Although many people know that smoking during pregnancy can cause problems, 10% of pregnant women reported smoking during the last 3 months of pregnancy. When you smoke during pregnancy, your baby is exposed to dangerous chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar. These chemicals can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets. This can slow your baby’s growth before birth and can damage your baby’s heart, lungs and brain.
If you smoke during pregnancy, you’re more likely to have:
- Preterm labor. Preterm labor can lead to premature birth. Smoking nearly doubles a woman’s risk of having a premature baby.
- Ectopic pregnancy. This is when a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus (womb) and begins to grow. An ectopic pregnancy cannot result in the birth of a baby. It can cause serious, dangerous problems for the pregnant woman.
- Vaginal bleeding
- Problems with the placenta, like placental abruption and placenta previa.
If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby is more likely to:
- Be born prematurely. Premature babies are more likely than babies born on time to have health problems.
- Have certain birth defects, such as cleft lip or cleft palate.
- Have low birthweight. This means your baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
- Die before birth. If you smoke during pregnancy, you’re more likely to have a miscarriage or a stillbirth.
- Die of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This is the unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old.
Secondhand and thirdhand smoke are also bad for your baby’s health. Being around secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause your baby to be born with low birthweight. Babies who are around secondhand smoke are more likely than babies who aren’t to have health problems, like pneumonia, ear infections and breathing problems, such as asthma, bronchitis and lung problems. There are also at an increased risk of SIDS.
If you quit smoking during pregnancy, you and your baby immediately benefit. According to the CDC, here’s how:
- Your baby will get more oxygen, even after just one day of not smoking.
- There is less risk that your baby will be born too early.
- There is a better chance that your baby will come home from the hospital with you.
- You will be less likely to develop heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and other smoke-related diseases.
- You will be more likely to live to know your grandchildren.
- You will have more energy and breathe more easily.
- Your clothes, hair, and home will smell better.
- Your food will taste better.
- You will have more money that you can spend on other things.
- You will feel good about what you have done for yourself and your baby.
So make a plan to quit today. Need help? Check out these resources:
Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.
The world will light up purple tomorrow to bring awareness to the problem of preterm birth.
Landmarks all over the world will be ablaze in purple to honor premature babies.
Tomorrow marks the 6th annual World Prematurity Day (WPD).
One in ten babies is born too soon. Premature birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide. Babies born too early may have more health issues than babies born on time, and may face long term health problems that affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision. World Prematurity Day on November 17 raises awareness of this serious health crisis.
In New York City, the Empire State Building will be bathed in purple lights. State Capitol buildings in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Tennessee will light up purple, too.Here are just a few more places where World Prematurity Day will be glowing:
- Birmingham Zoo, AL;
- Union Plaza Building (downtown skyline), Little Rock, AR;
- All 5 river bridges spanning the Arkansas River;
- Hippodrome Theater, Gainesville, FL;
- Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH;
- Howard Hughes Corporation Building, Honolulu, HI;
- Power & Light Building, Kansas City, MO;
- Biloxi Lighthouse, MS;
- Pacific Science Center, Seattle, WA;
- The Auxilio Mutuo Hospital, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.
What can you do?
Share your story and video about babies born too soon here on our blog, as well as on Facebook.
Get decked out in purple tomorrow, take a photo and post it to social media with #worldprematurityday and #givethemtomorrow.
Together, we can honor the 380,000 babies born too soon each year in the U.S.
Together, we can let people know that 15 million babies are born too soon around the world every year, and that 1 million of them won’t live to their first birthday.
Together, we can change the face of premature birth and give every baby a fighting chance.
Please join us tomorrow, to raise your voice.
At Pampers, we believe every touch of love matters to the health and development of babies, especially the most vulnerable ones. That is why we’ve joined forces with the March of Dimes under the Pampers Touches of Love campaign this fall to celebrate all babies, especially those in the NICU, and those who care for them.
As part of this campaign, through World Prematurity Day on November 17, we’re asking everyone to show us all the ways that you give babies touches of love (from a hand hold or kiss on the forehead to wrapping your baby in a blanket chosen especially for her or him). For every #touchesoflove moment shared with @Pampers on Twitter & Facebook and @PampersUS on Instagram, we’ll make a $1 donation to the March of Dimes.*
One of the main reasons for our Touches of Love campaign was to underscore the importance of another major development from Pampers. We’ve worked closely with hospitals, pediatricians and nurses for 40 years, and as my colleagues and I met with hundreds of nurses over the past three years, they shared that current preemie diapers do not properly fit the smallest premature babies, and they were having to cut or fold the diaper or improvise ways to make it fit.
This is why we recently introduced our smallest diaper yet – the new Pampers Preemie Swaddlers Size P-3 diaper– because of all the challenges faced by babies who are born prematurely, a properly fitting diaper shouldn’t be one of them. Designed in partnership with NICU nurses, this diaper caters to the unique needs of babies weighing as little as one pound (500 grams) – to offer them a small touch of love. From the narrow core which offers Pampers excellent protection and allows their legs to lay comfortably and be optimally positioned, to the Absorb Away Liner™ that pulls away wetness and loose stools, a common side effect of antibiotics that premature babies are given, the new size P-3 diaper was created with the care and comfort of these tiny, premature babies at the forefront every step of the way. These size P-3 diapers are currently available in select hospitals in the United States, and will be available to hospitals across the U.S. and Canada before the end of 2016.
Being part of the development team, I can tell you that the creation of the new Pampers Preemie Swaddlers P-3 diapers was truly a labor of love. We wanted to make sure that our new diaper wrapped the tiniest babies in a gentle, loving touch because we understand that for premature babies, touch is not only a sign of love, but also a catalyst for survival and growth.
*Up to a maximum of $5,000. In addition, Pampers has made a donation of $100,000 in support of the Touches of Love campaign.
The March of Dimes does not endorse specific brands or products.
The idea of surgery is scary for anyone. But learning your premature baby needs to have surgery can be terrifying. Learning what you can expect may make things a little easier. The following information is adapted from Preemies: The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies.
Ask a lot of questions
- Talk to your baby’s neonatologist, the surgeon who will be operating, the anesthesiologist, and any other specialists who may be involved in your baby’s care.
- Don’t be afraid to ask ANY questions that you have. It may be helpful to write them down as you think of them so that you don’t forget to ask when you see your baby’s doctors. You may meet with someone unexpectedly and you will not want to miss the opportunity to get answers to your questions. Perhaps keep a notebook or pad in your handbag so you can jot down your thoughts as they cross your mind.
- Also, take advantage of talking to the NICU nurses. They have cared for many preemies and understand your fears and concerns and can give you an idea of what is going to happen.
- Most premature babies are put under general anesthesia for surgery. This means that your baby will not be able to move during the surgery. She will not feel any pain or have any memory of the procedure.
- If general anesthesia is used, your baby will not be able to breathe on her own and will need to be on a ventilator.
- The surgical team will be monitoring your baby to make sure she is as comfortable as possible. During the surgery, your baby will be kept warm. The room temperature will be raised and she will be covered as much as possible. IV fluids may be warmed as well.
- Preemies need very special care after surgery. Immediately after surgery, your baby will remain in a recovery area while the anesthesia wears off.
- The surgical team will then accompany your baby back to the NICU and update the neonatologists and bedside nurses.
- It will take some time for the anesthesia to leave your baby’s body. This means she may be on a ventilator to help her breathe. If your baby didn’t have a breathing problem before surgery, she may be removed from the ventilator within hours or up to a few days after surgery. Babies who did have breathing problems will most likely need to be on a ventilator for a longer period of time.
- Pain can delay healing and recovery, so your baby’s NICU team will be watching carefully for any signs that she is uncomfortable. The medication your baby receives to manage pain depends on a number of factors. Make sure you ask the doctors and nurses if you have concerns.
Asking questions and understanding what to expect before, during, and after your baby’s surgery, can help you feel more confident and better prepared for the procedure. You may also find it helpful to talk to other parents who have been through a similar experience with their preemie. Share Your Story, our online community, will allow you to connect with other moms and dads who can offer advice and support.
And, of course, we are here to answer any questions you may have. Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.
In addition to November being Prematurity Awareness Month, it’s National Family Caregivers Month. These two themes go together well. Caring for a premature baby can take a huge toll on parents and families. The focus is on the baby (naturally) which can be a round-the-clock roller coaster ride. But, who cares for the parents and other children?
Recently I attended a meeting for parents of special needs children. The common theme that day was coping. Parent after parent talked about the impact that one child can have on an entire family. When medical issues are present, as they are with a preemie, it is understood that everything else stops while you care for and make serious decisions related to your baby. If you have other children, they take a temporary back seat to your sick baby. Everyone pitches in to do what they must do to survive the crisis of a NICU stay.
Once the baby is home, the crisis may seem like it is over, but often it is only the start of a new journey – one with visits to more specialists than you knew existed, appointments for speech, physical, occupational and/or respiratory therapy, a schedule of home exercises, and navigating the early intervention system. Thankfully, these interventions exist to help your baby, but it is clear that this new schedule can resemble a second full-time job.
If a parent is alone in this process (without a partner), it can be all the more daunting. Without a second set of eyes to read insurance forms, or a second set of hands to change a diaper when you are desperate for a shower, it can feel overwhelming.
What can you do?
This month is a good time to remember to reach out and ask for help. Friends often want to take a bit of the burden off of you, but simply don’t know how they can be helpful. Be specific with them. If you need grocery shopping done, send out a group text to your buddies and ask if anyone could swing by the grocery store to pick up a few items for you.
Try to set aside a couple of hours each week, on a regular basis, when you know you will have a respite. It could mean that your spouse takes care of the baby while you go take a walk or join a friend for coffee. Or, your parent or grandparent could take over for a bit so you and your spouse could watch a movie together. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time – but just knowing it is scheduled gives you something tangible to look forward to, which helps to keep you going and lift your spirits.
In other blog posts, I share ways parents can take the stress off. See this post for a list of survival tips, and this post for how to care for the brothers and sisters of your special needs child. They need special TLC!
If you are like me and have trouble relaxing, see “Stop. Rest. Relax…Repeat.” It may just inspire you to break the go-go-go-all-the-time pace and find ways to relax. Believe me – once you grab those precious moments to refuel, you will be glad you did. Your body and mind will thank you, and so will your family.
Do you have tips for coping? Please share.
Although there are certain risk factors for premature birth that a woman is not able to change, the good news is that there are three risk factors that most women can do something about.
Researchers at the March of Dimes Ohio Collaborative Prematurity Research Center are making big strides. According to their published study, up to one-quarter of preterm births (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) might be prevented if we focused on three risk factors – birth spacing, weight before pregnancy and weight gain during pregnancy.
What did the research show?
The study looked at the records of 400,000 single births and found that more than 90% of the women had one of these three risk factors. The women in the study who had less than a year between pregnancies, were underweight before pregnancy and gained too little weight during pregnancy had the highest rates of preterm births – 25.2%, according to the researchers. The good news is that women may have more control over these risk factors than other factors, which can influence preterm births.
Birth spacing is the period of time between giving birth and getting pregnant again. It’s also called pregnancy spacing or interpregnancy interval (also called IPI). Getting pregnant too soon can increase your next baby’s chances of being born prematurely, as well as being born at a low birthweight or small for gestational age (SGA). It’s best to wait at least 18 months after having a baby before getting pregnant again. If you’re older than 35 or have had a miscarriage or stillbirth, talk to your provider about how long to wait.
Weight before pregnancy
Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy is important. Women who are overweight or underweight are more likely to have serious pregnancy complications, including giving birth prematurely. How do you know if you’re at a healthy weight? Schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. This is the best time to discuss your weight and make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.
Weight gain during pregnancy
Gaining too much or too little weight can be harmful to you and your baby. It’s important to gain the right amount of weight for your body. Your provider can help you determine how much weight you need to gain during pregnancy.
There is still much we do not know about the causes of premature birth. But, knowing some things that a woman can do to decrease her chance of giving birth early, is good news.
Check out the cutting edge research our Ohio Collaborative is working on.
Retinopathy of prematurity is an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye. It mainly affects babies weighing about 2¾ pounds (1250 grams) or who are born before 31 weeks of pregnancy. ROP affects about 14,000-16,000 babies in the United States each year. If your baby has ROP, getting treatment right away is really important. The disease can develop very quickly and cause vision problems or even blindness if it’s not treated.
What causes ROP?
During the last 12 weeks of pregnancy, the eye develops quickly. When a baby is born full-term, the growth of the blood vessels that supply the retina is almost complete. The retina then typically finishes growing the first few weeks after birth.
However, if a baby is born too early, the blood vessels may stop growing or not grow correctly. Scientists believe that the edge of the retina then sends signals to other areas of the retina for nourishment. This results in abnormal vessels growing. These abnormal vessels are fragile and can bleed easily and cause retinal scarring. If the scars shrink, they pull on the retina and cause it to detach.
Risk factors for ROP
Some things make a baby more likely than others to have ROP. They include:
- Premature birth.
- Apnea. This is when a baby’s breathing stops for 15 to 20 seconds or more.
- Anemia. This is when the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of the body.
- Heart disease
- Trouble breathing or respiratory distress
- Slow heart rate (also called bradycardia)
- Problems with the blood, including having blood transfusions.
Stages of ROP
ROP is classified into 5 stages:
- Stage 1 – Mildly abnormal blood vessel growth. These babies often get better without treatment and go on to have healthy vision.
- Stage 2 – Moderately abnormal blood vessel growth. These babies often get better without treatment and go on to have healthy vision.
- Stage 3 – Severely abnormal blood vessel growth. Some of these babies get better without treatment, but others develop a condition called plus disease. This means the retina’s blood vessels get big and twisted. Plus disease is a sign that ROP is getting worse, but treatment can help prevent retinal detachment.
- Stage 4 – Severely abnormal blood vessel growth and part of the retina detaches. These babies need treatment because part of the retina pulls away from the inside wall of the eyeball.
- Stage 5 – Total retinal detachment. The retina is completely pulled away from the inside wall of the eyeball. Without treatment, a baby can have severe vision problems or blindness.
Laser or cryotherapy are the most effective treatments for ROP. Laser treatment uses a laser to burn and scar the sides of the retina. This stops abnormal blood vessel growth and prevents scarring and pulling on the retina. Cryotherapy uses a metal probe to freeze the sides of the retina, thereby preventing additional blood vessel growth.
Laser treatments and cryotherapy are done on babies with more advanced ROP, such as stage III.
Later stages of ROP require more intense treatments. Scleral buckle involves placing a silicone band around the white of your baby’s eye (called the sclera). This band helps push the eye in so that the retina stays along the wall of the eye. The buckle is removed later as the eye grows. If it isn’t removed, a child can become nearsighted. This means he has trouble seeing things that are far away.
In a vitrectomy, the doctor removes the clear gel in the center of your baby’s eye (called the vitreous) and puts saline (salt) solution in its place. Your baby’s provider can then take out scar tissue, so that the retina doesn’t pull. Only babies with stage 5 ROP have this surgery.
About 90% of infants with ROP fall into the mild categories and do not need treatment. But ROP can get worse quickly so early diagnosis and appropriate treatment (if needed) are very important. Your baby should be seen by a pediatric ophthalmologist. This is a doctor who identifies and treats eye problems in babies and children. The first eye exam should take place 4 to 9 weeks after birth, depending on when your baby was born.
You can read more about ROP on our website.
If your baby has ROP, visit our online community at Share Your Story to find a network of parents of babies with ROP. You can connect with them for support and comfort throughout your baby’s treatment.
Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. There are many facts that you probably already know about prematurity, but some that you may not. Here is quick cheat sheet on Prematurity 101. See if you can find the one statement that is false. (Answer is at the bottom – no peeking!)
Premature birth is the #1 cause of newborn death (1st 28 days of life).
Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and more than a million die as a result.
Babies who survive a premature birth often have lifelong health problems.
Preemies can suffer from cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, intellectual disabilities and learning problems.
Birth defects is the #1 cause of infant death (1st year of life).
We only understand about half of all the causes of premature birth.
Each year in the U.S., about 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely.
A baby’s life-long health problems can have a devastating financial effect on a family.
Babies born at 36 – 38 weeks of pregnancy may struggle with learning in school.
If your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks to give your baby’s brain and other organs the time they need to develop before birth.
If a baby is born prematurely and seems fine, he won’t have any problems as he gets older.
Which is the false statement?
They are all true except for the last statement. Just because a premature baby seems fine when he leaves the hospital doesn’t mean he won’t struggle with learning, experience developmental delays, or have disabilities as he gets older. About 1 in 3 children born prematurely need special school services at some point during their school years.
Learn more about the impact of premature birth on a family and society and how the Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates the cost of premature birth in the United States to be $26.2 billion each year.
See our article to understand the emotional toll of prematurity on a family, especially as they face days, weeks or even months watching their baby fight for his life in the hospital.
What can YOU do?
Everyone can participate in Prematurity Awareness Month and World Prematurity Day on November 17th by visiting https://www.facebook.com/worldprematurityday. Help us light the world purple to spread awareness!
Join the conversations on Twitter – see our upcoming chats about prematurity here.
Have questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.
We have several Twitter chats scheduled in November, in honor of Prematurity Awareness Month.
Please join us:
Wednesday, November 2 at 1pm ET with neonatologist Dr. Suresh of Texas Children’s Hospital. Use #preemiechat
Topic: Prematurity – causes, complications, and coping in the NICU
Wednesday, November 9 at 2pm ET with Mom’s Rising. Use #WellnessWed
Topic: Can your preconception health reduce your chances of giving birth early?
Tuesday, November 15th at 2pm ET with Genetic Alliance and Baby’s First Test. Use #preemiechat
Topic: Is prematurity caused by genetics? Can it run in families?
We hope to see you on Twitter!
For questions or more information about these chats, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org