Infant loss affects the tiniest family members

14
Oct
Posted by Barbara

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

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

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

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

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

“…and what did she say?”

“She said all of my answers were right!”


Maddie’s story

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

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

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

We miss her with every fiber of our being.

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

Dads and birth defects

12
Oct
Posted by Sara

cute coupleWe know so many things that a woman can do both before and during pregnancy to help reduce the risk of birth defects. But what about dads?

A paternal exposure is something the father of a baby is exposed to before conception or during his partner’s pregnancy. Some paternal exposures can damage the quality of a man’s sperm. This includes changes in sperm size, shape, number, or function. These changes can result in infertility or make it more difficult for a woman to become pregnant.

However, a father does not share a blood connection with the baby. So any medications, chemicals, or harmful substances that are in his body during a pregnancy are not passed to the developing baby. But, a dad’s health before and during pregnancy can still affect the health of his partner and his baby.

Here are some paternal exposures that may cause problems:

Alcohol, tobacco, street drugs

Use of these substances by a father before and during pregnancy has not been shown to cause birth defects but they may affect fertility.

Cigarette smoking can cause problems for a pregnant woman and the baby. If the dad smokes, his pregnant partner can be exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is smoke you breathe in from someone else’s cigarette. If a woman is exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy, it can cause the baby to be born at a low birthweight.

And secondhand smoke is very dangerous to a baby after he is born. Babies who are around secondhand smoke are at increased risk of health problems, including pneumonia, ear infections, asthma, and bronchitis. They’re also more likely to die of SIDS.

Chemotherapy and radiation

When a man undergoes chemotherapy or radiation, his sperm may be affected. After treatment is over, sperm production may return to normal, but it is important to discuss reproduction plans with your health care provider. He may suggest that you wait anywhere from 1-5 years to try to have a baby. The length of time will depend on the type of treatment. Sometimes sperm banking prior to treatment may be recommended.

Workplace exposures

According to MotherToBaby, “There have been a number of studies looking at reproductive health of men who are exposed to various substances in the workplace including lead, organic solvents, pesticides and radiation. Some studies suggest that such exposures may be associated with decreased sperm production, increased sperm abnormalities, decreased fertility, and an unproven increased risk for miscarriage in the partners of these workers. However, none of the workplace exposures in men have been associated with an increased risk for birth defects.” Although this seems like good news, it is important to know that

If a man is exposed to materials such as lead, mercury, or pesticides in the workplace, it is possible to carry trace amounts on clothes and shoes, and bring them into the home. For this reason, fathers exposed to these substances should take extra precautions. Make sure all appropriate safety equipment (gloves, gowns, and masks) is being worn. And while there is currently no data available regarding how this may affect fertility or a pregnancy, it may be best to change clothes and shoes before entering the house, just to be safe.

Know your family’s health history

Your family health history is a record of any health conditions and treatments that you, your partner and everyone in both of your families have had. It is possible that conditions that run in the father’s family can be passed on to your baby. Taking a family health history of both parents can help you make important health decisions. Knowing about health conditions before or early in pregnancy can help you and your health care provider decide on treatments and care for your baby.

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

New baby = new mom fatigue

10
Oct
Posted by Lauren

mother calming crying babyYou’ve just given birth and brought your baby home – now you can relax right? Not really.

Once you bring your new baby home, new parents (especially moms) are often overwhelmed and exhausted. Between the feedings, sleepless nights and extra responsibilities you will find you’re very tired. You may find it hard to balance the responsibilities of your new baby, your family and your home. So will you have any relaxation time? Not for a while.

Take comfort in knowing you’re not alone and your feelings are normal. Here are some tips to get through your new mom fatigue.

Get rest

Now that you know relaxation is out the door, you can still catch up on some much needed rest. Start by napping when your baby does, even if it’s a quick one. If your baby’s breathing, cooing or restlessness keep you awake, place her in her own room to sleep. Remember you and your baby are top priority and rest is important – if you need to limit your visitors and put off your household responsibilities, do it.

Eat well and keep moving

Staying active can actually help give you more energy during the day. You may already find yourself constantly going up and down your stairs while grabbing a clean diaper or washing a bottle, but if you want to start physical activity, be sure to get your provider’s OK. If the weather is nice, taking your baby for a walk is a great place to start becoming active.

Eating healthy foods and drinking lots of water will also help your energy level. And be sure to limit your intake of caffeine and sugar packed beverages.

Accept help

This is an exciting time and your friends and family can’t wait to meet your new baby. When they come to visit and offer a helping hand, accept their offer. Suggest they wash some dishes, get you a plate of food or simply hold your baby while you take a shower. Working with your partner to divvy out responsibilities or feedings can also help. If you are breastfeeding, have your partner bring the baby to you and burp her after the feeding.

Caring for a new baby is a wonderful time, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted remember that the newborn days won’t last long. Accept or ask for help when you need it. Soon you’ll be able to better manage your time and your energy to enjoy your new bundle.

Do you have a newborn at home? Share your tips. Have questions? Email or text AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

A properly installed car seat can save your child’s life – here are tips every parent needs to know

07
Oct
Posted by Barbara

baby in rear facing car seatWe’d like to thank Gloria Del Castillo, child passenger safety expert at Cincinnati Children’s, for this guest post.

Did you know that an alarming three out of four car seats are not installed properly? It’s shocking, but it’s true.

For some people, car seats aren’t always the easiest things to figure out – from choosing the right one to making sure the straps are tight enough. But in some situations, a properly installed seat can mean the difference between life and death in a crash.

We must do better for our children. That’s why Buckle Up for Life, a national car seat education program, teaches parents, caregivers and children about the proper use of car seats and provides free seats to families in need who participate in the program.

Below are some simple yet critical tips from Buckle Up for Life to keep in mind when you’re getting ready to hit the road with your children.

• After you’ve buckled your child into their seat, pinch the car seat strap near their shoulders. If you can pinch a wrinkle in the fabric, tighten the strap until it is snug. You can see a video of this tip at this link. Then grab the car seat at the bottom where it is attached to the car and tug from side to side and front to back. If the seat moves more than an inch in either direction, tighten it.

• As colder weather approaches, remember to remove your children’s coats before securing them in their car seat. A coat can prevent the harness from fitting correctly. It also could compress in a crash, compromising the seat’s ability to protect your child.

• Although it might be convenient to use a hand-me-down car seat, it’s best to purchase a new seat. A seat’s ability to protect your child may be compromised if it has been through a crash. Also, plastic can degrade over time.

• Accessories that didn’t come with the car seat likely have not been crash-tested and could be dangerous in a crash. This includes mirrors and sun shades.

• According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should remain in rear-facing car seats until age two, or until they exceed the height or weight limit for the car seat.

For more resources including the car seat installation videos and where to locate car seat inspection stations or child passenger safety technicians in your community, please visit BuckleUpForLife.org.

Gloria Del Castillo is a child passenger safety expert at Cincinnati Children’s. She is a specialist of community engagement for Buckle Up for Life, the national safety initiative from Cincinnati Children’s and Toyota. Gloria is a child educator, trauma specialist, program developer, published author, Hispanic advocate and vigilant mother.

March of Dimes does not endorse specific brands or products.

CDC’s 8 fast facts about Zika if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive

05
Oct
Posted by Barbara

microcephalyIf you get infected with Zika during pregnancy, you can pass it to your baby. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as microcephaly, and other brain problems. Here’s what the CDC wants you to know:

1. All pregnant women in the United States should be assessed for possible Zika virus exposure and signs or symptoms of Zika during each prenatal care visit.

2. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye). Other symptoms could include muscle pain and headache.

3. Zika virus is most commonly spread through mosquito bites.

4. Zika virus may be passed through sex by a person who carries the virus, even if he or she never develops symptoms.

5. For women and men who have been diagnosed with Zika, have symptoms, or have had possible exposure to the Zika virus, CDC recommends that women wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant, and that men wait at least 6 months before trying to get their partner pregnant.

6. In addition to microcephaly, doctors have found other problems among babies infected with Zika virus before birth, such as missing or poorly developed brain structures, defects of the eye, hearing problems, and impaired growth.

7. Zika also may be linked to miscarriage and stillbirth.

8. Zika virus has been found in breast milk, but there are no reports of babies getting infected with Zika from breastfeeding.

Researchers are collecting data to better understand the extent of the Zika virus’ impact on mothers and their babies.

Share these facts with friends, family, and coworkers. For more information about Zika, please visit cdc.gov/PreventZika or our web article. 

Thanks to the CDC for sharing these facts, so you can protect yourself and your family from Zika.

Photo courtesy of CDC.

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

What you need to know AFTER your baby is born

04
Oct
Posted by Sara

mom and newbornIt takes at least 6-8 weeks for your body to recover from pregnancy. Here are some important things to know.

Emotions

You may experience a wide range of emotions during the postpartum period. You’ll feel joy and happiness that your little one has finally arrived. But many new moms experience the “baby blues.” You may cry more easily, be more irritable, and have feelings of sadness. This is most likely due to changes in hormones after delivery.

The baby blues usually peak 3-5 days after delivery and end by about the 10th day after your baby’s birth. If your symptoms do not go away or if they get worse, you may be experiencing postpartum depression. Make sure you talk to your health care provider.

Vaginal bleeding and discharge

After you give birth you will have vaginal bleeding and discharge. This is called lochia. After your baby is born, your body gets rid of the blood and tissue that was inside of the uterus. For the first four or five days, it’s heavy, bright red and will probably contain blood clots.

Over time, the amount of blood lessens and the color changes from bright red to pink to brown to yellow. It is normal to have discharge for up to 6 weeks after birth. You’ll experience this discharge even if you had a C-section. Use sanitary pads (not tampons) until the discharge stops.

Weight loss

You may be surprised (and disappointed) to learn that the weight you gained during pregnancy doesn’t magically disappear at birth. It takes a while for your uterus to shrink down after it expanded to accommodate your baby. So you may still look pregnant after you give birth. This is completely normal.

With your provider’s OK, you can start light exercises as soon as you feel up to it. Be patient and take things slowly. It can take several months or longer to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight. Walking is a great activity for new moms. You’ll also want to make sure you’re eating healthy foods and drinking lots of water. Both of these things will make you feel better overall and help your postpartum recovery.

Getting pregnant again

It is possible to conceive during the postpartum period. If you are not breastfeeding, your period may return 6-8 weeks after giving birth. If you are breastfeeding, it may take longer.

You may ovulate (release an egg) before you get your period. This means you could get pregnant, whether you’re breastfeeding or not. It’s best to wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again to give your body the time it needs to heal and recover. Getting pregnant again too soon increases your next baby’s chances of being born premature or at a low birthweight. Talk to your provider about when it is best for you to try to get pregnant again.

Complications

While most women are healthy after birth, some do experience complications. You can read about postpartum warning signs here. Trust your instincts—if you feel like something is wrong, call your provider. Most postpartum problems can be easily treated if identified early.

These are just a few of the changes that your body goes through after your baby is born. You can read more on our website.

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

If my first baby has a congenital heart defect, what are the chances my second baby will have one, too?

30
Sep
Posted by Lauren

pregnant mom with childThis is a question we received through AskUs@marchofdimes.org from a mom who is pregnant with her second baby. Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common types of birth defects and if you already have a child with a CHD, you may wonder if your second child will have the same defect. The answer, though, is not a simple “yes” or “no.”

We don’t know the cause of most congenital heart defects. For some babies, their heart defects were caused by changes in their chromosomes or genes (which are passed from parents to children). Researchers have found about 40 gene changes (also called mutations) that cause heart defects. About 30 in 100 babies (30 percent) with a heart defect also have a chromosomal condition or a genetic condition. So if you, your partner or one of your other children has a congenital heart defect, your baby may be more likely to have one, too.

But CHDs are also thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other factors, such as things in your environment, your diet, any medications you may be taking, and health conditions you may have. Conditions like diabetes, lupus, rubella and even obesity can play a role in causing CHDs.

So what is your risk?

The chance of having another child with a CHD depends on many factors. It is best to meet with your health care provider and a genetic counselor who can better assess your risk. A genetic counselor is a person who is trained to help you understand how genes, birth defects and other medical conditions run in families, and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health.

Still have questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

New report says babies born to healthy mothers get a boost for a healthier life

28
Sep
Posted by Lauren

pregnant women walkingIf you’re thinking about pregnancy, now is the time to get moving. Staying active is just as important before conceiving as it is during pregnancy. In a new report released today, more than 60% of women in the U.S. are not meeting recommended activity guidelines and 22.5% are not active at all.

Eating nutritious foods and getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy, may help you and your baby avoid certain problems during pregnancy. In fact getting to a healthy weight beforehand is one step you can take to lower your risk of premature birth. Babies born before 37 weeks may have more complications or need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born full term. Premature birth is the greatest contributor to infant death and a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities.

According to the AHR report (America’s Health Rankings– Health of Women and Children Report), “Babies born to healthy mothers and families start off on a promising path to health that has the potential to last a lifetime.” Furthermore, the report states that “markers of prenatal and childhood health are also significant predictors of health and economic status in adulthood.”

In addition, physical activity is not just good for your body, it can also:

Not sure where or how to start?

Walking is a great activity to get your heart rate going and your legs moving. Swimming, dancing and yoga are other activities that help you stay active and more importantly, are fun to partake in. Why not sign up for a local walk or fun-run this weekend or ask your local Y or family club about access to their pool. Many yoga studios will also let you try your first class for free. With all these benefits and available options you have lots of reasons to get moving.

If you’re having a hard time fitting some activities into your day, you might consider taking your social or business meetings on the go – literally. I met a friend for dinner yesterday and before we sat down to eat we took a long walk around the park. At work, sometimes we walk around the parking lot instead of sit in a conference room for our meetings.

If you become pregnant, you may need to modify your activity. For example, you won’t want to do any exercise that may increase your risk of falling (skiing, biking, horseback riding, gymnastics) or bumping your belly (ice hockey, kickboxing, soccer or basketball).  Read our article and watch our video to understand why physical activity is good for most pregnant women, and to learn which activities are safe.

Now that fall is here why not change your routine with the season. Have helpful tips? Please share them with us.

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

 

What happens to babies who were exposed to Zika?

26
Sep
Posted by Sara

Growing Up After Zika

To learn more about Zika, including how to stay safe, see our web article.

Travel, Zika, and pregnant women: what you need to know

23
Sep
Posted by Barbara

If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, don’t travel to a Zika-affected area. Dr. Siobhan Dolan, Medical Advisor to the March of Dimes, explains why in this short video. Be sure to check CDC’s travel alerts for updates. If you must travel, talk to your health care provider before you travel and learn how to protect yourself from Zika.

 

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