Staying cool in the summer heat

27
May
Posted by Sara

sunBeing pregnant during the summer can be tough. Pregnancy already causes your body temperature to be a little bit higher than normal. Adding high outside temperatures and humidity can make you feel really uncomfortable.

Here are some tips to help as the summer approaches:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Water is the best choice. Avoid drinks that are high in sugar because they can make you even more dehydrated.
  • If you are exercising outside, try to do so in the morning or evening, when it’s not as hot. Swimming is excellent option for pregnant women. But if the air quality is bad or you have asthma, try to stay indoors.
  • Your skin is more sensitive when you’re pregnant so it’s very important to use sunscreen. A broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher is the best choice. And make sure you reapply it regularly, especially after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat to protect not only your face, but ears and neck. Baseball caps don’t protect as well. And don’t forget your sunglasses! They should block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Dark colors absorb more heat.
  • Heat can make swelling worse. If you experience swelling in your legs and ankles, avoid standing for long periods of time and try to elevate your feet when sitting or lying down.
  • If you do feel overheated, apply a cool damp cloth to your forehead and back of the neck.
  • If you feel weak, dizzy, or lightheaded, or you’re overly thirsty, stop what you are doing and get inside immediately. Drink some cool water or a sports drink and lie down. If you feel worse or if you don’t feel better within an hour, call your health care provider.
  • Be aware of signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and contact your health care provider right away if you have any symptoms.

By taking the appropriate precautions to deal with the heat, you can have a fun and enjoyable summer.

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

Jaundice in preemies and full term babies

25
May
Posted by Barbara

Preemie incubator- light therapyHave you ever seen a baby in a NICU or hospital nursery wearing only a diaper, lying under bright lights? The baby is receiving light therapy, due to a condition called jaundice.

Jaundice happens when your baby’s liver isn’t working properly or isn’t fully developed. It can happen to babies born prematurely or full term. Often healthy babies have some jaundice soon after birth. When a baby has jaundice, a yellowish color usually first appears on his face. It then may spread to his chest, belly, arms, legs and white parts of his eyes.

What exactly is jaundice?

Jaundice is the build-up of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellowish substance that is formed when red blood cells break down – a natural process in our bodies. It is the liver’s job to break down the bilirubin so it can be excreted from the body. But if the liver is not working properly, it will not be able to remove the bilirubin, which then causes jaundice.

Is it common?

Newborn babies often get jaundice – in fact, about 60% of full-term babies get it. It can take a few days for a baby’s liver to become fully functional and do its job of getting rid of bilirubin. Usually, it is mild and goes away with treatment.

About 80% of preemies develop jaundice within a few days of birth. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy, are more likely than full term babies to develop jaundice because their livers aren’t fully developed or functional yet. It can take a week or more for a preemie’s liver to become fully functional. Usually, with treatment, most babies are fine. In rare cases, very high bilirubin levels can cause brain damage, so this is why treatment is usually started early.

A more severe form of jaundice can be caused by other factors such as Rh disease, liver problems, an infection or a genetic condition.

Treatments for jaundice

Phototherapy is a very safe treatment where bright lights called bililights are placed over your baby’s incubator. Your baby’s eyes are protected with eye shields. The lights help to reduce the amount of bilirubin in your baby’s blood.

If your baby does not respond to the bililights, he may need additional treatment such as intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) where your baby gets immunoglobulin (a blood protein) placed directly into his vein. Finally, another treatment includes receiving a blood exchange (which replaces your baby’s blood with fresh blood in small amounts), but this is hardly ever necessary because phototherapy and IVIg have such good results.

Know what to look for

Jaundice can occur even once your baby is home from the hospital. The best way to see jaundice is in good light, like in daylight or under fluorescent lights. Jaundice can be harder to see in babies with darker skin.

Call your baby’s health care provider right away if your baby:

  • Looks yellow, orange or greenish-yellow
  • Is hard to wake up or won’t sleep at all
  • Has trouble breastfeeding or sucking from a bottle
  • Is very fussy
  • Has too few wet or dirty diapers

Go straight to the hospital or call 911 if your baby:

  • Won’t stop crying or has a high pitched cry
  • Arches backward
  • Has a still, limp or floppy body
  • Has strange eye movements

Bottom line

The good news is that jaundice is usually nothing to worry about. So try to relax as your baby takes a bath under the lights, knowing this is temporary. See our article for more detailed info.

Did your baby need phototherapy? How did it go? Please share your story.

Got questions?  Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We’re here to help.

 

Memorial Day Weekend = picnics and parties

23
May
Posted by Lauren

Memorial Day Weekend picnicThe long weekend is right around the corner and if you’re like me, you’ve been planning a gathering in the backyard for friends and family. This is the perfect time to celebrate the start of summer! Not only is my event outside in the (hopefully) sunny weather, but a couple of my friends are also pregnant. So I want to make sure I have appropriate food options that accommodate the hot weather and my guests.

Here’s my party checklist:

  • Provide non-alcoholic drinks for pregnant guests and those thinking about becoming pregnant.
  • Provide indoor space or shaded areas to stay cool.
  • Have sunscreen available.
  • Handle food safely. Wash your hands with soap before handling or serving food. Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables before cooking or serving.
  • Salads and recipes containing mayonnaise should be kept cold and out of the sun.
  • Make sure your meats such as hamburgers and grilled chicken are cooked thoroughly to avoid salmonella poisoning.
  • Read up on listeriosis, a kind of food poisoning that is harmful to pregnant women to ensure the food you serve is safe for all to enjoy.

Now that your menu is properly prepared, you’ll be able to comfortably enjoy time with your guests.

Questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org

 

Help to bring postpartum depression out of the shadows

20
May
Posted by Sara

Contemplative womanDid you know that 1 in 7 mothers experience postpartum depression but only 15% receive care? The March of Dimes is working to urge Congress to pass a bill that will bring postpartum depression out of the shadows to ensure that mothers get the proper mental health care they need. This very important legislation will make it easier for women to get the screening and treatment they need for postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is the most common health problem for new mothers. In fact, between 9-16% of moms experience PPD in the first year after the birth of their baby.

We’re not sure what causes PPD but it can happen to any woman after she’s given birth. It’s possible that PPD may be due to changing hormone levels after pregnancy. Also, PPD can happen any time after childbirth. But it most often starts within 1 to 3 weeks of having a baby.

While we don’t know the exact cause of PPD, we do know that there are some things that may make you more likely than other women to have PPD:

  • You’re younger than 20.
  • You’ve had PPD, major depression or other mood disorders in the past. You may have been treated for these conditions. Or you may have had signs of them, but never saw a health care provider for treatment.
  • You have a family history of depression. This means that one or more people in your family has had depression.
  • You’ve recently had stressful events in your life.

If you think you may have PPD, see a health care provider right away. PPD is a medical condition that needs treatment to get better. The vast majority (90%) of mothers with PPD can be treated successfully. But first, PPD needs to be diagnosed. Getting treatment early can help both you and your baby.

Please contact your members of Congress and ask them to support legislation to increase access to PPD screening and ensure all affected women get the treatment they need. Help us to help moms suffering in silence.

Pragmatics – helping your child learn the rules of social language

18
May
Posted by Barbara

kids-playing-with-a-ballIf you have a child with a developmental or speech delay, you may have heard the term “pragmatics.” It refers to the use of language in a social setting – with friends, at school, and at home. Often, it is not enough that a child learns grammar and vocabulary in order to communicate. He also needs to understand how these words come together in social language.

A child struggling with pragmatics may use few words to express himself or seem disorganized in the way he speaks. He may have a hard time taking turns in conversation, or make inappropriate comments. As he gets older, he may be able to learn to read (sound out and pronounce words), but may not understand what he is reading. Usually a difficulty with pragmatics is not diagnosed until a child is at least four or five years old, and sometimes it is not identified until years later.

The following information is from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association:

Pragmatics involve three major communication skills

Using language for different purposes, such as

  • greeting (e.g., hello, goodbye)
  • informing (e.g., I’m going to get a cookie)
  • demanding (e.g., Give me a cookie)
  • promising (e.g., I’m going to get you a cookie)
  • requesting (e.g., I would like a cookie, please)

Changing language according to the needs of a listener or situation, such as

  • talking differently to a baby than to an adult
  • giving background information to an unfamiliar listener
  • speaking differently in a classroom than on a playground

Following rules for conversations and storytelling, such as

  • taking turns in conversation
  • introducing topics of conversation
  • staying on topic
  • rephrasing when misunderstood
  • how to use verbal and nonverbal signals
  • how close to stand to someone when speaking
  • how to use facial expressions and eye contact

If you are concerned about your child’s use of language, speak with his health care provider. It may be beneficial to have a specialist, such as a speech and language pathologist, test your child and provide appropriate therapy. If your child is three years old or older, he may qualify for services through your local school district. See this post to learn how to ask for a free evaluation.

To help your child use language appropriately in social settings, see the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Pragmatic Language Tips.

To learn more about social communication disorders, see this article by Understood.

Have questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

 

How lupus can affect your pregnancy

16
May
Posted by Lauren

Lupus, also called systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE is an autoimmune disorder that can cause health problems during pregnancy.

Autoimmune disorders are health conditions that happen when antibodies (cells in the body that fight off infections) attack healthy tissue just about anywhere in the body by mistake. Most of the people who develop lupus are women and most of these women develop the condition between the ages of 15 and 44.

During pregnancy, lupus can increase the risk of these problems:

With the right care, most women who do not have active lupus symptoms, can have successful pregnancies.

After birth most babies of mothers with lupus are healthy. Some babies, however, may face health risks such as those associated with premature birth and neonatal lupus. Neonatal lupus, which affects 3% of babies, is a temporary form of lupus that causes a rash and blood problems, but usually clears up by 6 months of age. But, up to half of these babies have a heart problem called heart block which causes a slow heartbeat. Heart block is often permanent and these babies may need a pacemaker to help make their heart beat regularly. (ped cardiologist?)

If you have lupus or think you have lupus symptoms, speak with your health care provider. She will closely monitor you and provide you with the care and treatment you need to have a healthy pregnancy.

Have questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

How my baby and I survived preeclampsia

13
May
Posted by Barbara

For Preeclampsia Awareness Month, we are grateful to one mom for sharing her story with us.

In my fight against preeclampsia, I advocated for myself and my baby and ended up saving both of our lives.

It started at about 22 weeks of pregnancy, when I had trouble with my eyes. I started to step down onto an escalator and realized I couldn’t see where one step stopped and the next started. My doctor reassured me that eye changes were normal.

By 24 weeks, more symptoms popped up. I was very itchy, my ankles were swollen and I had trouble breathing when reclining. The nurse told me that was normal.

By 25 weeks, the symptoms increased. I never had the urge to urinate and when I did, it was orangish brown. My ankles were so swollen that I had to lift up the skin to slide on a pair of shoes that were two sizes too big.

I called the doctor’s office and was told that my appointment was in 9 days and they would see me then. I decided to check my blood pressure on my own so I drove to a local supermarket and checked my blood pressure at the pharmacy. It was 180/120. I was shocked! I took it again and got the same results.

Feeling concerned, I drove to the doctor’s office. Within an hour, I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia (my protein came back at +5) and I was on my way to the hospital for bedrest. I had a seizure within the hour of being admitted in the hospital when my blood pressure reached 240/180.

Two days later, after my 24 hour urine test came back at +19 and I was showing signs of HELLP Syndrome, I was put on mag sulfate and transferred to a new hospital with a high risk OB and an OB-ICU. More importantly, it was located next door to a hospital with a Level 4 NICU.

Preemie baby due to preeclampsiaUnfortunately, my condition worsened that night and by the next evening I was in liver and kidney failure. An emergency C-section was ordered and my daughter was born a few hours later at just 25 weeks and 5 days. She weighed 1lb, 10 oz and was 13” long.

She went on to spend 90 days in the NICU. She had a PDA ligation, a feeding tube and was vented for a month. She came home on oxygen and with the feeding tube but both were removed within a month of coming home. She is now 14 years old, an 8th grade honors student and a competitive gymnast. She is also an only child.

As for me, I spent another 3 weeks on blood pressure medicine. Ten years later, I was diagnosed with diabetes and required 3 stents in my heart. It was also found that my heart had sustained damage during my pregnancy and was severely underperforming. I went through cardiac rehab and will have to be followed by a cardiologist for the rest of my life. Research shows that women who develop preeclampsia have a much greater risk of heart disease and stroke.

If I have one message to share with all pregnant women, it would be to trust your instincts. If you don’t feel right – go get checked. In my case, it saved both my life and my child’s.

Are you a preeclampsia survivor? We hope you’ll share your story below, to help other moms and babies.

Learn more about the life-long effects of preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome.

Preemies as adults – are their health problems due to prematurity?

11
May
Posted by Barbara

NICU baby looking at mom resized“I was born prematurely. Can my eye/heart/learning problems be due to my premature birth?” This is a common type of question we receive at the March of Dimes.

Babies born earlier than 37 weeks may have more health issues than babies born full term. Prematurity can cause problems for babies all throughout their lives. In fact, the earlier a baby is born, the more likely he is to have health problems. Some problems are obvious during infancy or childhood. But, other problems may not present themselves until adulthood.

While it may be difficult to know if a health problem an adult is experiencing is related to prematurity, we do know that prematurity can cause long-term health problems. An adult struggling with a disorder or a worsening condition should seek medical attention in the event that treatment or therapy may help.

Health problems due to premature birth

Premature birth can lead to developmental disabilities, (DDs)  which include physical, learning, language or behavioral challenges. These disabilities can range from mild to severe. Roughly 1 in 6 kids in the U.S. has a developmental disability.

DDs are usually diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, when a child is still developing. However, the disabilities can be lifelong. Although individuals may learn how to compensate for disabilities through therapy or special schooling, adults with DDs may continue to struggle for years.

DDs also include hearing loss, vision impairment, ADHD, autism, neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy, and many other medical issues.

Prematurity can lead to dental problems, breathing problems such as asthma, infections such as pneumonia, and intestinal disorders. For example, some babies who had NEC may have scarring which can cause the intestine to become blocked later in life.

Are there doctors who specialize in treating adults who were preemies?

There are specialists for nearly every body part or disorder, but at this time there aren’t specialists who focus specifically on adults who were born prematurely. However, it’s possible to receive treatment for specific conditions from an appropriate medical specialist. Ask your primary care provider for a referral.

Although we don’t always know whether a health condition is due to being born early, it is still important to seek treatment by a medical professional. Make sure you tell your doctors you were born prematurely.

Bottom line

If you have a preemie, getting help as early as possible (during infancy, early childhood and adolescence) is extremely important. Ask your baby’s health care provider for recommendations. Early intervention services may help your baby catch up, while special education and related services can help him get the assistance he needs in school to succeed. Getting an early start with specialists who treat asthma, hearing loss and other conditions can help to minimize long term complications.

Questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Have you made your health a priority yet?

09
May
Posted by Lauren

nurse measuring blood pressureThis week is National Women’s Health Week – a time to make your own health a priority.  As mothers, women often put their families’ needs first. But remember, it’s difficult to take care of others if you are not feeling well yourself.

If you’re like me, work, responsibilities and obligations often get in the way of my health goals. So in honor of this week, I have scheduled a well-woman’s checkup with my health care provider. Getting that appointment on the calendar (in pen!) will enable me to keep it there regardless of the other errands I know I have to run.  Even if you feel healthy now, at your well-woman’s exam you can talk to your provider about ways to stay healthy in the future.

Here are some tips to help put your health on the priority list:

  • Schedule a well-women’s visit with your provider. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the well-woman visit is considered a preventive service and is covered by most health plans with no cost to you.
  • Don’t have health insurance? Read our article for info on how to get started.
  • Get active and eat well. Keep those ice cream dates to a minimum.
  • Mental health is just as important as physical health. Get enough sleep and manage your stress.
  • If you smoke, now is the time to quit.

Click on your age to take steps for better health. Follow #NWHW on Twitter for more tips.

Give a shout-out to your nurse champion

06
May
Posted by Barbara

Nurse examines preemie in isolette Caring hands.

Warm smiles.

Tender support.

Wise words.

Exceptional skills.

In NICUs, labor and delivery units, prenatal care clinics, doctor’s offices and everywhere in between, nurses provide expert care. They ease pain, provide comfort and teach us how to have healthy pregnancies and babies.

Let’s face it. Nurses rock!

To kick off National Nurses Week, May 6 – 12, March of Dimes would like to invite you to give a shout-out to the nurse who was a champion for you or your baby.

  • How did your nurse midwife help you in your labor and delivery?
  • Did your baby have a NICU nurse that touched your life?
  • Do you have a nurse you want to honor or a story you’d like to share?

We at March of Dimes are taking this week to say thank you to all the nurses who go the extra mile. Tell us why you appreciate the nurse in your life.