Repeat lead tests are advised for certain children, pregnant women and breastfeeding moms

10
Apr
Posted by March of Dimes

Recently the FDA and CDC issued a notice that some lead tests done by Magellan Diagnostics may be incorrect.

The FDA says “certain lead tests manufactured by Magellan Diagnostics may provide inaccurate results for some children and adults in the United States.”

If you have a child age 6 years old or younger, are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your healthcare provider or local health department to determine if retesting is needed.

The dangers of lead

Lead is a metal that comes from the ground, but it can be in air, water and food. You can’t see, smell or taste it. High levels of lead in your body can cause serious health problems for you and your family.

Children younger than 6 years of age can be severely affected by lead. It can cause developmental problems, hearing loss, vomiting, irritability, belly pain and weight loss. Very high levels of lead may even cause death.

Lead poisoning (high levels of lead in your body) can cause serious problems during pregnancy, such as premature birth, miscarriage, and high blood pressure. It can also cause fertility problems, mood disorders, headaches, muscle or joint pain, trouble concentrating, belly pain, anemia and fatigue in adults.

Where is lead?

Most lead comes from paint in older homes. When old paint cracks or peels, it makes dust that has lead in it. The dust may be too small to see. You can breathe in the dust and not know it.

Lead may be found in drinking water, at construction sites, in arts and crafts materials used to make stained glass, lead crystal glassware, and some soil.

For more information on lead poisoning, see our web article and the CDC’s information.

Bottom line

If you have a child age 6 or younger, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding, contact your healthcare provider to determine if a lead test should be repeated.

What you need to know about drinking alcohol during pregnancy

06
Apr
Posted by March of Dimes

If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or think you might be pregnant, the best thing to do for your baby is to avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby. When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to your baby.  No amount of alcohol has been proven safe at any time during pregnancy.

Drinking any amount of alcohol at any time during pregnancy can harm your baby’s developing brain and other organs. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases your baby’s chances of:

  • Premature birth. This is when your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies may have serious health problems at birth and later in life.
  • Brain damage and problems with growth and development.
  • Birth defects, like heart defectshearing problems or vision problems.
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (also called FASDs). Children with FASDs may have a range of problems, including intellectual and developmental disabilities. They also may have problems or delays in physical development. FASDs usually last a lifetime.
  • Low birthweight (also called LBW). This is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Being low birthweight can cause serious health problems for some babies.
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth

What can you do?

Alcohol is often part of social activities, like weddings, birthday parties or sports events. You may be used to having a glass of wine with dinner or at the end of a busy day. Giving up alcohol during pregnancy may be hard.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Think about when you usually drink alcohol. Plan to drink other things, like fruit infused water, sparkling water or just plain water. Use a fun straw or put an umbrella in the glass to make it seem more fun.
  • If you are having problems with self-control, is best to stay away from situations or places where you usually drink, like parties or bars.
  • Get rid of all the alcohol in your home.
  • Tell your partner and your friends and family that you’re not drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Ask them to help and support you.
  • If you need help to stop drinking, talk to your health care provider. He may help you find resources on how to stop drinking.

For more information on how to have a healthy pregnancy, visit marchofdimes.org.

Your preconception to-do list

02
Apr
Posted by March of Dimes

You know that staying healthy during your pregnancy is important. But did you know that having a healthy baby actually starts before you get pregnant? Preconception health is your health before pregnancy. Being healthy before pregnancy can help improve your chances of getting pregnant  and it can help to reduce the chances of complications during your pregnancy. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, make sure you start to focus on your health at least 3 months before you start trying to conceive. Here are some things you can do:

Schedule a preconception checkup: This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. It helps your health care provider make sure you’re healthy and that your body is ready for pregnancy. Your provider can identify, treat, and sometimes prevent health conditions that may affect your pregnancy.

Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. If you take it before and during early pregnancy, it can help protect your baby from birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects.

Review your family healthy history: Your family health history is a record of any health conditions that you, your partner and everyone in your families have had. Your family health history can help you and your provider look for health conditions that may run in your family. Use the March of Dimes Family Health History Form to gather information.

Get to a healthy weight: You’re more likely to have health problems during pregnancy if you’re overweight or underweight. Talk to your provider about what is a healthy weight for you.

Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use street drugs: All of these can make it harder for you to get pregnant and they’re harmful to your baby when you do get pregnant. Tell your provider if you need help to quit.

Review medications that you take: Some medications are not safe to use when you’re pregnant but there may be other alternatives.  Don’t stop taking any prescription medicine without your provider’s OK. Stopping certain medicines, like medicines for asthma, depression or diabetes, can be more harmful to you or your baby than taking the medicine. Talk to your provider about the medications you take.

Get treatment for health conditions: This includes making sure chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure are under control. Your provider can also check for infections, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some STIs can be passed to your baby during pregnancy or a vaginal birth.

Get vaccinated: Make sure you are caught up on all of your vaccinations before pregnancy. Infections like chickenpox and rubella (also called German measles) can harm you and your baby during pregnancy.

Stay safe from viruses and infections: Wash your hands well (especially after contact with any bodily fluids or raw meats), avoid undercooked meats, let someone else change the litter box, and don’t share food, glasses, or utensils with young children.

 

Emotional changes after having a baby

30
Mar
Posted by March of Dimes

It is common to have emotional changes after your baby is born.

You may feel excited, exhausted, overwhelmed, and even sad at times.

Taking care of a baby is a lot to think about and a lot to do.

On top of all that, after the birth of your baby, your hormones are adjusting again.

As a result, these changes can have an effect on your emotions and how you feel.

Here are few suggestion that may help you:

  • Tell your partner how you feel. Let your partner help take care of the baby.
  • Ask your friends and family for help. Tell them exactly what they can do for you, like go grocery shopping or make meals.
  • Try to get as much rest as you can. We know it’s easier said than done, but try to sleep when your baby is sleeping.
  • Try to make time for yourself. If possible, get out the house every day, even if it’s for a short while.
  • Eat healthy foods and be active when you can (with your health care provider’s ok). Eating healthy and getting fit can help you feel better.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs. All these things are bad for you and can make it hard for you to handle stress.

If you experience changes in your feelings, in your everyday life, and in how you think about yourself or your baby that last longer than 2 weeks, call your health care provider right away. These could be signs of postpartum depression.

How do you know if you have postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression (also called PPD) is different from having emotional changes. PPD happens when the feelings of sadness are strong and last for a long time after the baby is born. These feelings can make it hard for you to take care of your baby. You may have PPD if you have five or more signs of PPD that last longer than 2 weeks. These are the signs to look for:

Changes in your feelings:

• Feeling depressed most of the day every day
• Feeling shame, guilt or like a failure
• Feeling panicky or scared a lot of the time
• Having severe mood swings

Changes in your everyday life:

• Having little interest in things you normally like to do
• Feeling tired all the time
• Eating a lot more or a lot less than is normal for you
• Gaining or losing weight
• Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
• Having trouble concentrating or making decisions

Changes in how you think about yourself or your baby:

• Having trouble bonding with your baby
• Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby
• Thinking about killing yourself

If you think you may have PPD, call your health care provider right away. There are things you and your provider can do to help you feel better. If you’re worried about hurting yourself or your baby, call emergency services at 911.

Screening for gestational diabetes

26
Mar
Posted by March of Dimes

In the United States, 9 out of every 100 women (9 percent) has diabetes. Diabetes is a health condition marked by an increase in blood sugar, also called glucose. People with diabetes need to make sure their blood sugar levels are not too high nor too low.

This is particularly important for women, because preexisting diabetes (type 1 or type2) that’s not under control before pregnancy can lead to serious complications during pregnancy. Some of these complications include preeclampsia, premature birth, and birth defects. So, if you have diabetes, talk to your health care provider about how to best have it under control before trying to get pregnant to help prevent these serious complications.

There is another type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after you have your baby. However, developing gestational diabetes can make your more likely to develop diabetes later in life. The good news is that there’s a way to determine if you may have gestational diabetes. Between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy, you get a prenatal test called glucose screening test. If you get a positive result on your glucose screening test, you get another test called glucose tolerance test to see if you have gestational diabetes.

If you have gestational diabetes, here are few things you can do to help you control diabetes during pregnancy:

  • Go to all you prenatal care visits, even if you’re feeling fine.
  • Learn how to control your blood sugar by eating healthy foods and being active every day.
  • If you have to take medicine, take it exactly as your provider tells you to.

Screening for gestational diabetes 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.

The last weeks of pregnancy are important

23
Mar
Posted by Azalia Fernandez

In the last weeks of pregnancy, lots of important things happen to your baby. These changes help your baby have a healthy start. If your pregnancy is healthy, it is best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks, and wait for labor to begin on its own. If you choose to induce labor, talk to your provider about waiting until you’re at least 39 weeks pregnant. Inducing labor or scheduling a c-section should only be for medical reason.

In the last week of pregnancy:

  • Your baby’s brain is still growing and developing. At 35 weeks, your baby’s brain weighs just two-thirds of what it does at 39 weeks.
  • Important organs like the lungs and liver need this time to develop and function properly. Babies born too early may have breathing problems and jaundice after birth.
  • Your baby is gaining weight. Babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warm than babies born too small.
  • Your baby is still learning how to suck and swallow. Learning these skills will help your baby feed better and avoid certain feeding problems.
  • Your baby’s eyes and ears are going through important changes. Babies born too early are more likely to have vision and hearing problems.

Your due date may not be correct

It’s hard to know exactly how many weeks of pregnancy you are. An ultrasound can help estimate your due date, but it can still be off by as much as 2 weeks. This means you may not be as far along in your pregnancy as you might have thought. This is why, if your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best if your baby is born at least at 39 weeks. This gives your baby the time he needs to grow.

However, in some instances, you may not have a choice about when to have your baby. If there are problems with your pregnancy or your baby’s health, you may need to have your baby early. If this happens, here are some questions you can you ask your provider about scheduling your baby’s birth before 39 weeks?

  • Is there a problem with my health or the health of my baby that may make me need to have my baby early?
  • Can I wait to have my baby until I’m closer to 39 weeks?

About inducing you labor:

  • Why do you need to induce labor?
  • How will you induce my labor?
  • Will inducing labor increase the chance that I’ll need to have a c-section?

About c-section:

 

Today is World Down Syndrome Day

21
Mar
Posted by Azalia Fernandez

What is Down syndrome?

Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition caused by extra genetic material. Typically, our cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes. In the case of Down syndrome, a person has an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21. This extra genetic material changes how the body and brain develop. People with Down syndrome have a few common physical traits, but each individual is unique and can lead a healthy active life.

We don’t know for sure why Down syndrome happens. Even though it’s a genetic condition, the majority of the cases are not passed on from the parents or family to the baby. Most cases happen because in the early stages of the baby’s development, there is a problem when the cells are dividing. However, there are some factors that may increase the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome, such as:

  • Mother’s age. The risk of Down syndrome increases with the mom’s age. Even though the risk is greater as your age increases, about 80 percent of babies with Down syndrome are born to women age 35 or less. This is because younger women have more babies than older women.
  • Having had a baby with Down syndrome. Up to age 40, for each pregnancy your chances of having another baby with Down syndrome is about 1 in 100 (1 percent). After age 40, the risk is based on your age. Talk to a genetic counselor to understand your risk of having another baby with Down syndrome.
  • Being a carrier of a genetic translocation. Both, men and women, can pass a genetic translocation to their baby. These cases are not very common. If you had a baby with Down syndrome before or if you or your partner have a family history of Down syndrome, it’s best to talk to a genetic counselor.

During pregnancy your health care provider will offer screening tests to see if your baby is more likely to have Down syndrome. These tests are offered to all pregnant women as part of regular prenatal care. However, a screening test won’t tell you for sure if your baby has Down syndrome. It only tells you if there is a higher risk. To know for sure you will need a diagnostic test.

How do you know if your baby has Down syndrome?

If you get an abnormal screening test result, your provider will recommend a diagnostic test. A diagnostic test will confirm if a baby has Down syndrome. There are few diagnostic tests:

  • Amniocentesis (also called amnio). This test checks the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby in the uterus to check for Down syndrome. You can get an amnio at 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS). This test checks the tissue from the placenta to see if a baby has Down syndrome. You can get a CVS at 10 to 13 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Cordocentesis (also called percutaneous umbilical cord sampling or PUBS). For this test your provider inserts a thin needle into an umbilical cord vein to take a small sample of your baby’s blood to check for chromosome defects. You can get this test between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. There’s a much greater risk of miscarriage with cordocentesis than with an amnio or a CVS. So you only get this test if other tests are unclear and your provider can’t confirm if your baby has Down syndrome any other way.

Down syndrome is also identified at birth by physical traits like: almond-shaped eyes that slant up, low muscle tone, a single line across the center of the palm of the hand, and a flattened face. But these traits won’t tell you for sure if your baby has Down syndrome, a chromosomal test call karyotype is needed to confirm this diagnosis.

Poison Prevention: Tips for Parents

19
Mar
Posted by Azalia Fernandez

Did you know that every year about 3 million people, mostly kids, eat or have contact with a poisonous substance? National Poison Prevention Week is observed from March 18 – 24, 2018 in an effort to raise awareness and help protect children from accidental poisoning. The American Academy of Pediatrics (also called AAP) has developed recommendations that parents and caregivers can follow to protect little ones from accidental poisoning.

Follow and share these recommendations with family, friends and caregivers to make sure they know what to do to help keep your children safe:

  •  Keep medications in their original packaging and in containers with safety caps. Store them away from children. Please note that the safety caps are designed to be child resistance, but that doesn’t mean they are fully child proof. Safely discard any unused or expired medications.
  • Store cleaning and laundry products (especially detergent packets), paints, windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze, kerosene, gasoline, lamp oil and pesticides in locked cabinets or containers. Keep them in their original packaging and out of sight and reach of children.
  • Install safety latches and make sure they automatically lock when you close a cabinet door. But keep in mind these devices can also malfunction or a child can defeat it. It is best to store poisonous products in a place that your child can’t reach or see.
  • When giving medication to your child never refer to it as “candy.” Always use a dosing device and double check the label to ensure proper dosage. A kitchen spoon is never a substitute for a dosing device. If you have questions about the dose of a medication, call your child’s health care provider.
  • Secure devices that may contain small buttons or coin batteries. They can be dangerous if ingested. For example, remote controls, key fobs (for cars), greeting cards, holiday ornaments, thermometers, musical children’s books, toys and many others.
  • Find out the names of all plants in your home and garden. If any of them are poisonous, remove them. Before buying a plant, find out if they are poisonous for children or your pets.
  • Ingestion or skin exposure of e-cigarette liquid (even just a small amount) can be fatal to a child. If you or anybody in your house uses them, make sure they are out of reach and sight of children. Some of them come in child resistant packaging, but that doesn’t mean they are child proof.
    • Be extra alert if you have visitors during a special event or holiday gathering. Many poisonings occur during busy times. Make sure drawers and cabinets that are usually locked stay that way. If you’re having company, consider hiring a babysitter or ask a family member to help you keep a close eye on your little one.

What can you do?

If you think your child may have been poisoned, stay calm but act fast. Call the toll-free Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222, which will connect you to a local poison center. Save this number on your phone or make a note of it in your house, near your house phone or your fridge. Do not wait to see if your child shows signs of poisoning. Even if you are not completely sure if your child has consumed a poisonous substance, make the call. It is best to have a poison expert on the other end of the line who can help you and tell you what to do.

Choosing a car seat for your premature baby

15
Mar
Posted by March of Dimes

This is an exciting moment! Your baby has been discharge from the newborn intensive care unit (also called, NICU) and is ready to go home.

Now you need to make sure your baby gets home safe. The law requires that you use an infant car seat when transporting your baby home from the hospital. However, the federal government’s standard for car seat safety has no minimum weight limit nor does it account for the special needs of a premature baby.

Learn about how to keep your baby safe while riding in his car seat before your baby is discharged from the hospital. Here are few tips that may be of help.

Look for these specific guidelines for car seat safety for premature babies or low-birthweight baby:

  • The car seat needs to have a three point harness system. Convertible car seats with a five-point harness system are also good.
  • Don’t pick a car seat with a shield, abdominal pad or armrest. Your baby might have trouble breathing behind the shield or may hurt his face and neck in a sudden stop or crash. Premature babies have weaker breathing airways, be extra cautious with this.
  • A car seat with the shortest distance between the crotch strap and the seat back is best. Ideally, pick one with a crotch-to-seat back distance of 5 1/2 inches. This helps prevent your baby from slipping forward feet first under the harness. You can also place a rolled diaper or blanket between the crotch strap and your infant to prevent slipping.
  • Car seats with multiple harness-strap slots are also good. They offer more choices than other seats and are better for small but growing infants. It’s best to pick a car seat with harness straps that can be placed at or below your infant’s shoulders.

How to place your baby in the car seat

  • Place your baby rear-facing. Keep your baby rear-facing until she reaches the highest weight and height allowed by its manufacturer.
  • Place your baby’s buttocks and back flat against the seat back. The harness should be snug, with the car seat’s retainer clip halfway between your baby’s neck and stomach. The clip should not be on his belly or in front of his neck.
  • Use only the head-support system that comes with your car safety seat. Avoid any head supports that are sold separately. If your baby is very small and needs more support for her head and body, then place blanket rolls on both sides of your baby.

Other safety tips

  • Recline a rear-facing car seat at about 45 degrees or as directed by the instructions that came with the seat. If your baby’s head still falls forward, place a tightly rolled blanket or pool “noodle” under the car seat.
  • Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front passenger seat of any vehicle.
  • Remember, the back seat is the safest place for all children to travel while in a car.
  • Whenever possible, have an adult seated in the rear seat near the baby in the car seat. If a second caregiver is not available, know that you may need to safely stop your car to assist your baby, especially if a monitor alarm has sounded.
  • Never leave your baby unattended in a car seat, either inside or out of a car.
  • Avoid leaving your baby in car seats for long periods of time to lessen the chance of breathing trouble. It’s best to use the car seat only for travel in your car.

For more information visit Car Safety Seats tips for parents of preemies.

Gestational diabetes: How to control your blood sugar?

13
Mar
Posted by Azalia Fernandez

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that happens during pregnancy. It means that your body is not using a hormone called insulin the way it should, or your body is not making enough of it. When this happens your blood sugar increases. Having high blood sugar during pregnancy increases the risk of certain complications during pregnancy, including: preeclampsia, having a very large baby (macrosomia), premature birth, and having a c-section.

Here are some things you can do to help you manage and treat your gestational diabetes:

  • Prenatal care: Women who have gestational diabetes need to have more prenatal care checkups. This helps your healthcare provider verify that you and your baby are doing ok.
  • Monitor blood sugar: You will need to check your blood sugar regularly and keep a log. This can help your provider monitor your treatment. You may need to use a specific device to measure your blood sugar.
  • Eat healthy foods: Choosing healthy foods, eating the right portion sizes and having regular meals are key to help you control your blood sugar.
  • Being active: Physical activity helps regulate your blood sugar. Ask your provider how much and what type of activity is best for you. It’s ok for most women to do 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (like walking, riding a stationary bike) a day.
  • Medication: Your provider may recommend the use of insulin to control your blood sugar. In certain situations, an oral medication might be indicated. Your provider will give you more information according to your specific needs.

Healthy eating for gestational diabetes

The best way to make sure you are eating the right amount and types of food is to visit a registered dietitian nutritionist (also called RDN). A RDN can create an individualized nutritional plan tailored to your likes, dislikes, and your specific needs. Eating well is one of the most important steps in controlling your blood sugar and reducing the risks associated with gestational diabetes. Here are some things you can do:

  • Don’t skip meals. The best way to keep your blood sugar level from dropping or spiking is to eat regularly. This means not skipping meals. Make sure you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. You might also need to have 2-3 small snacks a day. The goal is to spread your calories during the day and avoid spending many hours without eating or eating too much in one meal.
  • Portion sizes. You will need to eat frequently, but you also need to be careful not to overeat. Learn about how many calories you need to eat every day and make sure you are eating the right portion sizes. For example, one small banana (about 6”) counts as one portion, while a big banana (about 9”) counts as two.
  • Learn about carbohydrates. You will need to keep track of the amount of carbohydrates you eat per meal. This is the first step in managing your blood sugar. Foods that contain carbohydrates are: fruits, rice, pasta, potatoes, bread, milk and beans, among many others. Your RDN can make a nutritional plan that specifies the portion sizes you need of each in your meals. Certain foods that contain carbohydrates and are also high in fiber are beans, lentils and oatmeal. These are a good source of carbohydrates for women with gestational diabetes. The fiber content in these foods and the type of carbohydrate takes longer to digest and will help your blood sugar stay within your target range.
  • Proteins and fat. Make sure you eat lean proteins like chicken breast, fish low in mercury, legumes, eggs, and low fat dairy products among others. About 20 percent of your calories should come from protein sources. Healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, almonds, and nuts are good choices. Limit the amount of butter, cream, high fat meats or fried foods.
  • Vegetables are your best friend. Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables and leafy greens every day. Be adventurous and try new recipes. You might get inspired while you visit the farmers market. Ask about how to cook vegetables you’re not familiar with or ask for recipes. You might get great suggestions. Eat a variety of colors like spinach, cauliflower, yellow squash, pumpkin, beets, etc. This will help you consume a variety of nutrients too.
  • It’s ok to use artificial sweeteners. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) sugar substitutes such as aspartame, stevia, sucralose and acesulfame potassium are thought to be safe to eat in moderate amounts during pregnancy. Women with a metabolic disorder known as phenylketonuria (PKU) should not have aspartame (sold as NutraSweet® or Equal®) because it contains the amino acid (phenylalanine) that their bodies can’t break down.
  • Limit or avoid certain foods. Avoid foods that are concentrated on added or simple sugars like sodas, desserts, cookies, candies, fruit juice, dried fruits, syrups, honey, agave syrup, among others. These types of foods have very low or no nutritional value, and will increased your blood sugar. Limit them as much as possible.