Posts Tagged ‘birth defects’

September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month

Monday, September 10th, 2018

September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month. It’s a time for us to bring attention to the fact that, sadly, babies die during infancy. And it’s a time to talk about why we must take action to help fix this problem.

Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his first birthday. According to the CDC, in 2016 the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. The rate for Non-Hispanic black was much higher at 11.4 per 1,000 live births.

These facts are alarming. March of Dimes is working hard in advocacy, education and research to level the playing field so all moms and babies are healthy.

What are the leading causes of infant mortality in the U.S.? 

  1. Birth defects
  2. Premature birth and low birthweight
  3. Sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS)
  4. Pregnancy complications
  5. Injuries (such as suffocation)

What can you do?

Not all causes of infant mortality can be prevented. But here’s what you can do to help keep your baby healthy and reduce the risk of infant death:

Before pregnancy

  • Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects. Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects and cleft lip and palate in your baby.
  • Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. At this checkup, your provider looks for health conditions that may affect your pregnancy and the health of your baby. Your provider can help you get treated for these conditions to help your baby be born healthy.
  • Get to a healthy weight. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help prevent complications during pregnancy. Eat healthy foods and do something active every day.

During pregnancy

  • Get early and regular prenatal care. Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. This lets your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy. She also can spot and treat any problems that you may have during pregnancy.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful drugs. Alcohol, drugs and chemicals from smoke can pass directly through the umbilical cord to your baby. This can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage, birth defects and premature birth.

After your baby’s birth

  • Make sure your baby sleeps safely. Put your baby to sleep on her back on a flat, firm surface (like a crib mattress). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you and your baby sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed, for the first year of your baby’s life, but at least for the first 6 months.
  • Wait at least 18 months after having a baby before getting pregnant again. Getting pregnant again before 18 months can increase the chance in your next pregnancy of premature birth and low birthweight. Waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies allows your body time to fully recover from your last pregnancy before it’s ready for your next pregnancy.

Take action today

You can help us lead the fight for the health of all moms and babies. Join March of Dimes’ advocacy network and take action now to support legislation that can help protect moms and babies.

Visit marchofdimes.org and learn more about the steps you can take to be as healthy as possible before and during pregnancy.

Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix

Friday, September 7th, 2018

If you’re pregnant, trying to get pregnant or think you may be pregnant, don’t drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby. If a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in her blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to her baby.

According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (also called 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 alcohol during pregnancy increases your baby’s chances of:

  • Premature birth. This is when your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies may have serious health problems at birth and later in life.
  • Brain damage and problems with growth and development.
  • Birth defects, like heart defectshearing problems or vision problems.
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (also called FASDs). Children with FASDs may have a range of problems, including intellectual and developmental disabilities. They also may have problems or delays in physical development. FASDs usually last a lifetime. If you don’t drink alcohol, it’s completely preventable.
  • Low birthweight (also called LBW). This is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Having low birthweight can cause serious health problems for some babies.
  • Miscarriage. This is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

If you stop drinking alcohol before and during pregnancy, you can help prevent these serious conditions.

What can you do?

Don’t drink alcohol if you’re pregnant or can get pregnant. This may be hard because alcohol is often part of social activities, like weddings, birthday parties or sports events. You may be used to having a glass of wine with dinner or at the end of a busy day.

Here are some tips to help you avoid alcohol during pregnancy:

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

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

 

 

Get vaccinated before pregnancy

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

If you’re planning a pregnancy, make sure that you are up-to-date on all of your vaccinations. Vaccinations contain medicine that makes you immune to certain diseases. If you’re immune, you can’t get the disease. You can get vaccinations to prevent certain infections, like chickenpox and rubella (also called German measles), that can harm you and your baby during pregnancy.

Why do adults need vaccinations?

You probably got vaccinations as a child, but they don’t all protect you your whole life. Over time, some vaccinations stop working. So you may need what’s called a booster shot as an adult. And there may be new vaccinations that weren’t available when you were young.

What vaccinations do you need before pregnancy?

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant. At your checkup, ask your provider if you need any vaccinations and how long to wait after getting them to try to get pregnant.

Your provider may recommend these vaccinations before you get pregnant:

  • Flu (also called influenza). 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 get the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications, such as pneumonia.
  • HPV (stands for human papillomavirus). This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts and cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also called CDC) recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine. You can’t get the HPV vaccine during pregnancy, so if you need it, get it before you get pregnant.
  • MMR (stands for measles, mumps and rubella). This vaccine protects you against the measles, mumps and rubella. Wait 4 weeks after you get an MMR vaccination before you get pregnant.
  • Varicella (also called chickenpox). 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. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and you never had the chickenpox or the vaccine, tell your provider. Wait 1 month after you get this vaccination to get pregnant.

Your provider may recommend other vaccinations before pregnancy to protect you against certain diseases, depending on your risk. These include:

  • Pneumonia. This is an infection in one or both lungs.
  • Meningitis. This is an infection that causes swelling in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Hepatitis A and B. These are liver infections caused by the hepatitis A and B viruses.
  • Haemophilus Influenzae Type b (also called Hib). This is a serious disease caused by bacteria. It can cause meningitis, pneumonia, other serious infections and death.
  • Tdap (stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). Pertussis also is called whooping cough. In some cases, providers recommend a Td vaccination, which protects against tetanus and diphtheria but not pertussis. Ask your provider what’s best for you.

Learn more about vaccinations before and during pregnancy at: marchofdimes.org

Traveling this summer? Stay safe from Zika

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Summer is travel season for many of us. Before your trip, make sure you’re protected from Zika. The Zika virus is still spreading in certain areas (called Zika-affected areas) around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an interactive world map to show you areas with risk of Zika.  If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, don’t travel to a Zika-affected area unless it’s absolutely necessary.

If you get infected with Zika during pregnancy, you can pass it to your baby. Zika infection during pregnancy causes a birth defect called microcephaly and other brain and health problems. You can get infected with the Zika virus through body fluids, like blood and semen, and through mosquito bites.

If you’re planning to travel to a Zika-affected area, talk to your health care provider before you go about how to protect yourself from Zika. Here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t have sex. If you do have sex, use a barrier method of birth control (like a condom or dental dam) every time.
  • Protect yourself from mosquitoes. Here’s how:
    • Use an insect repellant, like bug spray or lotion, that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Use one with one or more of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, IR3535, and 2-undecanone. These ingredients are safe to use during pregnancy.
  • Stay in places that have air conditioning or screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. If you’re in a Zika-affected area and sleeping outside or in a room that doesn’t have screens on doors and windows, sleep under a mosquito net.
    • Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes and socks.

If you’ve been in a Zika-affected area, use bug spray or lotion for 3 weeks after you get back to help prevent Zika from spreading to others.

For more information:

 

World Birth Defects Day 2018

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Every year, an estimated 8 million babies around the world are born with a serious birth defects. In the United States, that’s about 1 in 33 babies. Birth defects are common, costly, and critical. All communities are affected by birth defects. That is why, on March 3, March of Dimes is joining more than 100 organizations from around the world to observe the fourth annual World Birth Defects Day.

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body functions. Birth defects are a major cause of child mortality, and those who survive, may face a lifetime of disability.

There are thousands of different birth defects. The most common and severe birth defects are heart defects, neural tube defects and Down syndrome. We don’t know all the reasons why birth defects occur. Some may be caused by the genes you inherit from your parents. Others may be caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to harmful chemicals. Some may be due to a combination of genes and the environment. In most cases, the causes are unknown.

While not all birth defects can be prevented, there are steps you can take to help you have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. One of those steps is to take a vitamin supplement with 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid in it every day. Taking folic acid before and during the early weeks of pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects. Even if you’re not trying to get pregnant soon, take a vitamin supplement with folic acid. Take a look at the video at the top of the page to learn more about folic acid.

Join us tomorrow to promote World Birth Defects Day and help raise awareness to help improve the health of all babies around the world.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Lend your voice! Register with your social media account and Thunderclap will post a one-time message on March 3rd. Sign up for the World Birth Defects Day Thunderclap campaign: http://po.st/WBDD18
  • Participate in the Buzzday on Twitter, March 3 by using the hashtag #WorldBDDay.

Learn more at: worldbirthdefectsday.org

What is a rare disease?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

 

In the United States, any disease, disorder, illness or condition that affects less than 200,000 is considered a rare disease. Health conditions such as Tay-Sachs, ocular toxoplasmosis, fragile X syndrome, and ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) are just a few examples. However, the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) says that there are more than 7,000 rare conditions that affect about 30 million people in the United States. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have a rare disease in the U.S. — more than half of them are children.

People who have a rare disease have many different needs, but since it can be difficult to make a correct diagnosis, getting the right treatment can be difficult. Rare diseases affect the lives of people in many ways, not only because they are sick, but because they do not know much about the disease, the diagnosis, the treatment or even what they can expect to happen with their health and quality of life over time.

Sadly, about 95% of rare diseases have no treatment and none of them have a cure. The truth is that the cause of the majority of these diseases is still unknown today, although some of them might be genetic. Knowing your family medical history and discussing it with your health care provider is always a good idea, especially if you plan on having a baby.

Today, February 28th, we help raise awareness on this important issue. Join us and NORD to raise awareness about rare diseases, the impact it has on the people affected by them, their families and the community. Visit rarediseases.org and rarediseaseday.us to learn more.

Fever and pregnancy

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

A fever is an increase in your body temperature. It usually happens when you’re sick and is a sign that your body is fighting off an infection. The average body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). For a woman who is pregnant, a body temperature over 101°F (38.3°C) may be a concern. Fevers early in pregnancy may be linked to birth defects, like neural tube defects, and other problems in your baby. A birth defect is a health condition that is present at birth. Birth defects change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or in how the body works. Neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

Signs and symptoms

Aside from an increase in body temperature, other signs and symptoms of a fever may include:

  •  Sweating
  • Chills and shivering
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Dehydration
  • General weakness

Treatment

If you’re pregnant and have a fever, it’s very important to contact your health care provider. She can then determine what is causing your fever and if you need additional treatment. Most pregnant women can take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol®). Make sure you follow the directions on the product label and check with your provider before you take any medication.

Prevention

Here are some tips that you can take that may reduce your chances of getting sick:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Wash hands before preparing or eating food, after handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables. Wash them after being around pets or animals and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.
  • Get your flu shot. It’s safe to get the flu shot during pregnancy. It protects you and your baby from serious health problems during and after pregnancy.
  • Try to avoid people who are sick. If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t share your dishes, glasses, utensils or toothbrush.
  • Make sure you’re up to date with all your vaccinations. Vaccinations can help protect you and your baby from certain infections during pregnancy.
  • Handle foods safely. And avoid raw meat, fish, eggs & unpasteurized foods to prevent food poisoning.

Again, make sure you contact your health care provider if you have a fever and are pregnant. Your provider can make sure that you get the treatment you need to help you to start feeling better.

Are you getting your daily folic acid dose? Check the label

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. It helps your body make red blood cells that carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. If you take folic acid before and during early pregnancy, it can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (also called NTDs). Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects in a baby and birth defects in a baby’s mouth called cleft lip and palate.

How can you be sure you’re getting the right amount of folic acid?

The best way to get the right amount of folic acid is to take a daily multivitamin that has 400 mcg of folic acid. Check the back of your bottle for the label (also called supplement facts). Look for the word “folate” on the label to see how much folic acid you’re getting.

The label tells you this information:

• Serving size. This tells you how much of the product is in one serving. One multivitamin usually is one serving.

• Servings per container. This tells you how many servings are in a multivitamin bottle. For example, if two pills is one serving and the bottle has 30 multivitamins in it, that’s 15 servings.

• Nutrients, like vitamin D, folate and calcium, in each serving

• Daily value (also called DV) of one serving. DV is the amount of a nutrient in a serving. For example, if the DV of folic acid in a multivitamin is 50 percent, that multivitamin gives you 50 percent (half) of the folic acid you need each day.

What else do I need to know about the labels?

Multivitamin labels now give new information about folic acid. In the past, they just listed mcg of folic acid. Now they list “mcg DFE of folate.” For example, for folate you’ll see “400 mcg DFE.” DFE stands for dietary folate equivalent. It’s the amount of folate your body absorbs. If a serving has less than 400 mcg DFE of folate, you need more than one serving to get all the folic acid you need each day.

Can I get folic acid from food?

Some foods have folic acid added to them. Look for the word “fortified” or “enriched” on the package label on foods like:
• Bread
• Breakfast cereal
• Cornmeal
• Flour
• Pasta
• Products made from a kind of flour called corn masa, like tortillas, tortilla chips, taco shells, tamales and pupusas
• White rice

Some fruits and vegetables are good sources of folic acid. When folic acid is naturally in a food, it’s called folate. Folate is found in lentils, black beans, peanuts, leafy green veggies like romaine lettuce and spinach, citrus fruits and orange juice.

It’s hard to get all the folic acid you need from food. Even if you eat foods that have folic acid in them, take your multivitamin each day, too. Labels on food products don’t always list the amount of folic acid in the product. New food labels that list folic acid will list mcg DFE of folate, just like for multivitamins.

Read more about why folic acid is important to you and your baby.

Good hygiene can help prevent birth defects

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Now that winter has arrived, the temperatures are decreasing and the spread of germs is increasing. In an effort to stay healthy, I find myself constantly washing my hands and trying to maintain good hygiene. Hygiene refers to activities such as hand washing, bathing, and brushing your teeth, which help you stay healthy. Maintaining good hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of infections.

Women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by doing things to help reduce the risk of infection. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but by maintaining healthy hygiene, you can help prevent the spread of infection. Not sure where to start? We have tips:

Wash your hands

And wash them often. Wash them before preparing or eating food, after handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables. Wash them after being around pets or animals and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.

Prepare food safely

Besides your hands, you should also wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing your food. Wash all surfaces and cuttings boards with warm soapy water after use as well. Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Be sure to cook foods at their proper temperature and never eat cooked food that has been out of the refrigerator longer than two hours. Ready to cook a meal? We have your guide from prep to storage.

Don’t share cups, foods or utensils with your children

Keep these items out of your mouth. Children’s saliva may contain cytomegalovirus or CMV, a kind of herpesvirus that women can pass to their baby during pregnancy. CMV can cause problems for some babies, including a birth defect called microcephaly. CMV is also found in urine and other bodily fluids so be sure to wash your hands every time after changing diapers, wiping runny noses, and picking up toys.

Stay away from wild or pet rodents

This includes mice, hamsters and guinea pigs. They may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also called LCMV) that can be harmful to you and your baby. LCMV can cause severe birth defects and miscarriage. To help prevent LCMV, keep pet rodents in a separate part of your home, wash your hands after petting and caring for them. Ask your partner or a friend to care for the pet and clean its cage. If your home has wild rats or mice, use pest control.

Let someone else clean the litter box

Dirty cat litter might contain a harmful parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. If you have toxoplasmosis within 6 months of getting pregnant, you may be able to pass it to your baby during pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis can cause pregnancy complications such as preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks) and stillbirth. The earlier in pregnancy you get infected, the more serious the baby’s problems may be after birth.

So have a friend, partner or family member clean your cat’s litter box during your pregnancy. If you are changing the litter yourself, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands well afterward. You can also come in contact with the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis through eating raw or undercooked meat, unwashed fruits and veggies, touching utensils and cutting boards used to prepare raw meat, fruits and veggies or by touching dirt or sand. So we recommend avoiding sand boxes as well.

Practicing good hygiene daily can help you stay healthy and prevent the spread of infection.

Opioids and birth defects–an update

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Prescription opioids are painkillers your health care provider may prescribe if you’ve been injured or had surgery. Prescription opioids include:pills

  • Codeine and hydrocodone (brand name Vicodin®)
  • Fentanyl (brand name Actiq®, Duragesic®, Sublimaze®)
  • Morphine (brand names Kadian®, Avinza®)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®)
  • Tramadol (brand names ConZip®, Ryzolt®, Ultram®)

Heroin also is an opioid.

Using opioids during pregnancy can cause problems for your baby, including:

  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (also called NAS). NAS happens when a baby is exposed to a drug in the womb before birth and goes through withdrawal from the drug after birth. NAS most often is caused when a woman takes opioids during pregnancy. NAS can cause serious problems for a baby, like being born too small and having breathing problems. Even if you use an opioid exactly as your health care provider tells you to, it may cause NAS in your baby.
  • Birth defects.
  • Premature birth.
  • Preterm labor. Quitting opioids suddenly (going cold turkey) during pregnancy can cause preterm labor. Preterm labor can lead to premature birth.
  • Stillbirth.

Recently the CDC’s Treating for Two: Safer Medication Use in Pregnancy researchers reviewed a number of studies that had already been published regarding opioid use during pregnancy and birth defects. They found that the studies did show that using opioids during pregnancy may be linked to birth defects including cleft lip and cleft palate, congenital heart defects, and clubfoot. But many of the studies they looked at had problems with the way the study was done and the quality of the study.

According to the CDC, “More research is needed to understand the connections between individual types of opioids and specific birth defects. Until more is known, women of childbearing age and their healthcare providers should discuss risks and benefits when considering opioid treatment.”

If you are taking a prescription opioid, or any other medication during pregnancy remember:

  • Don’t take more medicine than your health care provider says you can take.
  • Don’t take it with alcohol or other drugs.
  • Don’t use someone else’s prescription medicine.

If you’re pregnant and need help to stop using opioids, taking drugs like methadone or buprenorphine may help you quit. These drugs can help you reduce your need for opioids in a way that’s safe for you and your baby. Talk to your health care provider to see if this kind of treatment is right for you.

If you need help to stop abusing prescription drugs, talk to your health care provider. Or contact:

Have questions? Send them to our Health Education Specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.