream.

These chemicals are harmful. They can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets. This can slow your baby’s growth before birth and can damage your baby’s heart, lungs and brain.

If you smoke during pregnancy, you’re more likely to have:

And your baby is more likely to:

If you smoke during pregnancy, quitting is the best thing you can do for you and your baby. The sooner you quit smoking during pregnancy, the healthier you and your baby can be. It’s best to quit smoking before getting pregnant. But quitting any time during pregnancy can have a positive effect on your baby’s life.

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

Help improve health policies where you live

30
Mar
Posted by Barbara

Mom calming crying babyDo you live in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota or American Samoa?

Have you had difficulties getting health care services for yourself or your child?

If so, we’d like to hear from you.

March of Dimes is working with the American Academy of Pediatrics to better understand the issues that families face getting and paying for health care for their child, particularly children with special health care needs or disabilities. We know that some families are having problems finding the right doctor, or getting a referral, or having needed services denied. We know that these problems may affect having enough money for your family or being able to maintain a job.

Please complete this short survey.  You will be helping policy makers understand important issues – a first step in creating better health systems for everyone. You will not be asked for any identifying information, and your responses will be completely confidential. By sharing your knowledge and experiences, you can make a difference in improving health policies in your state.

Help the March of Dimes and the American Academy of Pediatrics learn more about your challenges.

 

Pregnant? How far along are you in your pregnancy?

28
Mar
Posted by Lauren

pr_mr_lg_ultrasound1Many health care professionals will begin to estimate how far along you are in your pregnancy by asking you when the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) was. But the development of your baby does not begin until conception – which is after your last period.

Are you confused? Let me explain…

Your pregnancy has two ages, gestational age and fetal age. Both are measured in weeks but they will be different numbers. Your gestational age is the age of the pregnancy from the first day of your last normal menstrual period. Your fetal age is the actual age of your growing baby from the day you conceived.

Health care providers use gestational age when dating a pregnancy. It is very difficult to determine an accurate date of conception, so your health care provider may estimate when you conceived based on the first day of your last period. This is your gestational age.

While your provider will use your LMP to initially date your pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), an ultrasound measurement of your baby in the first trimester is the most accurate method of confirming your gestational age. Keep in mind, after a first trimester ultrasound, your due date may be adjusted.

Why is it important to be aware of both?

We often hear from pregnant women that their baby’s development is not matching up with how far along they are in their pregnancy. For example, one question we received, the woman was 12 weeks pregnant but her baby was measuring 10 weeks along.  It is important to confirm with your provider that your gestational age is 12 weeks and your fetal age is 10 weeks – which means your pregnancy is on track. (Keep in mind that there may be other reasons why a baby is not developing on a typical schedule. If you are concerned, speak with your prenatal provider.)

Not sure how far along you are? Our due date calculator, will date your pregnancy based on gestational age.

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

Satisfying those pregnancy cravings

25
Mar
Posted by Lauren

SaladAs the temperature rises here on the east coast, I can’t help but think of warm weather and yummy summer foods like ice cream. But while enjoying your cone this season, remember that nutrition is important, especially if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.

This month is National Nutrition Month, and this year the theme is to savor the flavor of eating right. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics raises awareness that no one diet is right for everyone. By keeping your lifestyle in mind and focusing on foods and traditions that appeal to you, you can find an eating plan that works for you.

So what does this mean for pregnant women?

Lots of women have food cravings during pregnancy. And it’s usually okay to satisfy those cravings as long as what you eat is safe and you don’t overdo it.

You may have heard that you should be eating from the five food groups: grains, veggies, fruits, milk products and proteins, but what about when you get cravings for crunchy foods and you reach for the potato chips?

Here are some tips:

  • Eat what you crave, but in small amounts. Eating too much of something sweet, spicy or salty can cause problems, such as heartburn or gaining too much weight.
  • Work your cravings to your advantage. If you are craving a crunch, see if some carrots or an apple will satisfy your craving before you reach for the chip bag. Or at least buy the reduced fat kind of chips.
  • Buy single servings instead of in bulk. If you are ready to enjoy some ice-cream, go to your local ice cream shop for a scoop instead of buying a container at the grocery store.
  • Plan your day’s snacks ahead of time. This will help you know what and when you are going to eat between meals and will keep you away from unhealthy convenience foods in a vending machine.
  • If you are trying to stay away from your craving, try distracting yourself by going for a walk or calling a friend.

Not sure if your craving is healthy for your pregnancy? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

How to find a specialist for a birth defect or rare disease

23
Mar
Posted by Barbara

Contemplative woman with babyWe often receive inquiries from individuals asking for help finding information and resources for their child’s particular birth defect or medical condition. If a baby or child has a rare disease, the family may have an especially difficult time finding a specialist who is experienced with the disorder.

Here are some organizations that offer resources:

  • The Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center  – “GARD” provides links on how to find a disease specialist, a treatment center, a genetics clinic, researchers, and finally how to navigate the process of trying to get your child diagnosed.
  • The National Organization for Rare Disorders  – “NORD” maintains a database of diseases and provides detailed disease explanations and support group resources to patients and families.
  • Disease Infosearch (part of Genetic Alliance) – They provide disease information as well as support group resources.
  • The NIH Undiagnosed Diseases Program – This is an invitation-only program for patients whose conditions “have eluded medical diagnoses.”

With any condition, finding the appropriate health care provider may make all the difference in the world. We suggest that families speak with their child’s health care provider and specialist so that together, they can establish the best course of treatment for their child.

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

 

Diabetes Alert Day

22
Mar
Posted by Sara

glucose screeningDiabetes is a serious health concern, especially when left untreated or undiagnosed. Today is Diabetes Alert Day. It is designed to teach the public about the seriousness of diabetes. If you develop diabetes during pregnancy, it can cause problems for your baby.

About 9 out of 100 people in the U.S. have diabetes – a condition in which your body has too much sugar (called glucose) in the blood. Glucose is your body’s main source of fuel for energy. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. If your body does not produce insulin or cannot use it efficiently, then over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, and nerve cells. You can develop diabetes at any time in your life, including during pregnancy.

There are three different types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes happens most often in children and young adults but it can develop at any age. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. In this case, your body does not make insulin or can’t use it normally. You are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes if you are older, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, or do not exercise.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. Seven out of every 100 pregnant women (7 percent) develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth. However, if you have it in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in your next pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop diabetes later in life.

Your health care provider tests for gestational diabetes at 24-28 weeks with a glucose screening test. During this test, your drink a liquid that contains glucose. An hour after you drink the solution, your blood will be drawn to check your glucose levels. If your blood glucose is too high, you will need to come back for a glucose tolerance test.

Most of the time, gestational diabetes can be controlled. But if left untreated, gestational diabetes can result in complications such as premature birth. For this reason, if you do have gestational diabetes, it is important to follow your provider’s recommendations.

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you have your baby; but if you have it, you’re more likely to develop diabetes later in life. To help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy:

  • Breastfeed. Breastfeeding can help you lose weight after pregnancy. Being overweight makes you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Get tested for diabetes 6 to 12 weeks after your baby is born. If the test is normal, get tested again every 3 years. If the test shows you have prediabetes, get tested once a year. Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are slightly higher than they should be but not high enough to have diabetes.
  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight and stay active.

If you have any concerns about your family health history, or you think you may be at risk for developing gestational diabetes or diabetes, speak with your health care provider.

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