Zika Care Connect website offers access to specialists

24
Apr
Posted by Barbara

Mom & BabyA new website has been created specifically to help families affected by the Zika virus. It’s called Zika Care Connect (ZCC).

ZCC offers a network of specialized healthcare providers who can care for families potentially affected by the Zika virus.

Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with March of Dimes, the ZCC features resources for families as well as healthcare providers.

Through the ZCC, parents and providers can locate and find specialists to provide the unique care a pregnant woman or a baby with Zika needs.

ZCC helps pregnant women and parents of Zika affected babies (patients):

  • find services and providers in their location who take their insurance and speak their language;
  • find resource tools such as fact sheets and Zika checklists;
  • get answers to questions through a HelpLine as well as the FAQ page.

All ZCC network healthcare providers can:

  • stay up to date on the most recent clinical guidance issued by the CDC in order to manage and care for patients with the Zika virus;
  • receive patient resource tools including downloadable materials;
  • make and receive referrals to/from other providers within the ZCC network.

Why is the ZCC important to babies affected by Zika?

It is important that babies born to a mother who tested positive for Zika be evaluated thoroughly after birth, and regularly as they grow. Some babies do not show signs of being infected with the virus at birth, but they may have developmental problems as they get older. This is why babies need to be continuously monitored. If they need specialty care, it is important that affected babies receive help as soon as possible.

If a baby is born with a Zika-related birth defect, developmental delay or disability, parents may feel overwhelmed by their baby’s complex medical needs. They will require support and guidance as their baby receives medical care from multiple providers. Healthcare providers need to work closely with one another and the family, to monitor the baby’s development and coordinate care.

The ZCC can help parents and specialists by providing resources and a network of healthcare providers, all in one place.

Check out the Zika Care Connect website:  www.zikacareconnect.org.

Call the ZCC Helpline 1-844-677-0447 (toll-free) to get answers to questions and get referrals to healthcare providers.

With ZCC, pregnant women and families may now get the medical help and support they need.

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

Can sleep affect your child with special needs? Or you?

21
Apr
Posted by Barbara

dad-and-daughter-asleep

Quick answer…YES. Sleep is more than, well, sleep. It is restorative and essential to a healthy life. It is as important as water, food and air. For a child with special needs, it can make the difference between an “okay day” and a horrible one.

What does sleep do for your child?

A study in Pediatrics revealed that “Children with non-regular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties…Having regular bedtimes during early childhood is an important influence on children’s behavior.”

Non-regular bedtimes can disrupt your child’s behavior because it interferes with a body’s circadian rhythms (sleep cycle). It may also result in sleep deprivation, which may then negatively affect the part of the brain responsible for regulating behaviors. But, when children with non-regular bedtimes changed to regular bedtimes, parents reported positive changes in their behaviors. (Yay!)

Sleep also helps a person…

• get to and maintain a healthy weight

• stay healthy (you get sick less frequently)

• grow (if you are a baby, child or teen)

• lower your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes

• boost your mood

• think clearly, be more focused, and sharp

All of these benefits will allow your child to feel happier, do better at school, avoid injuries and be at his best – and that includes being better behaved.

For adults, the benefits are the same, making you more efficient at work, more energetic, less likely to make mistakes, and able to maintain a positive outlook. It also helps you to maintain patience – something needed when you are dealing with babies, children or teenagers, with or without special needs.

How much sleep do you really need?

• newborns need 16 -18 hours of sleep each day

• preschoolers need 11-12 hours per day

• school-aged kids need at least 10 hours

• teens need at least 9 hours of sleep each night

• adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep each night (some people need more, some less).

Note the words “at least,” as there are many kids who need much more sleep in order to function properly, depending on their lifestyle and medical condition.

What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?tired-family-in-car3

Children and teens need sleep to help their bodies grow. Cells regenerate at night during sleep. By not getting enough sleep, the hormone balance in a child will be thrown off. Without adequate sleep, a child’s immune system will have a harder time fighting off germs and diseases.

If you don’t get enough sleep, your “sleep debt” will increase to a point when you will need to make up for the lost sleep. If you do not get the sleep you need, your body won’t operate as it should. Your judgment and reaction times will be negatively affected. This can be dangerous for adults, especially if you are caring for an infant or child, or you are driving a car. Lack of sleep and driving is risky – it is as dangerous a combination as drinking alcohol and driving!

Where can you get more info?

For information on how to get a restful night’s sleep, sleep tips for children and adults, and when to see a doctor regarding possible sleep problems, see this handy guide.

If you are pregnant, you may have trouble finding a comfortable sleep position. Try sleeping on your left side with a pillow between your legs. Here are other tips.

Bottom line

Sleep is not a luxury; it is a necessity. By keeping a regular bedtime, your child’s health and behaviors may improve. Think of sleep as an essential nutrient (like a vitamin). Then, you may be able to make sleep one of the priorities in your life.

If you and your little one get the sleep you need, you will see and feel a positive difference.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

For additional information on parenting a child with special needs, see our series on Delays and Disabilities.

Do you know the signs of preterm labor?

19
Apr
Posted by Sara

If you’re pregnant, it’s important to know the signs of preterm labor and what to do if you experience any symptoms. Watch our video with Dr. Siobhan Dolan to learn more:

You can get more information about preterm labor and premature birth on our website.

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

Sleep soundly knowing your baby is sleeping safely

17
Apr
Posted by Lauren

back to sleepNewborns sleep a lot, about 16 hours a day. It’s safe to say that sleeping is a big part of your baby’s life. So as your baby drifts off, dreaming of your cuddles, be sure she’s sleeping safely. Safe sleep can help protect your baby from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

Here are some tips:

  • Back to sleep: always put your baby to sleep on her back on a flat surface.
  • Share a room with your baby but don’t share a bed. Make sure your baby has her own crib or bassinet to sleep in.
  • Besides your baby, the bassinet or crib should be empty. Crib bumpers, loose bedding, toys and stuffed animals can be dangerous and lead to suffocation.
  • After you and your baby have established breastfeeding (around 4 weeks) give your baby a pacifier for naps and at bedtime. Pacifiers may help protect against SIDS. If your baby doesn’t want a pacifier, don’t force it. If the pacifier falls out while your baby is sleeping, that’s OK.
  • Thinking of a cardiorespiratory monitor? These monitors track a baby’s heart rate and breathing, and in rare cases a baby may need this kind of monitor for medical problems. But there is no evidence these monitors help reduce the risk of SIDS in healthy babies.
  • Dress your baby in light sleep clothes. A blanket sleeper, a kind of clothing just for sleeping, can help keep your baby warm without covering his face or head. If your baby is sweating or her chest feels hot, she may be overheated.

If you are worried about your baby’s sleep, talk to her health care provider.

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

Health disparities in premature birth

14
Apr
Posted by Sara

In the United States, rates of preterm birth, low birthweight, and infant mortality are higher for black, non-Hispanic infants than for white, non-Hispanic infants. These differences, or disparities, Baby w pacifierbetween races and/or ethnicities have a great impact on the health and well-being of families.

What we know

  • Premature birth is when a baby is born too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • While the overall preterm birth rate in 2013 was 11.4%, the rate was higher among non-Hispanic black infants (16.3%) compared to non-Hispanic white infants (10.2%). This means that the preterm birth rate for black infants was 60% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white infants.
  • 11.3% of Hispanic infants were born prematurely. Hispanic women account for about 1 out of every 4 premature births in the US (23.2%). The preterm birth rate among Hispanic women is falling more slowly than the rate in the non-Hispanic white population and the non-Hispanic black population.
  • The number of black infants born at a low birthweight (a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) was almost twice that of white infants and Hispanic infants.
  • The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. The rates of infant mortality are higher for babies born before 37 weeks and at a low birthweight.
  • A recent study published by the CDC, showed that from 2005 to 2014, infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives. But babies born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

We don’t know why race plays a role in premature birth.

Even when researchers compare women of different races and ethnicities and remove any known risk factors in their analysis (such as smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure), the disparities in the rate of premature births still exist.

Researchers at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative are trying to better understand health disparities. Dr. Irina Buhimschi has found that there is a population of Somali women in the US with a low rate of premature birth—as low as or lower than white women. Dr. Buhumschi and her team are trying to determine what makes this population different. “We believe a variety of genetic, environmental and social factors are involved in preterm birth. From stress and resilience, to diet and lifestyle, to vaginal and gut bacteria, we will comprehensively study why Somali-American women have lower rates of preterm birth.” Dr. Buhimschi then hopes to develop a plan that can help all populations reduce their chances of premature birth.

You can read more about Dr. Buhimschi’s research here.

The March of Dimes supports research, community programs, and advocacy policies that try to reduce health disparities and make sure that all babies have a healthy start in life.

New research on weight and pregnancy

12
Apr
Posted by Lauren

scaleBeing overweight during pregnancy can cause complications for you and your baby. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have pregnancy problems such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, c-section and even a miscarriage or stillbirth. If you’re overweight or obese during pregnancy your baby is more likely to be born prematurely, have a birth defect, or have heart disease, diabetes or obesity later in life.

More and more research is being done on how your weight can affect your pregnancy. In a recent study, researchers looked at information on more than one million children born to Swedish women who were followed for nearly eight years. They found that the overall risk of cerebral palsy (a birth defect) was nearly double in babies born to women with severe obesity. CP is a group of conditions that affects the parts of the brain that control muscles and movement.

The study authors say that obesity does not cause CP, but that there is an association between obesity in pregnancy and cerebral palsy risk. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy and maintaining healthy habits throughout your pregnancy can help reduce this risk.

“There continues to be evidence of many different repercussions and outcomes associated with being overweight or obese,” said Dr. Siobhan Dolan, medical advisor at the March of Dimes. “All the data is pointing to the same issue — that it’s good to get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and to gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy,” she said.

What can you do?

If you are currently pregnant, now is not the time to lose weight. But there are things you can do to be as healthy as possible.

Here are some tips:

  • Get early and regular prenatal care. Go to every checkup, even if you are feeling fine.
  • Have a chat with your health care provider about gaining weight during your pregnancy. Every woman and every pregnancy is different – that’s why it’s important to talk to your provider about how much weight gain is right for you.
  • Eat healthy foods and do something active every day. Even getting up from your desk every hour at work and walking around the office can be helpful.

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

Developmental screenings are helpful for early diagnoses

10
Apr
Posted by Barbara

doctor-and-babyBefore your baby leaves the hospital, he receives a series of tests called newborn screening. These tests look for serious but rare conditions, including blood, hearing and heart disorders. If a problem is discovered through newborn screening, your baby may receive treatment and often avoid a more serious health problem. Early diagnosis is critical in detecting certain medical conditions.

Other screenings occur after your baby is home from the hospital

Between birth and age 3, your baby goes through incredible changes. He is growing and developing every day. To be sure that your baby is “on track,” your baby’s healthcare provider will check his developmental milestones at each well-baby visit.

These milestones are the major achievements in your child’s life. They include smiling, babbling, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, reaching grabbing, talking, walking and other accomplishments. Parents can check milestones, too. Here is a list of behaviors to look for at specific ages.

If either you or your baby’s provider are concerned that your baby is not progressing well, you can request a developmental screening. It is free as part of the federally funded early intervention program. Similar to newborn screening, this screening helps to identify potential health or developmental problems early.

If your child qualifies, the early intervention program may include services such as speech therapy, physical or occupational therapy, or even a special preschool setting. Early intervention can be enormously helpful in helping your child improve. And, the sooner you begin intervention, the sooner your baby can reach his full potential.

One example of a diagnosis where early intervention is particularly important is Autism. April is autism awareness month, a time to remember that this developmental disorder affects 1 in 68 children in the U.S. Officially called autism spectrum disorder or ASD, it is a developmental disability that can cause social, communication and behavior challenges – from mild to severe. This is why it is referred to as a “spectrum” disorder.

ASD can be difficult to diagnose because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to give a definite answer as to whether your child has it or not. Usually, children with ASD start showing signs or symptoms of the disorder in their toddler or preschool years, and some babies show signs in their first year of life. For this reason, taking your child for regular visits with his healthcare provider is particularly important so that his development can be monitored. If your child needs early intervention services, getting it early is key in helping him progress.

Bottom line

There is a wide range of “typical development” for children. But, if you are concerned about your child’s progress or feel he is delayed in reaching his milestones, talk to his healthcare provider sooner rather than later.

You can find more information in our series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

Remember – don’t delay with delays.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Spring is here and so are ticks

07
Apr
Posted by Lauren

pregnant women walkingI remember the anxiety I felt after discovering a tick attached to my skin. I was reaching my hands behind my head and found a tick at the top of my neck where my hairline begins. The tick had already bitten me and was enlarged with blood. I never even felt the bite. That’s the tricky part about ticks, they crawl onto you and are so small they may be hard to see and nearly impossible to feel.

Why are these little creatures so dangerous?

Ticks can spread Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by an infected black-legged tick (also called a deer tick). This type of tick usually lives in wooded areas, like forests, or in places with high grass and bushes. A tick with Lyme disease can spread Lyme by biting you and has to be on your body for about 2 days before you can get infected.

If you get infected with Lyme disease during pregnancy, it may cause complications, including:

  • An infection in the placenta. The placenta grows in your uterus (womb) and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
  • Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Congenital heart defects. These are heart conditions that are present at birth. They can affect the heart’s shape or how it works, or both.
  • Urinary tract defects. The urinary tract is the system of organs (like the kidneys and bladder) that helps your body get rid of waste and extra fluids. Urinary tract defects can cause pain, urinary tract infections, kidney damage and kidney failure.
  • Problems with your baby’s blood, like hyperbilirubinemia, which is when your baby’s blood has too much bilirubin in it. Bilirubin is a yellow substance that forms as red blood cells break down. Too much bilirubin can cause your baby to have jaundice. This is when your baby’s skin and the white parts of his eyes look yellow because his liver isn’t fully developed or working properly.

Untreated Lyme disease also may cause your baby to have a rash after he’s born.

How do you know if you have Lyme disease?

Early signs may include: headache, fever and chills, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, swollen lymph nodes  (glands throughout the body that help fight infection), and/or a rash called erythema migraines (also called EM). This rash looks like a bull’s eye around where the tick bit you.

Later signs may include: being short of breath, dizziness, stiff neck, severe headache, EM rash, joint pain and swelling, and/or facial paralysis (when you can’t feel or move parts of your face.)

If you have any signs or symptoms of Lyme disease, or you find a tick attached to your skin, call your health care provider. You can get a blood test to see if you have Lyme disease. Antibiotics are available and most women who get treatment during pregnancy have healthy babies.

Prevent Lyme disease by protecting yourself from tick bites

  • Use an EPA registered insect repellant.
  • Shower and check your body and clothes for ticks after being outside.
  • If you find a tick on you, remove it with tweezers – be sure to grab the tick near its head. Slowly pull the tick up and off your skin and be sure not to squeeze or crush the tick. Check with your healthcare provider or local Department of Health as to whether you should bring it in to be examined and tested for Lyme disease.  If not, flush the tick down the toilet. After removing the tick, clean the area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

For more information about Lyme disease and pregnancy, see our article.  

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

The latest Zika news: pregnant women still need to take precautions

05
Apr
Posted by Barbara

microcephalyJust when you may have thought that Zika was a thing of the past, a new report provides a wake-up call.

Here are the facts:

  • Last year in the United States, 1,300 pregnant women were infected with the Zika virus.
  • The virus was reported in pregnant women in 44 states; most of these women became infected as a result of travel to an area with Zika.
  • Of women with confirmed Zika evidence during pregnancy, 1 in 10 gave birth to a baby with birth defects.
  • Confirmed infections in the first trimester posed the highest risk – with about 15% of the babies having Zika-related birth defects.
  • Only 1 in 4 babies with possible congenital Zika syndrome were reported to have received brain imaging after birth.

What we know

If a pregnant woman becomes infected with Zika, the virus can pass to her baby.

Zika virus during pregnancy can cause damage to the baby’s brain, microcephaly (smaller than expected head) and congenital Zika syndrome, which includes eye defects, hearing loss, and limb defects.

Zika virus during pregnancy has also been linked to miscarriage and stillbirth.

What we don’t know

A very troubling aspect of this virus is that we don’t know the long-term effects it has on babies.

Dr. Siobhan Dolan, OB/GYN and medical advisor to the March of Dimes says “We don’t yet know the full range of disabilities in babies infected with Zika virus. Even babies who don’t have obvious signs of birth defects still may be affected.”

Care for babies

The report emphasizes that babies born to moms who have laboratory evidence of Zika virus during pregnancy will need additional medical monitoring and care after they are born. They should receive a comprehensive newborn physical exam, hearing screen, and brain imaging. Follow-up care with specialists is extremely important, as the full extent of congenital Zika virus on babies is not known.

Dr. Dolan emphasizes “Babies should receive brain imaging and other testing after birth to make a correct diagnosis, and to help us understand how these babies grow and develop.”

If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, how can you protect yourself and your developing baby from the Zika virus?

Avoid Zika exposure.

The most common way Zika spreads is through mosquito bites, but it can also spread through unprotected sex, blood transfusions or lab exposure.

  • Do not travel to a Zika-affected area unless you absolutely have to. If you must travel, talk to your health care provider first, and take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Don’t have sex with a partner who may be infected with the virus or has recently travelled to a Zika-affected area.
  • If you live in an area where Zika is present, take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Bottom line

Prevent infection to protect your baby.

Dr. Dolan puts it in perspective: “Protect yourself from Zika before and during pregnancy, and that includes avoiding travel to affected areas. But remember — it’s not forever. Yes, you may miss a family event now, while you’re pregnant. But after the baby is born, in a few months, you’ll be able to travel safely and with peace of mind.”

Our website has detailed information on Zika and pregnancy, microcephaly and congenital Zika syndrome.

Stay tuned to learn about the Zika Care Connect website coming soon.

Have Questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Pregnant? Drinking alcohol is not worth the risk to your baby

04
Apr
Posted by Sara

alcoholThere is NO safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy and there is NO safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. 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.

When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to your baby. According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS), “When you drink alcohol, so does your developing baby. Any amount of alcohol, even the alcohol in one glass of wine, passes through the placenta from the mother to the growing baby. Developing babies lack the ability to process or metabolize alcohol through the liver or other organs.”

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 defects, hearing 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.

The good news is that FASD is entirely preventable. If you stop drinking alcohol before and during pregnancy, you can prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and other conditions caused by alcohol.

Remember, there is no safe amount, no safe time, and no safe alcohol during pregnancy. If you need help to stop drinking, talk to your health care provider. And if you are looking for some fun, non-alcoholic alternatives, check these out.

Questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.