The NICU dad – Superman has nothing on him

15
Jun
Posted by Barbara

This post is dedicated to all dads, in honor of Father’s Day.

kangaroo-care-dadFatherhood is not supposed to start in a NICU.

When the birth of your baby is unexpectedly early or if your child has medical issues, you may find yourself coping with the stress of having your baby in the hospital. The anxiety and fear about your baby’s special health care needs can be overwhelming. Add to that the emotions your partner may be experiencing, coordinating work, NICU visits, and possibly other children, and you have one difficult situation.

But, a NICU dad is strong and resilient.

He spends time in the NICU holding his baby skin to skin (kangaroo care). He sings and talks to his baby.

He asks questions and makes decisions about his baby’s medical care.Parents in NICU w baby R

He is reassuring and comforting to the mother of his child, as she physically and emotionally heals from pregnancy and childbirth, and copes with fluctuating hormones.

A NICU dad runs pumped breastmilk to the freezer, washes bottles and encourages mom to pump if she can.

If there are other children at home, dad becomes the coordinator of the home front. He makes lunches, runs kids to school, helps with homework, and reassures the children that mom will be home soon. Dad takes care of pets, cleans, grocery shops and hopefully delegates tasks to family members and friends to help out.

Through it all, it can be hard for a dad to take care of himself. He needs sleep, good food and breaks to exercise and relax. It’s important that he takes the time to re-fuel so that he can be the best champion for his baby that he can be. Relying on friends and family to help may not come naturally at first, but a NICU dad soon learns that it takes an army to get everything done.

Although becdad-with-preemie2oming a dad in the NICU was not the original plan, every path to fatherhood is unique. It has its own rewards and lessons. March of Dimes recognizes every dad’s efforts and dedication. We know that every dad is making a difference in his baby’s life. Dads are important, appreciated and very much loved!

Do you have a NICU dad you’d like to honor? Please share your story with us.

 

It takes two to tango: a man’s preconception health matters

13
Jun
Posted by Barbara

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPHToday we welcome guest blogger Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH, Director, The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative.

What is Men’s Preconception Health?

It’s National Men’s Health Month! A time to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. What a great time to encourage guys to schedule their annual wellness visit and think about their daily health behaviors.

Men are often an afterthought when it comes to preconception care and sexual health conversations, if they are reached at all. To make it worse, messaging that has been directed to men is often under researched and ineffective. Women are often the focus when it comes to preconception health, but men are just as important! After all, it takes two to tango and create a child. A man’s reproductive health is an important component of his overall health and well-being.

The CDC recommends ten things that men can do to improve their reproductive health and wellness. Healthy guys are more likely to be able to reach for and achieve their life goals.

Here are some key steps men can take towards a healthy lifestyle from Everywoman Southeast:

Make a Plan and Take Action

Men should consult with their health care provider to discuss which contraceptive method is best for him and his partner based on overall health, age, frequency of sexual activity, number of partners, desire to have children in the future, and family history of certain diseases. Men absolutely can and should think about when, if and how many children they would like to have in their life. While there aren’t as many contraceptive choices for men as for women, men should learn about all the options available for their partner and be part of the conversation!

Get Tested!

Get screened and treated for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is important to discuss the risk factors for STIs with a health care provider and ask about getting tested. It is possible to have an STI and not know it, because many do not cause symptoms. Men with STIs need to ask a provider about treatment to address symptoms, reduce progression, and decrease or eliminate the risk of transmission.

Prevent and Stop Drug Abuse

Smoking, illicit drug use, and binge drinking can cause infertility among men. Men are more likely than women to drink excessively. Excessive drinking is associated with significant increases in short-term risks to health and safety, and the risk increases as the amount of drinking increases. Additionally, a pregnant woman who is exposed to secondhand smoke has a 20% higher chance of giving birth to a baby with low birth weight than women who are not exposed. Talk to your health care provider if you need help quitting, and/or contact the National Quit Hotline 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight

People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for many serious conditions, as do people who are underweight. In addition, obesity among men is directly associated with increased male infertility. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity. Men should be encouraged at every age to be physically active and make healthy food choices.

Prevent and Stop Violence

Violence affects people in all stages of life, and destroys relationships and families. Men, boys, fathers, uncles and brothers DO and MUST play an ACTIVE role in ending violence in all forms. There are a number of resources available to help engage men and youth in preventing violence, and especially, violence against women.

Get Mentally Healthy

Depression is under-diagnosed in men. Men are over four times more likely than women to commit suicide. Most men don’t realize that some of the physical symptoms they may experience -things like chronic pain and digestive problems – could actually be caused by a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety or stress. There are also some men who suspect that they have a problem, but suffer in silence, afraid to admit they need help. Since mental health is very important to one’s overall health and well-being, men of all ages should be encouraged to seek help from a professional when needed.

Recognizing and preventing men’s health issues across the life course is important since it impacts the lives of their families, and the overall community. Remember: The single most important way men can take care of themselves and the ones they love is to actively take part in their health care.

Show Your Love Today Campaign (003)Find more information about men’s role in preconception health and life planning here: www.showyourlovetoday.com.

Bringing men into the conversation!

The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative, a public-private partnership of 70+ national organizations working to advance preconception health, is gearing up to launch Show Your Love. March of Dimes has partnered with PCHHC on this first and only consumer-focused preconception health campaign. Show Your Love seeks to help young men and women understand the significance their choices and health have on their future families. The resource website and social media campaign is meant to spark action for consumers to “Show Your Love” – to themselves, their significant other, their family/future family – by taking care of their health today.

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH, is the Executive Director at UNC Center for Maternal & Infant Health, which provides direct clinical services to high risk mothers and infants, conducts health services research, coordinates statewide programs, and provides patient and health care professional education. She serves as the Director of The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), a public-private partnership of over 70 organizations focused on improving the health of young women and men and any children they may choose to have. She coordinates the five workgroups within the PCHHC: Consumer, Clinical, Policy & Finance, Surveillance and Research, and Public Health. Sarah is a clinical associate professor at the UNC School of Social Work.

News Moms Need and @modhealthtalk win awards!

10
Jun
Posted by Barbara

s2016_dha_winner_printAw-shucks – the News Moms Need blog and @modhealthtalk Twitter handle each received a MERIT award in the 2016 Digital Health Awards competition! News Moms Need received the award in the Publications category while @modhealhtalk received the award in the Social Media category. Both the blog and Twitter account have won awards in prior years; we are happy to be honored once again.

As you probably are already aware, this blog provides posts on topics including preconception health, pregnancy, postpartum, prematurity, life in the NICU, infant health, birth defects, parenting a child with a disability, and infant loss. It covers everything from how to choose a sunscreen during pregnancy to understanding pregnancy risks and complications. Our team of bloggers seeks to present evidenced-based information in a conversational manner.

The @modhealthtalk Twitter handle specializes in providing up to date health content to consumers and engages them in Twitter chats on various topics related to the mission of the March of Dimes. If you are not currently following us on Twitter, please do!

The Digital Health Awards contest honors “the world’s best digital health resources.” Hundreds of local, state and national health-related organizations and companies enter the competition. March of Dimes is in good company, as winners include American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, Cigna, Cleveland Clinic, Drugs.com, GlaxoSmithKline, Health Net, Inc., Johns Hopkins Health System, National Cancer Institute, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Sharecare among others.

The March of Dimes is proud to be recognized once again as being among the best in the consumer health education field.

Transitioning from the school year to summer

08
Jun
Posted by Barbara

Family walking outdoorsIf your child has special needs, the transition from the structure of the school year to that of a summer schedule can be very difficult. Even if your child is not yet in school, he may be in an early intervention program, making him used to a certain predictable routine from September to June. Upsetting this applecart to move into a different environment (new therapists, buildings or even a summer camp) can throw your child off kilter. Add to that the thought of taking a family vacation, and the whole idea of facing these transitions can give you a headache.

Here are some posts to help you get through it all. The goal is to help you and your child enjoy these summer months.

Accommodations help vacationers with special needs lists different accommodations that hotels and public places offer individuals with special needs.

Vacationing with your child with special needs offers tips on how to make this HUGE transition less scary for your little one. With some preparation beforehand as well as on the road, the whole family can enjoy time together. This post provides resources on places to go, the golden rules of travel, and the all-important list of time-fillers. A must read.

How to find camps for children with special needs is a post that lists resources by camp specialty (based on a child’s condition or disability) and location. It is a great start if you are thinking you might still want to place your child in a camp this summer. Better yet, it is a springboard for preparing for next year.

Hopefully these posts will get you started on your way to a successful summer experience for your kids and you. If you have any tips to share, please do!

Find many other posts on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

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

How to cope when your baby is in the NICU

06
Jun
Posted by Barbara

parents in the NICUToday we are fortunate to have Dr. Amy Hair, neonatologist and director of the Neonatology Nutrition Program at Texas Children’s Hospital, answer our questions on how parents can cope if their baby is in the NICU. Thank you Dr. Hair!

What is the first thing families should know when their baby is admitted to the NICU?

Parents should know that they are a vital part of the care team for their baby and the doctors, nurses and staff value their opinions and instincts.

Parents often find their first visit to the NICU overwhelming, but in time, they’ll become accustomed to the physical environment and start to tune out all of the machines, beeping and noises and just focus on spending time with their precious baby.

Depending on the baby’s illness and how premature they were born, parents will see machines, wires, hear beeping and other potentially alarming noises. We try to introduce parents to their baby’s environment and explain what each piece of equipment is used for, what the numbers are on the monitor (vital signs) and the wires they see are routine leads to pick up the heart beat tracing (EKG leads). At first glance, the NICU may appear frightening and may concern some parents but most babies in the NICU, regardless of how severe their illness is, receive the same type of cardiopulmonary monitoring (vital signs monitoring).

The most common types of equipment parents will see in the NICU are cardiopulmonary monitoring wires, incubators and respiratory support systems.

There are so many people in the NICU. How do I know who to talk to if I have a question?

The entire NICU team is there to help support and take care of babies and families in any way possible. Parents should feel free to reach out to any NICU staff with questions and concerns. If they do not know the answer immediately, they will work to find the answer as quickly as possible.

How can parents cope when their baby is in the NICU, especially if they have jobs, other children or travel a distance to the hospital?

In addition to the stress and fear they feel while their child is in the NICU, parents are going through many changes. Mothers are experiencing body changes, hormonal changes and role changes and fathers are adapting to their new role as a dad as well. If you become overwhelmed, ask for help. Remember that it’s okay to take care of yourself so that you can better take care of your baby.

Access your community resources or local support systems whether this is family and friends, a faith community or neighbors to help you with things such as babysitting your other children, cooking meals, running errands, etc. This will allow you more time for NICU visits without the overwhelming feeling that you are neglecting other aspects of your life.

Any other words of wisdom to offer parents?

We know parents can’t be here 24/7. Call the NICU any time you like. Although you may feel like you are pestering the team, this is never the case. We know that your baby is your number 1 priority regardless of your physical location and we are always happy to answer your questions regarding his or her status and well-being.
Amy-Hair-MD-PFW

 

As a Neonatologist, Dr. Hair specializes in care for infants born at the edge of viability as well as infants born at term or earlier with congenital defects or other conditions that need specialized intensive care. Her research focus is neonatal nutrition, specifically evaluating how our smallest premature babies grow during their hospital stay.

 

 

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

03
Jun
Posted by Sara

2013d030_3168An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo grows in the wrong place. Ectopic means “out of place.” Approximately 1 in 50 pregnancies in the US is ectopic.

Usually, a woman’s ovaries release an egg every month, about 14 days before the first day of her period. This is called ovulation. When a couple has sexual intercourse and does not use birth control around the time of ovulation, a man’s sperm swim to meet the woman’s egg. When a sperm penetrates the egg, it’s called fertilization or conception. The fertilized egg then travels to the woman’s uterus, where it burrows into the lining of the uterus and begins to grow.

If the fertilized egg implants somewhere else other than the uterine lining, it is an ectopic pregnancy. In most ectopic pregnancies, the fertilized egg attaches to the fallopian tube. However, it can also attach to an ovary, the cervix, or somewhere in the abdominal cavity.

Unfortunately, any place outside of the uterus doesn’t have the right environment for a baby to develop. There is not enough room and if the fertilized egg continues to grow, it can cause excessive bleeding. This bleeding can be life threatening for the pregnant woman.

Risk factors

Any woman can have an ectopic pregnancy, but there are a few risk factors that increase your chances. These include:

  • A prior ectopic pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • STDs
  • Damage to a fallopian tube
  • Pelvic infections or inflammation
  • Pregnancy when using an intrauterine device (IUD) or after having a tubal ligation
  • Fertility treatments

Signs and symptoms

You will not know right away that you have an ectopic pregnancy. You may have the typical signs of pregnancy, like a missed period and nausea. Or you may have no signs of pregnancy. If you take a home pregnancy test, you will get a positive result.

But as the embryo gets bigger, you may have signs that are unusual and not typical of early pregnancy. These include:

  • Pain in the pelvic area. The pain may be mainly on one side. It can start out mild and then become sharp and stabbing.
  • Lower back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Low blood pressure

Treatment

There are two types of treatment for an ectopic pregnancy: medicine (methotrexate) or surgery. Your provider will decide which one is best. After treatment, your provider regularly checks your hCG levels until they return to zero. This can take a few weeks. If your levels stay high, it may mean that you still have ectopic tissue in your body. If this happens, you may need additional treatment.

If you have had an ectopic pregnancy, it is important to take time to grieve for your loss. You can have a healthy pregnancy following an ectopic pregnancy but ask your provider when it is OK for you to try to conceive again.

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

New research identifies some causes of developmental delays

01
Jun
Posted by Barbara

dnaThrough DNA sequencing, a new study has uncovered genetic causes for certain developmental delays. Finding the underlying reason for these delays then allowed treatments to be specifically targeted to 44% of the affected individuals.

Many children, especially those born prematurely, often have delays in their development. They may not walk, talk or reach milestones during the time frames that are typical for children in their age group. Others suffer from intellectual disabilities. These lags are collectively referred to as developmental delays.

In many cases, the underlying cause of a developmental delay is not known. But, there are 90 types of inborn errors of metabolism  (inherited disorders where the body cannot properly turn food into energy) associated with intellectual disabilities, which are treatable. In this study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada sought to see if other metabolic disorders might be discovered.

First, the researchers identified individuals with developmental delays and intellectual disabilites that were caused by metabolic problems. They then screened for and ruled out the 90 metabolic diseases known to cause intellectual delays, and tested the DNA of the remaining participants.

The results? Seventeen of the 41 individuals were diagnosed with conditions which enabled them to receive a targeted change in their treatment options. Treatments included specific diets, medications or supplements. In a few of the study participants, the results of the new treatments were substantial – – improving attention, communication and seizure control.

March of Dimes Chief Medical Office Dr. Edward McCabe commented “there are a number of specialized centers taking a DNA sequencing approach to identify the causes of diseases in patients where the cause had remained unknown. Clinicians are learning who has the expertise.”

The bottom line

As DNA sequencing becomes more accessible, it is hoped that children with developmental delays, and especially intellectual disabilities, will be able to receive targeted interventions earlier, which in some cases can dramatically change the course of their condition.

“This is the way medicine will be practiced and it’s important for us to recognize there are a lot of genes for which we haven’t identified a disease association,” adds Dr. McCabe. “Using sequencing, we can get a precise diagnosis on an individual where there was none prior.”

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.  We’re here to help.

See our info on Delays and Disabilities – How to get help for your child.

 

Sunscreen made simple

31
May
Posted by Lauren

fun in the sunThe time has come again – to stand in front of the sunscreen aisle in search of the best bottle of protection for you and your family. The rows are filled with different brands, SPF numbers and descriptions – how are you supposed to find the best one? We’ve made it simple with our list of dos and don’ts.

Do:

  • Buy a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
  • Only use products that have UVA and UVB protection, also called Broad Spectrum protection.
  • Apply sunscreen on dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every 2 hours. Choose a bottle that is “water resistant” (effective for up to 40 minutes in water) or “very water resistant” (effective for up to 80 minutes in water) if you are going swimming.
  • Apply sunscreen every day you are outside, but especially if you are near water or sand as your risk of sunburn increases due to the reflection of the sun.
  • Generously apply sunscreen to all skin that is not covered by clothing. One ounce, the size of a shot glass, is the amount needed to cover exposed areas of your body.
  • If you or your child has sensitive skin, use a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as these products maintain their protection without being absorbed by the skin, causing less irritation.
  • For an extra layer of protection, wear a rash guard (a shirt made of spandex and nylon or polyester worn in the water to protect against sun and rash).

Remember:

Don’t use products that combine bug repellant with sunscreen. You need to reapply sunscreen often, but you don’t need to apply bug spray as much – the combo from excess bug repellant could cause toxic exposure.

Don’t choose a product with retinyl palmitate, especially if you are pregnant. This type of vitamin A has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer and is associated with birth defects.

Don’t use a sunscreen that has passed its expiration date. If your sunscreen does not have a date, write one on your bottle after purchasing. Sunscreens retain their original strength for three years.

For more information on how to select a sunscreen, visit here.

Have tips to keep you and your little one safe in the sun this summer? Share what has worked for you.

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

Staying cool in the summer heat

27
May
Posted by Sara

sunBeing pregnant during the summer can be tough. Pregnancy already causes your body temperature to be a little bit higher than normal. Adding high outside temperatures and humidity can make you feel really uncomfortable.

Here are some tips to help as the summer approaches:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Water is the best choice. Avoid drinks that are high in sugar because they can make you even more dehydrated.
  • If you are exercising outside, try to do so in the morning or evening, when it’s not as hot. Swimming is excellent option for pregnant women. But if the air quality is bad or you have asthma, try to stay indoors.
  • Your skin is more sensitive when you’re pregnant so it’s very important to use sunscreen. A broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher is the best choice. And make sure you reapply it regularly, especially after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat to protect not only your face, but ears and neck. Baseball caps don’t protect as well. And don’t forget your sunglasses! They should block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Dark colors absorb more heat.
  • Heat can make swelling worse. If you experience swelling in your legs and ankles, avoid standing for long periods of time and try to elevate your feet when sitting or lying down.
  • If you do feel overheated, apply a cool damp cloth to your forehead and back of the neck.
  • If you feel weak, dizzy, or lightheaded, or you’re overly thirsty, stop what you are doing and get inside immediately. Drink some cool water or a sports drink and lie down. If you feel worse or if you don’t feel better within an hour, call your health care provider.
  • Be aware of signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and contact your health care provider right away if you have any symptoms.

By taking the appropriate precautions to deal with the heat, you can have a fun and enjoyable summer.

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

Jaundice in preemies and full term babies

25
May
Posted by Barbara

Preemie incubator- light therapyHave you ever seen a baby in a NICU or hospital nursery wearing only a diaper, lying under bright lights? The baby is receiving light therapy, due to a condition called jaundice.

Jaundice happens when your baby’s liver isn’t working properly or isn’t fully developed. It can happen to babies born prematurely or full term. Often healthy babies have some jaundice soon after birth. When a baby has jaundice, a yellowish color usually first appears on his face. It then may spread to his chest, belly, arms, legs and white parts of his eyes.

What exactly is jaundice?

Jaundice is the build-up of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellowish substance that is formed when red blood cells break down – a natural process in our bodies. It is the liver’s job to break down the bilirubin so it can be excreted from the body. But if the liver is not working properly, it will not be able to remove the bilirubin, which then causes jaundice.

Is it common?

Newborn babies often get jaundice – in fact, about 60% of full-term babies get it. It can take a few days for a baby’s liver to become fully functional and do its job of getting rid of bilirubin. Usually, it is mild and goes away with treatment.

About 80% of preemies develop jaundice within a few days of birth. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy, are more likely than full term babies to develop jaundice because their livers aren’t fully developed or functional yet. It can take a week or more for a preemie’s liver to become fully functional. Usually, with treatment, most babies are fine. In rare cases, very high bilirubin levels can cause brain damage, so this is why treatment is usually started early.

A more severe form of jaundice can be caused by other factors such as Rh disease, liver problems, an infection or a genetic condition.

Treatments for jaundice

Phototherapy is a very safe treatment where bright lights called bililights are placed over your baby’s incubator. Your baby’s eyes are protected with eye shields. The lights help to reduce the amount of bilirubin in your baby’s blood.

If your baby does not respond to the bililights, he may need additional treatment such as intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) where your baby gets immunoglobulin (a blood protein) placed directly into his vein. Finally, another treatment includes receiving a blood exchange (which replaces your baby’s blood with fresh blood in small amounts), but this is hardly ever necessary because phototherapy and IVIg have such good results.

Know what to look for

Jaundice can occur even once your baby is home from the hospital. The best way to see jaundice is in good light, like in daylight or under fluorescent lights. Jaundice can be harder to see in babies with darker skin.

Call your baby’s health care provider right away if your baby:

  • Looks yellow, orange or greenish-yellow
  • Is hard to wake up or won’t sleep at all
  • Has trouble breastfeeding or sucking from a bottle
  • Is very fussy
  • Has too few wet or dirty diapers

Go straight to the hospital or call 911 if your baby:

  • Won’t stop crying or has a high pitched cry
  • Arches backward
  • Has a still, limp or floppy body
  • Has strange eye movements

Bottom line

The good news is that jaundice is usually nothing to worry about. So try to relax as your baby takes a bath under the lights, knowing this is temporary. See our article for more detailed info.

Did your baby need phototherapy? How did it go? Please share your story.

Got questions?  Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We’re here to help.