World BD day gets word out globally

04
Mar
Posted by Barbara

Sick babyThe twitter-sphere was all aglow yesterday for the first-ever World Birth Defects Day. In fact, 6,154,146 people were reached worldwide! Yup. It’s not a typo.

Twelve leading global organizations including the March of Dimes, along with scores of other foundations, hospitals, health care providers, government agencies, parents and individuals with birth defects took to Twitter to raise awareness. People in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, England, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Panama, Philippines, Rwanda, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, and individuals from all over the United States participated. As the day progressed, #worldbdday tweets continually popped up on my computer screen. In case you missed it, here is a snapshot of important messages.

Birth defects are surprisingly common

Did you know that every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the US?

In the US, about 1 in 5 babies die before their 1st birthday due to birth defects.

Birth defects affect 1 in 33 infants worldwide.

More than 8 million babies worldwide are born each year with a serious birth defect.

There are thousands of different birth defects, and about 70% of the causes are unknown.

The most common birth defects are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome.

In the US, a baby is born with a congenital heart defect every 15 minutes.

More than 300,000 major birth defects of the brain and spine occur worldwide each year.

Many birth defects are discovered after the baby leaves the hospital or within the 1st year of life.

More than 3.3 million children under 5 years of age die from birth defects each year.

Babies who survive & live with birth defects are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities & lifelong challenges.

Early intervention services may help babies w/ BDs; get your child help by starting early.

Birth defects are costly. Financial and emotional costs of birth defects take a toll on families and communities worldwide.

Learn how to decrease your risk of having a baby with birth defects

Taking folic acid before & early in pregnancy can help to reduce the risk for BDs of the brain & spine.

Smoking during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of certain BDs. It’s never too late to quit.

We can’t prevent all birth defects. We CAN prevent FASD! (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders)

FASDs are 100% preventable.

Alcohol can cause your baby to have BDs (heart, brain & other organs). Don’t drink if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.

Being overweight before pregnancy can increase the risk for some birth defects.

Not all BDs are preventable, but women can take steps toward a healthy pregnancy.

Make a PACT: plan ahead, avoid harmful substances, choose a healthy lifestyle, and talk to your doctor.

Raise awareness

Awareness of birth defects & the importance of care for children with these lifelong conditions is key.

The mission of the March of Dimes is to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

March of Dimes has invested more than $50 million in birth defects research in the last 5 years.

Genetics has long been a main theme of March of Dimes research.

MOD grantees have discovered genes that cause or contribute to a number of common birth defects, including fragile X syndrome, cleft lip and palate, and heart defects.

These discoveries pave the way for treatments and preventions for these birth defects.

 

For more information, email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. See other topics in the series on Delays and Disabilities- How to get help for your child, here.

Staying active during pregnancy – winter edition

02
Mar
Posted by Lauren

Staying active in the winterBbrrr it’s cold outside and those warm blankets on the couch are calling my name. It’s tough to get motivated to go outside and be active during these cold and snowy days of winter. I want to stay under the blankets! But for healthy pregnant women, exercise can keep your heart, body and mind healthy.

Healthy pregnant women need at least 2.5 hours of being active each week. This is about 30 minutes each day. If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all at once. Instead, do something active for 10 minutes three times a day.

Stay safe

The safety of any activity depends on your health and fitness level. Not all pregnant women should exercise, especially if you have a condition such as heart or lung disease. As each woman and pregnancy is different, it is essential that you check with your prenatal health care provider first before engaging in any fitness program. The information provided here is meant as a guide.

How to get started

Pick things you like, such as walking, swimming, hiking or dancing. Brisk walking for 30 minutes or more is an excellent way to get the aerobic benefits of exercise, and you don’t need to join a health club or buy any special equipment. There are a variety of activities that you can participate in throughout your pregnancy.

Try an indoor class such as a low-impact aerobics class taught by a certified aerobics instructor. You can also try a yoga class designed for pregnant women. If you have a gym membership already, walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I usually go to the gym when my favorite TV show is on so I can walk and watch at the same time. Swimming is also a great way to get your heart rate up, and the water feels great, especially as your belly grows. See if a YM/YWCA or other community club near you has a pool.  If the weather outside is moderate and the sidewalks are clear, bundle up and head out for a walk in the fresh air. Staying home, though, may be the only way to avoid all the snow and freezing temperatures, so go ahead and turn on your favorite music and dance around your house or get moving to a DVD from the library. You can even add light resistance bands to help you maintain strength and flexibility. With any activity, remember to drink water to stay hydrated.

What to avoid

You should avoid any activities that put you at high risk for injury, such as downhill skiing. Stay away from sports in which you could get hit in the belly, such as kickboxing or soccer and any sport that has a lot of jerky, bouncing movements. After the third month of pregnancy, avoid exercises that make you lie flat on your back as it can limit the flow of blood to your baby. Also, avoid sit-ups or crunches.

Be aware

When you exercise, pay attention to how you feel. If you suddenly start feeling out of breath or overly tired, listen to your body and slow down or stop your activity. If you have any serious problems, such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headaches or chest pain, stop exercising and contact your health care provider right away.

Final tips

Exercise is cumulative – meaning every little bit of activity in a day adds up to the total that you need. Being active in small chunks of time, several times a day is a great way to get your activity quota in. Use tricks such as parking farther away in a parking lot and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Pretty soon you will meet your optimal daily activity level and you will feel more energized.

For more information on exercise during pregnancy, visit our website.

Caring for your baby’s teeth

27
Feb
Posted by Sara

teethTooth decay is the most common preventable chronic disease among children in the United States. If left untreated, it can negatively affect a child’s physical and social development, as well as his school performance.

Did you know you can start to clean your baby’s teeth and gums as soon as he is born? Here are some tips from the American Dental Association (ADA):

• Before your baby has teeth, wipe the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth.
• Most babies get their first tooth at around 6 months. It is important to remember that as soon as teeth appear, decay can occur. So once your baby has teeth, start brushing them.
• Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and ask your baby’s dentist if you should be using a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
• Teeth should be brushed twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or health care provider. Once your child is old enough to brush on his own (or wants to give it a try) make sure you watch him closely.
• As soon as he has two teeth that touch, you can begin flossing daily.

Once your baby’s first tooth comes in, it is time to schedule a trip to the dentist. The ADA recommends that the first dental visit take place within six months after the first tooth appears, but no later than a child’s first birthday. Although the dentist will check your baby’s mouth, teeth, and gums, this visit is really more about getting your child comfortable with the dentist.

When it is time to schedule your child’s first dental appointment, you can ask your dentist if she sees children. If not, you can find a pediatric dentist who specializes in treating babies, children and teens. Also, all children enrolled in Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have coverage for dental services – including check-ups, x-rays, fluoride treatments, dental sealants, fillings, and more. Check out your state’s complete list of dental benefits for children in Medicaid and CHIP.

You can read more about your baby’s dental health on our website. Starting healthy dental habits early will help protect your baby’s teeth for a lifetime.

March 3rd is the first ever World Birth Defects Day

25
Feb
Posted by Barbara

WBDD_LogoFamilies frequently write to the March of Dimes and share a story about their child’s struggle with a birth defect. Often, they ask what else they can do to help raise awareness. Well, here is a great way to get involved.

Help us mark the first World Birth Defects Day by participating in social media activities and sharing a story about the impact of birth defects on you and your family.

The March of Dimes and 11 other international organizations, including the CDC and the WHO, have created the first-ever World Birth Defects Day on March 3rd. We hope to raise awareness of this serious global problem and advocate for more prevention, care and research to help babies and children.

Birth defects affect 1 in 33 infants worldwide. Half of these birth defects will be detected soon after birth; the other half will be diagnosed during the first year of life. Birth defects are a major cause of death in infants and young children. Babies who survive are at an increased risk for life-long disabilities.

We need you.

On March 3rd, share your story about the impact of birth defects on you, your child or someone you know. With our partners, we’ll be urging governments, non-governmental organizations, policymakers, researchers, and health care providers around the world to help us work together toward a healthier future for children.

What can you do?

1.  Post an announcement on your blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social media platform.

2.  Register to be a part of the World Birth Defects Day Thunderclap. A message will be sent out at 9:00 a.m. EST on March 3 to help raise awareness.

3.  Join the Buzzday on Twitter on March 3rd. Plan to send one or more messages using the #WorldBDDay tag at some point during the day. Retweet both promotional and day-of messages to build our buzz for the day.

We look forward to having you join the conversation. Together, we can make strides to improve knowledge and raise awareness.

For more information, email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. See other topics in the series on Delays and Disabilities- How to get help for your child, here.

Peanut allergies in children

24
Feb
Posted by Ivette

Peanuts or no peanuts? That is the question many new parents ask themselves as they look at the ingredients in their baby’s food. When I started my babies on solid foods, I remember hovering over them for days at a time, scanning every square inch of their skin to see if there was any sign of a food allergy. Over the last 10 years, the number of children with peanut allergies has doubled, causing many parents, like me, to wonder at what age is it OK to begin giving children foods made with peanuts.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that giving your baby foods made with peanuts in the first year of life may actually help prevent peanut allergies later in life. The study involved over 600 babies and followed them until they reached age 5. These babies had a history of egg allergy or eczema, a condition that causes patches of dry, red and itchy skin. Some babies were given foods made with peanuts and other babies avoided these foods until they turned age 5. The study found that babies who were given foods made with peanuts were less likely to develop peanut allergies than babies who avoided these foods until they were older.

More research needs to be done to understand peanut and other kinds of food allergies. In the meantime, talk to your baby’s health provider if you have concerns about food allergies. As you start your baby on solid foods, give her one kind of food at a time and wait a few days before trying a new food. If your baby has signs of an allergic reaction, contact her health provider. Introducing new foods one at a time may help you find out which food caused an allergic reaction.

Pregnant? Stay centered.

23
Feb
Posted by Lauren

third trimesterHave you felt off balance lately? Are your legs wobbly under your growing belly? You’re not alone. If you are in your third trimester of pregnancy, your center of gravity may be off balance, which could make you more prone to slips and falls. And your unsteady legs may be due to factors other than your growing belly.

Your center of gravity refers to the place in your body that helps anchor you to the earth, so that you don’t tip over. A natural point of balance is below the navel and halfway between the abdomen and lower back. Having a strong center of gravity helps you have good balance. During pregnancy, as your baby grows, your center of gravity moves forward and upward. Therefore, feeling off-balance is likely to worsen later on in your pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Slipping and falling is much easier when your center of gravity has shifted.

But it’s not just your growing belly making you feel off kilter. During pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called relaxin. Toward the end of your pregnancy, this hormone helps to soften the cervix and loosen the pelvic joints so they are more flexible for labor and delivery. This softening can affect the hips, knees and ankles, which is what makes your legs feel shaky or wobbly.

Be extra careful when walking or going up/down stairs. Hold a handrail whenever one is available.  Winter is here, and there is a lot of snow and ice on the sidewalks and streets in many parts of the country. When you’re walking outside, take extra caution. Walk slowly. Be aware of your center of gravity and be sure to wear appropriate shoes or snow boots.

The good news is that soon after the birth of your baby, your center of gravity will shift again, and return to normal.

Concerns surrounding “keepsake” ultrasounds

20
Feb
Posted by Sara

pr_mr_lg_ultrasound1The first ultrasound is one of the most exciting times in pregnancy. Most parents can’t wait for the opportunity to share their baby’s first pictures with family and friends. However, it is important to remember that an ultrasound is a medical imaging technique and should only be done under the supervision of medical professionals, such as your doctor and/or a trained ultrasound technician. “Keepsake” ultrasounds offered by commercial businesses are not recommended.

Ultrasound is the most commonly used tool for viewing a developing baby. Sound waves bounce off curves and shapes within your body and these patterns are then translated into images. Standard ultrasound creates a 2-D image of a developing baby. Some women have an ultrasound during the first trimester to confirm and date the pregnancy—this is called an early ultrasound.  But not all providers offer this. Most doctors perform an ultrasound between 18 and 20 weeks. At this time your provider will check your baby’s heartbeat, muscle tone, movement and overall development.

Although it is always fun and exciting to see your unborn baby on the ultrasound monitor, it is very important to remember that this is a medical procedure. You may have seen places in a mall that offer “keepsake” 3-D or 4-D ultrasound pictures or videos for parents. While ultrasounds have been used for over 30 years and are considered safe for you and your baby, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Food and Drug Administration and the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine do not recommend these non-medical ultrasounds. The people doing them may not have medical training and may give you wrong or even harmful information.

In a recent consumer update regarding fetal keepsake images, the FDA warns that “In creating fetal keepsake videos, there is no control on how long a single imaging session will last, how many sessions will take place, or whether the ultrasound systems will be operated properly.” And although there is no evidence that ultrasound may cause harm to an unborn baby, there is also no medical benefit to exposing the baby to unnecessary ultrasound waves only for the purposes of keepsake images.

If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about when to schedule your ultrasound. He or she will be more than happy to give you pictures to take home with you. You can read more about the different types of ultrasound that your provider may recommend, when they are offered, and what information they may be able to provide here.

From NICU to EI services

18
Feb
Posted by Barbara

preemie hand in adult handIf your baby was born prematurely or at a low birth weight, chances are he or she may benefit from Early Intervention (EI) services. EI services are designed to help your baby catch up developmentally. They can include speech, physical or occupational therapy, as well as other kinds of treatment.

Usually, the hospital NICU staff will give you the information to have your baby screened or evaluated so that services may begin soon after your baby gets home (if they are needed). But, parents – you should know that a doctor or hospital referral is not needed to start the process of requesting early intervention services. You can contact your state’s agency yourself. Although it is very helpful for hospitals to give parents all of the information they need to get services started early, a hospital referral is not a requirement for a screening.

Read this post on Early intervention for babies and toddlers to learn how to request a screening. In many cases, a phone call to your state’s early intervention program is all you need to initiate an evaluation (which is free of charge to you). EI services are available in every state and territory of the United States.

Don’t delay with delays. The sooner your baby gets help, the sooner he can start catching up. If you are concerned about your baby’s development, make the call, get the free screening, and put your mind at rest.

See other topics in the Delays and Disabilities series here.

Coughing, sniffling, and sneezing…oh my!

16
Feb
Posted by Sara

baby_sickbabycareDid you know that by the time most babies are two years old they have had eight to ten colds? Colds in little ones can be very unpleasant. Coughing, sneezing, runny nose…all these symptoms can be more uncomfortable for a baby than for an older child or adult. A baby can’t blow her nose and has a hard time breathing through her mouth. And a stuffy nose can make it difficult for a baby to suck which can affect feeding.

Lots of times you may want to give your little one some over-the-counter medicine to help relieve her runny nose and cough. But it is important to remember that over-the-counter cold medicines can be dangerous for children under two and should not be used.

Colds are caused by viruses and can be spread through the air and on surfaces.  A child or adult can spread a cold directly through a sneeze or cough or indirectly through touching hands and surfaces. For instance, if an infected person coughs into their hand and then shakes someone else’s hand, and that person then touches their nose or mouth, they may catch the cold and the virus is spread.

As we all know, colds are a part of life, and unfortunately there is no treatment. Antibiotics will not cure a cold. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, not viruses. If your baby has a cold accompanied by a mild fever, a single ingredient fever-reducer (such as acetaminophen) can help. But over-the-counter combination medications that treat cold symptoms, such as coughing and runny nose, should not be used in children under age two. These medicines can cause life-threatening side effects in children under two. And according to the American Academy of Pediatrics “…several studies show that cold and cough products don’t work in children younger than six years and can have potentially serious side effects. In addition, keep in mind that coughing clears mucus from the lower part of the respiratory tract, and ordinarily there’s no reason to suppress it.”

So if your baby or child has a cold, what can you do to make her feel better? If your baby is having trouble sucking, try using a rubber suction bulb to help clear her nose before each feeding. Your health care provider may recommend saline (salt water) nose drops to help clear up stuffiness. A cool-mist humidifier in her room may also help—just make sure to clean and dry the humidifier each day to prevent mold and bacteria from developing.

Most children do not need to see a health care provider when they have a cold. However, if you have a baby three months or younger, you should call your pediatrician as soon as you notice any signs of illness. Check out our website for more information about when to call your baby’s provider. And remember, prevention is the best medicine—make sure to keep your infant away from people who are coughing and sneezing, and teach older children about washing hands and the best way to cough and sneeze.

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICU

13
Feb
Posted by Lauren

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICUIt may be difficult to know what to do with your time when your baby is in the NICU. Going home to an empty house may seem impossible. All you can think about is how your little one is doing. However, there are all kinds of productive things you can do, to pass the time until your baby is ready to come home.

While at the hospital

• Learn about your baby’s condition as well as what to expect on the NICU journey.
• Get to know your baby. As soon as your baby’s condition allows, take an active role in his care. Feed, hold, bathe, diaper and dress your baby. Learn about preemie cues to help you understand your baby’s behaviors.
• Room-in with your baby. Some hospitals (depending on your baby’s condition) will allow you to spend the night caring for baby. Ask your nurse if this is an option.
• Read to your baby
• Learn how to take care of your other children while your baby is in the NICU. See if they can visit your baby in the NICU.
• Is a holiday coming up? Read our blog on spending the holidays in the NICU for tips.

While at home

• Get the right car seat for your child.
• Prepare your home for your preemie.
• Make sure you have food in the house or ask a friend or relative to get some groceries for you. Eating healthy foods will help you maintain your energy.
• Keep up with your chores; ask a relative or friend to help if you need it.
• Visit our website for information on managing the NICU experience.

Relax and rejuvenate

• Put your feet up. You need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your baby.
• Take a nap: Getting enough rest is important during this time.
• Be active.  A short 10 minute walk once or twice a day will be more beneficial to you than you can imagine. If you can manage a longer walk, go for it. Or, join a class (like Zumba) where you can dance off your frustrations as you have fun.
• Take a yoga, meditation or a stretch and tone class or use a DVD. You can take them out of a library for free. These classes combine getting in shape with learning to calm down. Believe it or not, most people need to learn how to relax.

While at home or by your baby’s side, seek support by visiting Share Your Story®, the March of Dimes online community for NICU families. You will be welcomed and comforted by other NICU moms who are or have been in your situation and know how you are feeling.

Do you have a baby in the NICU? Email us at Askus@marchofdimes.org with your questions. We are here to help.