Common pregnancy concerns: when should you call your provider?

28
Aug
Posted by Sara

During pregnancy, it’s common to worry about every ache, pain, and unfamiliar feeling. But do you always need to contact your health care provider? Here is information to help you decide.

Bleeding

Up to half of all pregnant women have some bleeding or spotting during pregnancy. Although it may be common, it’s still important to let your health care provider know. Make sure you:

  • Keep track of how heavy you are bleeding, if the bleeding gets heavier or lighter, and how many pads you are using.
  • Check the color of the blood. It can be brown, dark or bright red.
  • Don’t use a tampon, douche or have sex when you’re bleeding.

Call your provider or go to the emergency room right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Heavy bleeding,
  • Bleeding with pain or cramping,
  • Dizziness and bleeding,
  • Pain in your belly or pelvis.

Abdominal Pain

As your baby grows, the muscles around the uterus pull and stretch. This can cause pain low in your belly. You may feel it most when you cough or sneeze. It usually goes away if you stay still for a bit or if you change to a different position.

But if your pain is severe, doesn’t go away, gets worse, or is accompanied by bleeding, you should call your provider right away.

Headaches

Headaches are common during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. They’re often caused by pregnancy hormones, stress or body tension caused by carrying extra weight throughout pregnancy.

However, headaches may be sign of preeclampsia or other complications. You should call your provider if your headache:

  • Is severe or doesn’t go away,
  • Comes with fever, vision changes, slurred speech, sleepiness, numbness or not being able to stay alert,
  • Comes after falling or hitting your head,
  • Comes with a stuffy nose, pain and pressure under your eyes or a toothache. These may be signs of a sinus infection.

Vomiting

Morning sickness is nausea and vomiting that happens in the first few months of pregnancy. Even though it’s called morning sickness, it can happen any time of day.

At least 7 in 10 pregnant women (70%) have morning sickness in the first trimester. It usually starts at about 6 weeks and is at its worst at about 9 weeks. Most women feel better in their second trimester, but some have morning sickness throughout pregnancy. If you are experiencing any nausea or vomiting, let your provider know.

For most women, morning sickness is mild and goes away over time. But call your provider if:

  • Your morning sickness continues into the 4th month of pregnancy.
  • You lose more than 2 pounds.
  • Your vomit is brown in color or has blood in it. If so, call your provider right away.
  • You vomit more than 3 times a day and can’t keep food or fluids down.
  • Your heart beats faster than usual.
  • You’re tired or confused.
  • You’re making much less urine than usual or no urine at all.

Don’t take any medicine, supplement or herbal product to treat your symptoms without talking to your provider first. And if you are ever unsure whether or not you should call your provider, it’s better to call. Most likely your provider will be able to answer your question and put your mind at ease.

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

Retinopathy of prematurity

25
Aug
Posted by Sara

If you have a premature baby, you may have heard of retinopathy of prematurity or ROP. ROP is an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye.

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. These vessels can then leak and cause bleeding in the eye. Scar tissue forms, and if the scars shrink, they may pull the retina loose from the back of the eye. This is called retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is the main cause of vision problems and blindness in ROP.

Risk factors for ROP

Some babies are more likely to develop ROP. Risk factors include:

  • Premature birth. Although all premature babies are at risk for ROP, it occurs most often in babies born before 30 weeks of pregnancy.
  • 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
  • Infection
  • Trouble breathing or respiratory distress
  • Slow heart rate (also called bradycardia)
  • Problems with the blood, including having blood transfusions.

How is ROP diagnosed?

Your baby will get a special eye exam for ROP if she:

  • Was born before 30 weeks
  • Weighed less than 3 pounds at birth
  • Has any other risk factors for ROP

A pediatric ophthalmologist will examine your baby’s eyes. Babies born at 27 weeks or later usually have their first eye exam when they’re 4 weeks old. Babies born before 27 weeks usually have the exam later, because the more premature a baby is at birth, the longer it takes to develop serious ROP. Because ROP can develop later, it’s very important to take your baby to all of her eye exams, even after she is home from the NICU.

If your baby’s first eye exam shows that the blood vessels in both retinas have finished normal development, she doesn’t need a follow-up exam. If your baby’s eye exam shows that she has ROP and needs treatment, she should start treatment within 72 hours. Early treatment gives your baby the best chance of having healthy vision.

Treatment

Most mild cases of ROP heal without treatment and with little or no vision loss. In more severe cases, the ophthalmologist may perform laser therapy or do a procedure called cryotherapy (freezing) to eliminate abnormal blood vessels and scars. Both treatments help protect the retina.

If your baby has ROP, visit our online community at Share Your Story to connect with other parents for support and comfort throughout your baby’s treatment.

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

Amusement parks and pregnancy

23
Aug
Posted by Sara

For a lot of people, summer means a trip to the amusement park or water slides. But are these activities still OK if you’re pregnant? Here are some tips:

  • Roller coasters and thrill rides can be a lot of fun. But it is important to make sure the rides are safe. Most amusement parks post warning signs if a ride is not safe for a pregnant woman—make sure you follow their guidelines.
  • Avoid rides that have a lot of jerky, bouncing movements. Research suggests that a jolting force can cause the placenta to separate from the uterus. This is known as placental abruption. Although the force is typically stronger than what you would experience on a ride, it is still best to not go on any rides that start and stop suddenly.
  • Stay away from water slides that cause you to hit the water with excessive force or drop you from a great height.
  • Be careful on rides that have a moving entry or exit. Your center of gravity may have shifted and you can lose your balance more easily.

While studies have not shown that amusement park rides pose a risk to pregnancy, they have not shown that they are safe either. For this reason, if you have any questions about whether a certain ride is OK during pregnancy, it’s probably best to avoid it. You can always return next year!

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

 

Pregnancy after a preterm birth: can you prepare?

21
Aug
Posted by Lauren

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant after having a premature baby, you may have many questions and concerns. Having had a premature baby in the past makes you more likely to have preterm labor and give birth early in another pregnancy.

When you’re ready to become pregnant again, schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. This is the best time to discuss your previous pregnancy and ask all of your questions and concerns about becoming pregnant again.

Not sure where to start? Here are some questions to ask your provider:

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

How to stay healthy and safe at work

18
Aug
Posted by Sara

Most women who work will continue to do so during pregnancy—some will work up to the day of their baby’s birth. But sometimes working during pregnancy can have some challenges. Here are some tips that can help you stay safe and comfortable at work throughout your pregnancy.

Common pregnancy discomforts

  • Nausea: Unfortunately morning sickness can happen at any time during the day. To help manage your nausea, try to avoid foods and smells that bother you and snack on crackers or other bland foods. And make sure you are drinking lots of fluids!
  • Fatigue: Being pregnant can be exhausting—especially during the first trimester. During your work day, try to get up and walk for a few minutes or even take a power nap in your car during your lunch break. Get to bed early, exercise, and eat healthy foods.

Workplace safety

  • Dangerous substances: If you work with metals (such as mercury or lead) chemicals, or radiation, talk to your health care provider. Describe your work environment and any safety equipment you or your company uses. Your provider can then tell you if it’s safe for you to keep working during pregnancy.
  • Heat: Working in places that are very hot can raise your body temperature. If your body temperature is too high, it could be dangerous to the baby. Make sure you talk to your provider.
  • Heavy duty jobs: If your job includes heavy lifting or climbing, it might not be safe during pregnancy. Nausea, fatigue and dizziness can make it hard to do these jobs safely. And your added weight can throw off your sense of balance and make you more likely to fall. You may need to talk to your employer about taking on other job responsibilities during your pregnancy.
  • Infections: If you work with children or in a health care setting, you may be at risk for infections. Wash your hands regularly. If you think you were exposed to an illness, talk to your provider right away.

Computers and desks

If you work on a computer or sit at a desk for most of the day, comfort is key. To avoid wrist and hand discomforts, neck and shoulder pains, backaches and eye strains, follow these tips:

  • Take short breaks often and walk around your office or building.
  • Adjust your chair, keyboard and other office equipment to be more comfortable.
  • Use a small pillow or cushion for lower back support.
  • Keep your feet elevated by using a footrest.
  • Be sure to use the correct hand and arm positions for typing.
  • Use a non-reflective glass screen cover on your computer monitor.
  • Adjust the computer monitor for brightness and contrast to a setting that is comfortable for your eyes.

It’s important that the work environment around you is safe for you and baby. If you have concerns, speak with your health care provider and your supervisor at work.

You can learn more ways to stay safe at work on our website

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

What vaccines do you need before, during, and after pregnancy?

16
Aug
Posted by Sara

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is very important to make sure that you are up-to-date on all of your vaccinations. Vaccines help protect you from infection and you pass this protection to your baby during pregnancy. This helps keep your baby safe during the first few months of life until he gets his own vaccinations.

Before pregnancy

These vaccines are recommended before you get pregnant:

  • Flu. Get the flu vaccine once a year before flu season (October through May). There are many different flu viruses, and they’re always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four flu viruses that are likely to make people sick during the upcoming flu season. If you come down with the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications, such as pneumonia.
  • HPV. This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine.
  • MMR. This vaccine protects you against the measles, mumps and rubella.
  • Varicella. Chickenpox is an infection that causes itchy skin, rash and fever. It’s easily spread and can cause birth defects if you get it during pregnancy. It’s also very dangerous to a baby. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and you never had the chickenpox or the vaccine, tell your provider.

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, schedule a preconception checkup, so your provider can make sure you are up-to-date with all of your vaccinations.

During pregnancy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:

  1. Flu shot if you didn’t get one before pregnancy. The flu mist isn’t safe to use during pregnancy.
  2. Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy at 27 to 36 weeks. The Tdap vaccine prevents pertussis (also called whooping cough). Pertussis is easily spread and very dangerous for a baby.

Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider to make sure any vaccination you get is safe.

After pregnancy

If you haven’t caught up on vaccinations before or during pregnancy, do it after your baby’s born.

If you didn’t get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, make sure to get it right after you give birth. Getting the Tdap vaccine soon after giving birth prevents you from getting pertussis and passing it on to your baby. Your baby should get his first pertussis vaccine at 2 months old.

Until your baby gets his first pertussis shot, the best way to protect him is to get the vaccine yourself and keep him away from people who may have the illness. Caregivers, close friends and relatives who spend time with your baby should also get a Tdap vaccine at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby. Babies may not be fully protected until they’ve had three doses of the Tdap vaccine.

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s safe to get routine adult vaccines, but ask your provider if you have concerns.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

How do you know if you are having a miscarriage?

14
Aug
Posted by Lauren

Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Among women who know they are pregnant about 10 to 15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. As many as half of all pregnancies may end in miscarriage, however we don’t know the exact number because many may happen before a woman knows she’s pregnant.

Are there signs and symptoms?

Vaginal bleeding or spotting, period-like cramps and severe belly pain are all symptoms of a miscarriage. Many women have these signs and symptoms in early pregnancy and don’t miscarry.

When should you contact your health care provider?

If you have any of the signs or symptoms, call your prenatal care provider. Your provider may want to do some tests to make sure everything’s OK. These tests can include blood tests, a pelvic exam and an ultrasound. Call your provider if you have any bleeding or spotting, even if it stops. It may not be caused by anything serious, but your provider needs to find out what’s causing it.

If you’ve suffered a miscarriage, we have support and resources to help you during this difficult time. Visit our website to learn more.

Medical reasons you may need a c-section

11
Aug
Posted by Sara

A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your doctor makes in your belly and uterus. If your pregnancy is healthy and you don’t have any medical complications, it’s best to have your baby through vaginal birth. However, sometimes your health care provider may suggest that you have a c-section for medical reasons. In these cases, a c-section can help to keep you and your baby safe.

You and your provider may schedule a c-section because of known pregnancy complications, such as:

There are also situations that come up during labor and childbirth that may require you to have an unplanned (emergency) c-section. Here are some possible reasons you may need to have an unplanned c-section:

  • Your baby is too big to pass safely through the vagina.
  • Your baby is in a breech position (his bottom or feet are facing down) or a transverse position (his shoulder is facing down). The best position for your baby at birth is head down.
  • Labor is too slow or stops.
  • Your baby’s umbilical cord slips into the vagina where it could be squeezed or flattened during vaginal birth. This is called umbilical cord prolapse.
  • Your baby has problems during labor, like a slow heart rate. This is also called fetal distress.
  • Your baby has a certain type of birth defect.

Remember, if you’re scheduling your c-section for medical reasons,make sure to talk to your provider about waiting until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy, if possible. This gives your baby the time she needs to grow and develop before birth.

If your pregnancy is healthy and you don’t have any medical reasons to have a c-section, it’s best to have your baby through vaginal birth. But for some women and their babies, a c-section is safer than a vaginal birth. If you have questions or concerns about whether a c-section may be right for you, talk to your health care provider.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Do you have questions? Ask us

09
Aug
Posted by Lauren

Have a question about becoming pregnant? Do you want to learn more about what to expect during your pregnancy? Is your baby in the NICU? Let us help.

Our Health Education Specialists provide women and families with evidence-based information about having a healthy pregnancy and reducing the risk of having a preterm birth. Our specialists have been answering questions from women and families since 1997.

How can you reach our specialists?

Our specialists can answer your questions in both English and Spanish. For English, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. For Spanish, text or email preguntas@marchofdimes.org. You can also submit your questions through our website. Just complete our online form and one of our staff will respond within 2 business days.

Health Education Specialists all have master’s degrees in health fields such as public health, health science, nutrition and genetic counseling. We also have a certified lactation counselor on staff.

What information can our center provide?

Our specialists can provide information on many topics including:

  • starting a family
  • how to have a healthy pregnancy
  • pregnancy complication and risks
  • newborn health
  • prematurity
  • the NICU experience
  • lasting effects of prematurity
  • birth defects and special needs
  • pregnancy and infant loss.

If you are looking for information related to any of the topics listed, you’ve come to the right place. Reach out for resources and support. Our Health Education Specialists are here for you.

Fact vs. fiction: the truth about vaccines

07
Aug
Posted by Sara

Vaccines are important. They help protect your baby from serious childhood diseases and help keep children healthy. Vaccines work by helping children become immune to a disease without actually getting sick. However, there are still a lot of misconceptions about vaccines. So, to debunk some common myths, here are the facts:

Myth: Spacing out vaccines is better for my baby.

Truth: There are no known benefits to following a delayed vaccination schedule. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) childhood immunization schedule is the ONLY vaccination schedule for children that has been studied and tested for safety and effectiveness.

The CDC immunization schedule is based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This is a group of medical and public health experts that make recommendations about what vaccines should be given and when these vaccines should be given based on a number of factors, including when the vaccine is expected to produce the strongest immune response.

The CDC immunization schedule is designed to help protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to serious and often life-threatening diseases. Children are immunized early because they are susceptible to diseases at a young age, and the consequences of these diseases can be devastating.

Myth: Too many vaccines will overwhelm my baby’s immune system.

Truth: A baby’s immune system fights off thousands of germs every day. Vaccines are made with weakened or killed viruses. But, they look enough like the live virus to make your baby’s body react and produce antibodies.  This allows your baby to become immune to the disease without first getting sick.

According to the CDC, “Even if babies receive several vaccinations in one day, vaccines contain only a tiny fraction of the antigens [parts of germs that cause the body’s immune system to go to work] that they encounter every day in their environment. Vaccines provide your child with the antibodies they need to fight off the serious illnesses for which they have been vaccinated.”

Myth: Vaccines cause autism.

Truth: Vaccinations do not cause autism. Studies have shown and continue to show no association between vaccines and autism. Some people are concerned that thimerosal, a chemical that contains a form of mercury and is used in some vaccines, causes autism. Research has shown that thimerosal in vaccines does not cause autism. In 2001, thimerosal was removed from nearly all vaccines as a precautionary measure. Today, certain types of flu vaccines contain small amounts of thimerosal to help prevent contamination. You can ask for a thimerosal-free flu vaccine if you want. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about thimerosal in vaccines.

Myth: Vaccines are not necessary because the diseases are no longer found in the United States.

Truth: It is largely due to the success of vaccines that many of the vaccine-preventable diseases are no longer seen in the US. However, some diseases, like pertussis (whooping cough) and chickenpox, are still common.

If people stopped vaccinating, it is likely that we would start to see more and more cases of vaccine-preventable diseases. Also, some of the diseases that are not seen in the US still exist in many other countries. If a child who is not vaccinated comes into contact with someone who has a vaccine-preventable disease, the unvaccinated child can become very sick and possibly spread the disease throughout the community.

Myth: My child is sick, so she can’t be vaccinated.

Truth: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “a child with a minor illness such as low-grade fever (<100.4°F), an ear infection, cough, a runny nose, or mild diarrhea can safely be immunized.”

There are children with certain health conditions that may not be able to be vaccinated or who may need to get vaccinated later. In order for these children to be protected, other people need to get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of contagious conditions throughout a community. Vaccinating your baby helps protect her as well as those around her.

Over the years, vaccines have helped to prevent countless cases of disease and save millions of lives. Make sure your baby gets vaccinated. This schedule shows every vaccine recommended for your baby up to 6 years of age. It also shows how many doses your child should receive of each vaccine and when the vaccines are needed.

 

This post is brought to you in partnership with Sanofi Pasteur, a global immunization leader. To learn more about our work together, please visit marchofdimes.org/Sanofi-Pasteur.

The March of Dimes does not endorse specific brands or products.