Breastfeeding is good for mom and baby

12
Jul
Posted by March of Dimes

In the United States, most new moms (about 80 percent) breastfeed their babies. About half of these moms breastfeed for at least 6 months. You may know that breastfeeding is best for your baby, but did you know that it’s good for you, too? Here’s why breastfeeding is good for both of you:

For your baby, breast milk:

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

For you, breastfeeding:

  • Increases the amount of a hormone in your body called oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract. These contractions help your uterus go back to the size it was before pregnancy. They also help you stop bleeding after giving birth.
  • Helps reduce stress. The hormones your body releases can help you relax and bond with your baby.
  • May help lower your risk for diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Burns extra calories (up to 500 a day). This can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight in a gradual and healthy way.

Recently, you may have heard in the news about the U.S. delegation’s opposition to a resolution for promoting breastfeeding at the World Health Assembly. March of Dimes released the following statement from President Stacey D. Stewart:

“March of Dimes is appalled to learn of the U.S. delegation’s opposition to a resolution for promoting breastfeeding, at the World Health Assembly this spring. As a leading U.S. health organization that also maintains official relations with the World Health Organization, we can attest to the global scientific consensus that breastmilk is the healthiest option for babies and young children. It is unconscionable that any government would seek to hinder access to the most basic nutrition for children around the globe by opposing the passage of such a resolution for improving the health and survival of babies globally.”

“March of Dimes calls on the Administration to immediately abandon their opposition to this resolution and instead to champion breastfeeding and access to breast milk for all infants and young children everywhere.”

Visit marchofdimes.org for more information.

Tips for bringing baby home from the NICU

10
Jul
Posted by March of Dimes

Bringing your baby home from the hospital after birth is a very exciting time. But if you had a premature birth or other pregnancy complications and your baby had to stay in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU), you may feel stressed or worried about taking your baby home. It’s normal to have lots of questions about life after the NICU. You may have questions like:

  • How do I get ready to take my baby home from the NICU?
  • What do I need to do if my baby needs medical equipment at home?
  • Is it OK to have visitors and family over when the baby comes home?
  • Can I take my baby outside for walks or with me to run errands?

Here’s what you can do to feel ready:

Talk to your baby’s health care provider and the NICU staff before leaving the hospital with your baby. This is especially important if your baby needs medicine. Write down all the medicine instructions and ask about how to store the medicine properly. Ask about basic baby care, safe sleep and how to use a car seat safely. And ask what the temperature in your home and your baby’s room should be.

If your baby needs medical equipment, learn how to use it while your baby is still in the NICU. Make sure the electricity in your home works with your baby’s equipment. If your baby needs more than one kind of equipment or if you live in an older home, you may need to check your electric system. If you rent your home, talk with your landlord about what you need.

Having friends and family over to meet your baby is fine, but limit the number of people who visit. Even though its summer, you and your baby can get the flu and other infections anytime of the year. Family and friends who are sick, have a fever or who may have been exposed to an illness should wait to visit your baby. Any adult who will have contact with your baby should get a pertussis vaccination (shot). Pertussis is also called whooping cough.

Going outside with your baby is OK, but stay away from crowded places like grocery stores. It’s fine to take your baby for walks outside or to visit friends or family.  But don’t take your baby to places like shopping malls and grocery stores. If you’re going outside, keep your baby cool in hot weather and protect yourselves from mosquitoes. Most bug sprays and lotions are safe to use on babies 2 months and older, but products with oil of lemon eucalyptus are not safe for children under the age of 3. Always read the spray or lotion label to make sure it’s safe for your baby. Put a mosquito netting across the top of your baby’s stroller when you’re outside. Make sure it doesn’t touch your baby’s face or body.

Traveling this summer? Stay safe from Zika

05
Jul
Posted by March of Dimes

Summer is travel season for many of us. Before your trip, make sure you’re protected from Zika. The Zika virus is still spreading in certain areas (called Zika-affected areas) around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an interactive world map to show you areas with risk of Zika.  If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, don’t travel to a Zika-affected area unless it’s absolutely necessary.

If you get infected with Zika during pregnancy, you can pass it to your baby. Zika infection during pregnancy causes a birth defect called microcephaly and other brain and health problems. You can get infected with the Zika virus through body fluids, like blood and semen, and through mosquito bites.

If you’re planning to travel to a Zika-affected area, talk to your health care provider before you go about how to protect yourself from Zika. Here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t have sex. If you do have sex, use a barrier method of birth control (like a condom or dental dam) every time.
  • Protect yourself from mosquitoes. Here’s how:
    • Use an insect repellant, like bug spray or lotion, that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Use one with one or more of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, IR3535, and 2-undecanone. These ingredients are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Stay in places that have air conditioning or screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. If you’re in a Zika-affected area and sleeping outside or in a room that doesn’t have screens on doors and windows, sleep under a mosquito net.
    • Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes and socks.

If you’ve been in a Zika-affected area, use bug spray or lotion for 3 weeks after you get back to help prevent Zika from spreading to others.

For more information:

 

Barbecues, picnics and food safety

03
Jul
Posted by March of Dimes

For many of us, summertime means lots of barbecues and picnics. Both are popular outdoor activities and are great ways to get together with family and friends. They also include lots of grilled foods and side dishes, like pasta salad and potato salad. If you’re pregnant and planning to eat at an outdoor event, here’s what you should know:

Not all foods are safe to eat during pregnancy. Some foods are more likely than others to have harmful bacteria like Listeria or Salmonella. These bacteria can cause infections that can be dangerous during pregnancy. Deli meat, hot dogs, dry sausages, refrigerated patés or meat spread, and soft cheese, like brie and feta, are examples of foods that are most likely to be contaminated with Listeria. Food made with raw eggs, like homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing, cookie dough, frostings and homemade ice cream, may have Salmonella. If you’re pregnant, don’t eat these foods.

Cold foods need to stay cold. When foods that need to be cold or refrigerated are kept at room temperature, bacteria and germs start to form. Even if the food looks and smells good, it can be contaminated and make you sick. Always keep pasta salads and potato salads in a cooler. Don’t leave them at room temperature.

Food preparation matters. Foods can become contaminated with harmful bacteria when they aren’t prepared properly or when they’re cooked or stored at the wrong temperature. Eating contaminated foods can cause food poisoning. When you’re pregnant, your immune system isn’t as quick to respond to infections like food poisoning as it was before pregnancy. During pregnancy, food poisoning can cause serious problems for you and your baby, including premature birth, miscarriage and stillbirth.

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your baby from food poisoning during pregnancy:

  • Make sure your food is fully cooked. Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, pork, poultry, fish or shellfish. Fully cook hamburger, steak, chicken and pork so they don’t have any blood or pink areas.
  • Don’t eat foods made with homemade mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce or other products prepared with raw or half-cooked eggs.
  • Keep cold foods, like pasta or potato salad, in a cooler.
  • Throw away any food that sits at room temperature for more than 2 hours. It may be contaminated and may make you sick.

For more information visit:
marchofdimes.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Foodsafety.gov

What is sickle cell disease?

26
Jun
Posted by March of Dimes

Sickle cell disease (also called SCD) is an inherited condition that affects a person’s red blood cells. Inherited means it’s passed from parent to child through genes. A person with SCD has red blood cells shaped like a sickle. A sickle is a farm tool shaped like the letter C.

Healthy red blood cells are round and flexible. They can move easily through the body’s blood vessels. When a person has SCD, the red blood cells get stuck and clog the blood flow. These blockages cause pain, infections and sometimes organ damage and strokes. SCD also may cause anemia. Anemia is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.

SCD or sickle cell trait

SCD happens when a person inherits a gene change for sickle cell from both parents. If you inherit the gene change from just one parent, you have sickle cell trait. Even though this means you don’t have SCD, you can still pass the sickle cell trait to your children.

If you and your partner both have sickle cell trait, there’s a:

  • 3-in-4 chance (75 percent) that your baby won’t have SCD
  • 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) that your baby will have sickle cell trait
  • 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby will have SCD
  • 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby won’t have SCD or sickle cell trait

Find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait

You can find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait. You are more likely to have them if:

  • You’re black or Hispanic or if your family’s ancestors are from Africa, the Caribbean, Greece, India, Italy, Malta, Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey or South or Central America.
  • Members of your family have SCD or sickle cell trait. To help you find out, take your family health history. This is a record of any health conditions that run in your or your partner’s family.

You and your partner can get tested to find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait. There are two tests, and both are safe during pregnancy. One is a blood test, and the other is a swab inside your mouth. This means your health care provider rubs a cotton swab against the inside of your cheek to get some cells.

How can you find out if your baby has SCD or sickle cell trait?

If you or your partner has SCD or sickle cell trait, ask your provider about having a prenatal test, like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS) to find out if your baby has either condition.

All babies are tested for SCD after birth as part of the newborn screening tests. This allows babies who have SCD to be identified quickly and treated early. Because children with SCD are at an increased risk of infection and other health problems, early diagnosis and treatment are important.

More information

Working during pregnancy

21
Jun
Posted by March of Dimes

It comes as no surprise to know that many women work during pregnancy. Some women work right up until their due date, or close to it. One of the first things many women think about is when to share the big news with their boss and coworkers. Here are some other things to think about as a working mom to-be:

  • Your safety. It’s important to stay healthy and safe at work, especially during pregnancy. If you work with chemicals or have to lift or carry heavy things, talk to your boss about changing your job responsibilities. Standing all day or working with things like pesticides or radiation may put your health and your baby’s health at risk.
  • Time away from work for prenatal care checkups. Prenatal care is medical care you get during pregnancy. Going to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. At the beginning of pregnancy, you get a prenatal checkup once a month (every 4 weeks). Later in pregnancy you go for checkups more often. Talk to your boss about flex time or how to make up the time you miss from work.
  • Planning your maternity leave. Maternity leave is time you take off from work when you have a baby. When planning your maternity leave, think about a start date and how long you plan on staying home after your baby is born. Talk to your boss or human resources department about maternity leave. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (also called FMLA), employees can take time off without pay (up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year) for pregnancy- and family-related health issues. Find out how this works as part of maternity leave. Pregnancy, labor and birth go smoothly for most women. But sometimes things don’t go as planned, especially if you have pregnancy complications. If this happens, you may need to adjust the timing of your leave.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act says that employers can’t discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or other related health conditions. If you’re pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions, your employer has to treat you just like any other employee with a similar condition.

Pregnancy should never be the cause of a woman being discriminated against, denied opportunity, treated unfairly or compensated less. Supporting healthy pregnancies is critical to reducing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality (death). March of Dimes fights for the health of all moms and babies and works with government, employers and health care providers to make positive changes for every mom and every baby.

To learn more visit: marchofdimes.org

Choosing the right birth control for you

19
Jun
Posted by March of Dimes

Planning your pregnancy helps you be in control of having a baby when you’re ready. But until you’re ready to start your family, birth control can help keep you from getting pregnant. There are different types of birth control. Talk to your health care provider to help you choose the right birth control method for you.

Your provider can help you understand how different methods work, how well they prevent pregnancy and if they have side effects. Other things to think about when choosing birth control include how it may affect your health, your need to prevent sexually transmitted infections (also called STIs) and when you want to have a baby.

Here are some birth control options:

Intrauterine devices (also called IUDs). An IUD is a small, plastic T-shaped device that your provider puts in your uterus. IUDs are one of the most effective types of birth control. There are two types: hormonal and copper. Hormonal IUDs contain progestin, which is a form of the hormone progesterone. Hormonal IUDs can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 5 years, depending on what brand you choose. Copper IUDs don’t contain progestin. The copper on the IUD prevents pregnancy because it makes it hard for a sperm and egg to meet. Copper IUDs can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years.

Implants. An implant is a tiny rod that your provider inserts in your arm. The implant releases progestin to help prevent pregnancy. The rod is about the size of a matchstick. It’s hard to notice once it’s inserted in your arm. Implants can prevent pregnancy for about 3 years.

The pill (also called oral contraceptive). You take one birth control pill every day. Some pills have progestin only, and some have a combination of progestin and estrogen (called combined pills). If you’re older than 35, smoke or have blood clots, you may not be able to take combined pills because you may be at risk for heart disease and thrombophilias.

Condoms. Male and female condoms help prevent pregnancy by keeping your partner’s sperm from getting into your body. They also help protect you from STIs. Condoms are one of the most popular types of birth control. Most male condoms are made of latex (rubber), but some are made of lambskin and other non-latex kinds of plastic. Condoms made of lambskin may not prevent STIs. A female condom (also called an internal condom) is made of plastic or rubber and goes inside your vagina.

Abstinence. To abstain from sex means you are making a choice not to have sex. This method is the only one that is 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. It also can prevent STIs if you avoid all types of sexual activities.

Birth control, counseling and follow-up care is a preventive service covered by most health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, at no extra cost to you. Learn more about recommended preventive services that are covered under the Affordable Care Act at Care Women Deserve.

For more information visit:

Migraine headaches during pregnancy

14
Jun
Posted by Juviza Rodriguez

During pregnancy your body goes through many changes. Sometimes these changes can cause discomfort, some of which can be painful. Headaches are one example. They’re often caused by changes in hormones or by stress. They also can be caused by body tension from the extra weight you carry during pregnancy. Although headaches are common during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, some women have more intense headaches called migraine headaches.

What is a migraine headache?

A migraine headache is an intense headache on one or both sides of the head. In addition to pain, migraine headaches can cause nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and vomiting. About 29.5 million Americans have migraines, and most (3 out of 4) are women.

Migraine headaches and pregnancy

Although some women who have migraine headaches may notice that their headaches improve during pregnancy, some may notice no change. And some may have an increase in migraine symptoms during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. If you have a migraine for the first time during pregnancy, or if you have a headache that feels different from headaches you usually have, call your health care provider.

Migraine treatments during pregnancy

If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant and have migraine headaches, talk to your health care provider about treatment options and medicines. Some medicines aren’t safe to take during pregnancy because they can harm your baby. This includes some over-the-counter medicines and herbal products. If you already take medicine for migraine headaches, ask your provider if it’s safe to take during pregnancy.

Here’s what you can do to help relieve or prevent headaches, including migraine headaches, during pregnancy:

  • Use warm or cold washcloth.
  • Take care of your body. Get a good night’s sleep, and do something active every day.
  • Eat healthy foods and make sure to drink plenty of water. If certain foods cause you to have headaches, don’t eat those foods.
  • Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, yoga and massage for pregnant women, can be helpful.

Call your provider right away if your headache is severe or doesn’t go away, if you have changes in your vision or if you have high blood pressure.  These may be a sign of a serious condition called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia needs immediate medical attention.

Dad’s health is important for his future baby

12
Jun
Posted by Azalia Fernandez

International Men’s Health Week is June 11-17. Celebrate it by encouraging the men in your life to take steps to improve their preconception health. Yes, men’s health before pregnancy is important too.

Being healthy is beneficial to a man and his future family. Dad’s health before pregnancy is very important. Here are a few things men can do if they are thinking about having a baby in the future:

  • Get an annual medical checkup. During this wellness visit, his health care provider checks for him for health conditions, like high blood pressure and certain infections. Men can discuss their family health history and find out about medical problems that run in families. Certain medical problems may affect his future baby.
  • Avoid harmful substances in the workplace and at home. Men’s sperm may be affected when exposed to certain substances, like mercury, lead and pesticides. If your partner is exposed to substances like these at work, ask him to change his clothes before going home. This can help protect you from these substances before and during pregnancy.
  • Get to a healthy weight. Being overweight increases the chances of health problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure and possibly some cancers. In addition, obesity is associated with male infertility. Men can get to a healthy weight by eating healthy foods and being active every day.
  • Stop smoking, using harmful drugs and drinking too much alcohol. All these behaviors can negatively affect men’s fertility. And they can affect you and your baby, too. For example, a pregnant woman who is exposed to secondhand smoke has a higher chance of having a baby with low birthweight than women not exposed. The smoke from cigarettes also increases health problems in babies, like ear infections, respiratory problems and sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS).
  • Prevent sexually transmitted infections (also called STIs). An STI is an infection you can get from having unprotected sex or intimate physical contact with someone who is infected. STIs can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies and cause problems like premature birth, birth defects, miscarriage and stillbirth. Ask your partner to get tested for STIs.

For more information about a man’s wellness checkup and preconception health, visit:

For the third year in a row, more babies are being born too soon.

07
Jun
Posted by March of Dimes

According to recent data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the preterm birth rate in the U.S. rose in 2017. This is the third year in a row with an increase. In 2015, the rate increased to 9.63 percent, in 2016 to 9.85 percent, and in 2017 to 9.93 percent. This is a very alarming trend.

The data also shows great disparities among racial and ethnic groups. The most significant increase in the preterm birth rate was seen among non-Hispanic black women and Hispanic women, while the rate among non-Hispanic white women was essentially unchanged. Babies who are born too soon may face more health problems or need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born on time. Some of these babies also have long-term health effects, like problems that affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision. These problems are affecting more babies whose moms are black or Hispanic.

At March of Dimes, we recognize an urgent need for new solutions to address the serious problems of premature birth. We are working hard to help close the racial and ethnic gaps in preterm birth rates and achieve equity in birth outcomes. We won’t stop advocating, searching for answers or supporting all moms and babies. All babies deserve the best possible start in life and the opportunity to thrive and be healthy.

To learn more visit: marchofdimes.org