Did you get your pertussis vaccine?

20
Oct
Posted by Lauren

Pertussis VaccinePertussis, also referred to as whooping cough, is a respiratory infection that is easily spread and very dangerous for a baby. Pertussis can cause severe and uncontrollable coughing and trouble breathing. Pertussis can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age. And, about half of those babies who get whooping cough are hospitalized. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 17,325 cases of pertussis from January 1-August 16, 2014, which represents a 30% increase compared to this time period in 2013. The best way to protect your baby and yourself against pertussis is to get vaccinated.

If you are pregnant:

Pregnant women should get the pertussis vaccine. The vaccine is safe to get before, during or after pregnancy, but works best if you get it during your pregnancy to better protect your baby once he is born. Your body creates protective antibodies and passes some of them to your baby before birth, which provides short term protection after your baby is born.  Your baby won’t get the first of the 3 infant vaccinations until he is 2 months old, so your vaccination during pregnancy helps to protect him until he receives his vaccines. The pertussis vaccine is part of the Tdap vaccine (which also includes tetanus and diphtheria).

The CDC recommends women get the Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy. The best time to get the shot is between your 27th through 36th week of pregnancy.

The vaccine is also recommended for caregivers, close friends and relatives who spend time with your baby.

Click here for more information or speak with your prenatal health care provider.

Bottom line
Get vaccinated for pertussis  – it may save your baby’s life.

Keeping safe from Ebola

17
Oct
Posted by Ivette

Lots of people are talking about Ebola. Here’s the deal. Ebola is a rare, but very serious disease caused by a virus. It’s spread by coming in direct contact with body fluids (like blood, breast milk, urine or vomit) from a person sick with the disease. You also can get Ebola if you have direct contact with items, like needles or sheets, that have an infected person’s body fluids on them.

Ebola can start with flu-like symptoms, but over time it can cause more serious health problems. Eventually, it can cause heavy bleeding, organ failure and death. Some research shows that Ebola in pregnancy can cause pregnancy loss.

The question many people have is: how can you keep safe from Ebola? Right now, there’s no vaccine to help prevent Ebola infection, but researchers are working to develop one as well as other treatments. In the meantime, here’s what you can do to help keep you and your family safe:

Wash your hands often! This helps prevent many viruses from spreading, including Ebola.
Avoid travel to places where there are Ebola outbreaks.
• Avoid coming in contact with someone who may be sick.

For the latest news on Ebola, visit the CDC website. Read our article to learn more about Ebola and pregnancy.

Honoring parents with angel babies

15
Oct
Posted by Barbara

yellow butterflyThe loss of a baby is heart wrenching.  As today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, I want to take a moment to honor those parents who have angel babies. Most people cannot even imagine being in their shoes for an instant, yet alone having to live a day-to-day existence without the baby they continue to love.

The loss of a baby touches so many people in profound and long lasting ways. No two individuals grieve in exactly the same manner. The mother may grieve differently from the father. Children who were expecting their sibling to come home from the hospital experience their own grief as well. Even grandparents and close friends may be deeply affected. The ripple effects from the loss of a baby are widely felt.

The March of Dimes is committed to preventing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality. It is our hope that through continued research, we will have a positive impact on the lives of all babies so that fewer families will ever know the pain of losing a child.

If you or someone you know has lost a baby, we hope that our online community, Share Your Story will be a place of comfort and support to you. There, you will find other parents who have walked in your shoes and can relate to you in ways that other people cannot. Log on to “talk” with other parents who will understand your grief. We also have bereavement materials available free of charge. Simply send a request to AskUs@marchofdimes.org and we will mail them out to you.

Please know that the March of Dimes is thinking of you today and every day.

Unexplained muscle weakness in children

10
Oct
Posted by Beverly

We have all heard of the children in Colorado who have been hospitalized with unexplained muscle weakness. It has so far affected 10 children with an illness involving the brain and spinal cord.  Let us be clear, we have been told the children have been tested and it is NOT polio. The CDC and the California Department of Health have been looking further into the cause of some cases of paralysis earlier this year. However, differences exist between the California and Colorado cases, including age of the patients, timing of cases, etc.  You may have also heard that some of the children in Colorado have had cold-like symptoms and have tested positive for Enterovirus D68; while others have not.  As the doctors, labs, various health departments and the CDC work on finding out why the children are sick, there are some things you can do:

• Be up to date on all recommended vaccinations, including polio, flu, measles and whooping cough. It is important that you and your children are vaccinated.
• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom or changing a diaper.
• Avoid sick people.
• Clean and disinfect objects that have been touched by a sick person or by a visiting child.

One thing is key!  If your child is having problems walking, standing or develops sudden weakness in an arm or leg, contact a doctor right away.

According to the AAP, “Doctors and nurses who see patients with unexplained muscle weakness or paralysis in the arms or legs are testing them to see if they might have this sickness. They also are reporting information to their state or local health department.” The CDC will be issuing treatment guidelines in the next several weeks. The American Academy of Pediatrics is also monitoring cases of Enterovirus D68.

CDC features: Unexplained Paralysis Hospitalizes Children, 2014

AAP News: CDC continues investigation of neurologic illness: will issue guidelines, 2014

 

Flu is dangerous for certain people

08
Oct
Posted by Barbara

You’ve all heard it: get your flu shot. It is on our blog, website, and we just finished a twitter chat with the CDC, FDA, AAP, doctors, and other notable tired-toddlerorganizations. Everyone agrees that getting the flu shot is the single best form of protection from flu.

Is it really that important?

Yes. Flu can be life-threatening. Certain groups of people are at higher risk of serious complications from flu:

• Children younger than 5 years of age and especially kids younger than 2 years old.

• Children of any age with long-term health conditions including developmental disabilities. See this post to learn which high risk conditions are included.

• Children of any age with neurologic conditions. Some children with neurologic conditions may have trouble with muscle function, lung function or difficulty coughing, swallowing, or clearing fluids from their airways. These problems can make flu symptoms worse. Learn more here.

• Pregnant women. They are at high risk of having serious health complications from flu which include miscarriage, preterm labor, premature birth or having a low-birthweight baby. In some cases, flu during pregnancy can even be deadly. By getting a flu shot during pregnancy, your baby will be protected up until six months of age.

•  Adults older than age 65 (attention grandparents!).

When should you talk to your provider?

According to the CDC, you should seek advice from your provider before getting a flu shot if you are allergic to eggs, have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), have had a prior severe reaction to the flu shot or to an ingredient in the shot, or are not feeling well.

Bottom line- get your flu shot

Read my post Test your flu knowledge – true or false? to learn the truth about flu.  Knowledge is powerful.

If you have questions, speak with your health care provider or visit flu.gov .

 
Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date.

If you have comments or questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We welcome your input!

Test your flu knowledge – true or false?

07
Oct
Posted by Barbara

got my flu shotYou can catch the flu from the flu shot.

FALSE.  The flu (influenza) shot is made up of inactivated (dead) flu virus. It does not contain any live influenza virus, so you can’t get the flu from the flu shot. Some people report soreness at the injection site while others report a headache, itching, fatigue, aches or fever, but these symptoms should go away within a day or two. The flu lasts much longer.

If you got the flu shot last year, you don’t need to get it again.

FALSE. You need a flu shot every year.  Flu viruses are always changing. Each year’s flu vaccine is made to protect from viruses that are most likely to cause disease that year. A flu shot protects you from three or four different flu types.

You can’t die from flu.

FALSE.  Each year, thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized. Children with special health care needs are especially vulnerable to complications from flu.

Flu can be spread by coughing, sneezing and close contact with someone who has flu.

TRUE. Sneezing and coughing spreads the flu. It is easy to catch flu if you are close to someone who has it.

Children have the highest risk of getting flu.

TRUE.  Anyone can get flu, but the risk of getting flu is highest among children.

The best way to avoid getting flu is to stay home.

FALSE. The best protection from flu and its complications is the flu shot. It protects you from getting it and helps to decrease the spread of flu.

The flu shot is better than the flu nasal spray.

TRUE and FALSE.  Only the flu shot is recommended for pregnant woman and individuals with certain health conditions (such as asthma, etc.).  Some individuals prefer the flu nasal spray (which contains a live but weakened version of the flu), but it is not recommended for pregnant women or certain individuals. Check with your health care provider before deciding if you or your child should get the nasal spray or the shot.

Once you get the flu shot, you are protected from flu immediately.

FALSE. After getting the flu shot, it takes about two weeks to develop protection from flu. Then, the protection lasts several months to a year.

Flu can make some people much sicker than others.

TRUE. Flu can make certain people seriously sick. They include young children, pregnant women, people age 65 and older, people with certain health conditions (eg. heart, lung or kidney disease), and people with a weakened immune system. Flu can be especially dangerous for children with developmental disabilities.

So, how did you do?  Hopefully, you will see that getting a flu shot is very important and you will get yours soon.  I got mine and a purple bandage!

October is here (and so are pumpkin spiced lattes)

06
Oct
Posted by Lauren

pumpkins and autumnPumpkin pie and pumpkin spiced lattes are two of my favorite autumn indulgences. But if you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, here’s what you need to know.

Caffeine during pregnancy

The March of Dimes recommends that women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant consume no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day. This is the amount of caffeine in about one 12-ounce cup of coffee. If you are pregnant and craving a pumpkin spiced latte or beverage, you can find a variety of them. Many coffee houses display nutrition facts for their drinks. You can also request this info from their employees or visit their website (if they have one), which makes checking caffeine and sugar easier. At one coffee shop I visited, their pumpkin spiced latte had approximately 75 mg of caffeine in a 12 oz serving, which is fine for pregnant women. But it also contained 38 grams of sugar, which is a lot for one drink.

Keep in mind, during pregnancy, caffeine passes through the placenta and reaches your baby. For more information on caffeine and pregnancy, visit our website.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin and roasted pumpkin seeds are safe and nutritious to eat during pregnancy, not to mention delicious. Pumpkin seeds contain nutrients such as protein, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, iron and potassium. To learn different ways to prepare pumpkin seeds visit our blog post. Pumpkin and canned pumpkin puree are low calorie, nutritious foods. Pumpkin itself is a good source of fiber, iron, potassium and vitamin A and C. So if you decide to skip the pumpkin spiced latte, you can still enjoy other pumpkin treats.

If you have any questions about what foods or beverages are safe to consume during pregnancy, email us at askus@marchofdimes.org.

March of Dimes’ researchers hard at work

03
Oct
Posted by Sara

research_birthdefectsresearch_rdax_50Did you know that in 2014, the March of Dimes invested about $25 million in research to defeat premature birth and other health problems? Scientific research has been a main focus of the March of Dimes since it was founded 75 years ago. March of Dimes-funded researchers created the first safe and effective vaccines for epidemic polio, and we haven’t stopped trying to improve the health of all babies since then.

The March of Dimes has pioneered genetic research, promoted the B vitamin folic acid to prevent birth defects, fought for lifesaving newborn screening tests– and so much more. Here are some recent examples of our work:

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) causes birth defects in 8,000 babies each year. Pregnant women can pass the virus on to their baby before or during birth. The March of Dimes is funding research on protecting against CMV in women of childbearing age, thereby protecting babies.
  • Novel gene therapy: Scientists have long been seeking to develop gene therapy. However, they have run into a number of obstacles. A recent March of Dimes grantee is attempting to find a new way around these obstacles. He is using a novel form of gene therapy called “gene editing.” Instead of replacing the faulty gene, this new technology attempts to find and fix the mutation (change) in the gene.

In 2003, the March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Campaign to help families have full-term, healthy babies. We now have two Prematurity Research Centers –Stanford University and the Ohio Collaborative. These transdicsiplinary centers recognize that preterm birth is a complex disorder with many contributing factors. At both centers, scientists are coming together to examine the problem of preterm birth from many angles. Some highlights of ongoing research include:

  • Progesterone signaling in pregnancy maintenance and preterm birth: Progesterone is a key pregnancy hormone. It is thought to play a role in preventing contractions until term, but we don’t know how it does this. Progesterone treatment is one of the few available treatments to help prevent repeat singleton preterm delivery in women who have already had a premature birth. However, we do not know why progesterone treatment works in some women but not others. A better understanding of the exact role progesterone plays in maintaining pregnancy may lead to new ways to prevent or treat preterm labor.
  • Microbiome and preterm birth: The microbiome refers to the bacteria and other microbes that live inside our bodies. Recent genetic technologies (DNA sequencing) have identified many new organisms, most of which don’t harm our health. Scientists are analyzing changes in the microbiome in samples from term and preterm pregnancies. The goal is to find out if specific microbes or changes in the microbiome may contribute to premature birth. This information could lead to better ways to predict and prevent premature birth.

The March of Dimes expects to open two additional Prematurity Research Centers in the near future.  You can read more about our infant health, birth defects, and prematurity research on our website.  The March of Dimes continues to do all it can to give every baby a healthy start in life.

 

BRACE yourself – The ShareUnion message

01
Oct
Posted by Barbara

BRACE yourself poseBRACE yourself for your new normal. This is the acronym that keynote speaker Kevin Bracy imparted to dozens of women at the 10th annual ShareUnion in Phoenix, Arizona. ShareUnion (SU) is the annual gathering of members of Share Your Story, the online community of the March of Dimes, where parents reach out and support one another. This year’s theme was “Finding your new normal.”

The well-known motivational speaker inspired the women who face daily struggles associated with prematurity, infant loss, or raising a child with a developmental delay or disability. The speaker himself is no stranger to loss or the long term effects of prematurity. He and his wife, Jessica, have a 13 year old son who was born at 28 weeks gestation and suffers from significant challenges. Nine years ago, the Bracys lost a son who was born at just 22 weeks gestation. They also have a 21 year old daughter who is healthy. The Bracys embody the mission of the March of Dimes. Jessica has been a Share Your Story member for years, and sent her positive vibes to the group via her husband.

Bracy’s messages are universal, but they are best embraced by anyone who is faced with a constant struggle. His first message, BRACE yourself, (while crossing your arms over your chest with your hands in fists) is meant to help lift you up when you are feeling overwhelmed.

BRACE yourself stands for:

B – Be good to yourself – Be kind to yourself.
R – Regroup and refocus when you need to, especially when your life seems to be getting out of control.
A – Attitude – Always be attitude conscience. Let the “inner you be expressed by the outer you.”
C – Cause centered – Focus on the important people and things in your life.
E – Embrace change. Don’t fight it. Adapting will make your life better.

Accept, adapt and embrace your new normal. Don’t “go through” your challenges, “grow through them” Bracy says. For many SU moms, this advice resonated as they face the daily struggles of caring for a child with special needs as well as themselves and their families.

Mouth over mind – Bracy’s 2nd message

“When the mind goes negative, the mouth goes positive” Bracy explained. He recounted that the great fighter Muhammad Ali would talk out loud to himself before a fight. Ali would say he was the best and he was going to win. He spoke out loud to himself because he believed that his mind could talk his body into greatness. Bracy recommended that when your mind starts thinking of negative scenarios, quickly talk out loud, positively, and it will change the direction of your thoughts. Your mind can’t be negative if you are talking positively. By speaking out loud, you switch off your negative thoughts. Bracy then proved his point through a group exercise. Powerful stuff.

For families affected by prematurity, infant loss, disabilities or birth defects, Bracy’s messages were uplifting and inspiring. “Win the day, one day at a time” he concluded. Judging by the standing ovation he received, everyone became a winner that day.

 

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date.

If you have comments or questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We welcome your input!

Today is World Heart Day

29
Sep
Posted by Lauren

World Heart DayThis year the World Heart Federation is focusing on creating heart-healthy environments for you and your family. World Heart Day raises awareness of maintaining a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and tobacco use, and increasing physical activity.

World Heart Day is a good time to think about one of the most common birth defects – congenital heart defects. It affects 1 in 100 babies every year. These heart defects can affect the heart’s structure, how it works, or both.

Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming. Severe congenital heart defects are usually diagnosed during pregnancy or soon after birth. Less severe heart defects often aren’t diagnosed until children are older.

What can you do?

We’re not sure what causes most heart defects, but things that may play a role include diabetes and obesity (being very overweight).

If you are trying to become pregnant or you are currently pregnant:

• Do not smoke

• Do not drink alcohol

• Talk to your provider about any medicine you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicine, herbal products and supplements

• Maintain a healthy diet and exercise 30 minutes a day if you can

• Go to all your prenatal visits

After birth your baby may be tested for critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) as part of newborn screening before he leaves the hospital. All states require newborn screening, but not all require screening for CCHD. You can ask your provider if your state tests for CCHD or click here to see what your state covers.

After birth, signs and symptoms of heart defects can include:

• Fast breathing

• Gray or blue skin coloring

• Fatigue (feeling tired all of the time)

• Slow weight gain

• Swollen belly, legs or puffiness around the eyes

• Trouble breathing while feeding

• Sweating, especially while feeding

• Abnormal heart murmur (extra or abnormal sounds heard during a heartbeat)

If you see any of these signs, call your baby’s health care provider right away. For more information about congenital heart defects visit our website.

If you have questions, email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.