Posts Tagged ‘birth defects’

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

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

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.

U.S. study shows fewer babies are dying in their first year of life

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. A new report released by the CDC shows that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. dropped 15% from 2005 to 2014. In kangaroo-care-242005 the rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2014, the rate dropped to 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births.

While the study did not look at the underlying causes of the decline, it did report valuable information:

  • Infant mortality rates declined in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The other 17 states saw no significant changes.
  • Declines were seen in some of the leading causes of infant death including birth defects (11% decline), preterm birth and low birthweight (8% decline), and maternal complications (7% decline).
  • The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) declined by 29%.
  • Infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives.
  • Infants born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

“On the surface, this seems like good news. But it is far from time to celebrate,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes. “What is concerning, though, is that the inequities between non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians and the Caucasian population have persisted.” Dr. Jarris adds, “This report highlights the need to strengthen programs that serve low income and at-risk communities, especially those with the highest infant mortality rates.”

The infant mortality rate is one of the indicators that is often used to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants.

What can you do?

Having a healthy pregnancy may increase the chance of having a healthy baby. Here are some things you can do before and during pregnancy:

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

Zika travel guidance – an update and helpful tools

Monday, March 20th, 2017

airplaneThe CDC recently updated its Zika travel guidance. March is a time when many people get away from the snow, ice and cold and thaw out in the sunshine of a southern climate. But, before you hop on a plane, it is best to do a little homework first and find out where the Zika virus may be a threat.

An interactive world map will show you areas of Zika risk so that you are able to make an educated travel decision. The map shows international destinations as well as U.S. territories.  You can search for location-specific Zika information and travel recommendations.

Another helpful tool is CDC’s Know Your Zika Risk (scroll down the page to use the widget).  It will help you determine the risk of Zika for each person in your household and assist you in making informed decisions about your health.

If you are going to visit family or a friend in an area with Zika, the CDC tells you what you need to know before, during and after your trip, to keep you and your family safe.

Remember

  • If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, do not travel to an area with active Zika.
  • Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby and can cause serious birth defects.
  • Even men need to protect themselves from Zika, as it can be passed through semen.
  • At this time, there is no vaccine to prevent Zika, and no known cure.

Prevention and protection is key. Learn more on our website.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org for a personalized reply from a health education specialist.

 

Researchers identify a new form of muscular dystrophy

Monday, March 6th, 2017

MOD scienceResearchers, funded in part by the March of Dimes, have identified a genetic mutation which causes a new form of muscular dystrophy (MD).

This particular form of MD has many features, such as short height, cataracts (eye problems causing it hard to see), and intellectual disability, that are similar to other disorders. The overlap has caused confusion for physicians and researchers, until now. An international group of researchers were able to show that mutations (changes) in the INPP5K gene are responsible for a unique form of MD.

“Families and physicians have been searching for the origins of this rare disorder for years,” says Dr. Chiara Manzini, one of the researchers. “Children with a similar combination of symptoms had been described in the medical literature before, but it was unclear whether or not it was a new disease. Now we know it’s a variant of MD that affects other organs.”

Muscular dystrophy is a group of disorders that causes muscle weakness and muscle loss over time. Most people with MD are eventually unable to walk. More than 250,000 Americans are affected by the approximately 30 forms of MD and other related neuromuscular disorders. MD is inherited, meaning it is passed down from parents to their children.

How does this research help families?

Identifying a target gene, such as the INPP5K gene, reduces uncertainty for families. It allows parents to receive a precise diagnosis instead of not knowing what condition their child may have. In addition, knowing their child’s exact disorder can help families understand which medical specialists should be consulted and it can aid in overall clinical management.It gives hope to families that new, targeted treatments may become available in the future. Finally, a specific diagnosis will help health care providers better understand the disease and how it affects a child throughout his life.

“This is a great example of collaborative, innovative genetic research that has an immediate benefit to babies and their families,” says Joe Leigh Simpson, MD, senior vice president for Research and Global Programs at the March of Dimes. “Studying rare disorders can also teach us more about common conditions that affect millions of people in the United States and around the world.

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

 

Is the Zika virus affecting babies in the U.S.?

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

microcephalyShort answer…Yes.

The CDC just released a report that measured the number of brain related birth defects in the U.S. before and after the arrival of Zika. The study focused on data from three areas of the U.S. that track brain related birth defects – Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia – in the year 2013-2014, before Zika arrived in the U.S.

It found that during that time, brain related birth defects occurred in 3 out of 1,000 births (.3%).

A study done looking at 2016 data shows that among women in the US with possible Zika virus infection, similar brain related birth defects were 20 times more common, affecting 60 of 1,000 pregnancies (6%).

This is a huge increase.

Here’s what we know

If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, the virus can pass to her baby. Zika has been shown to cause a range of birth defects including brain problems, microcephaly, neural tube defects, eye defects and central nervous system problems. Although none of these birth defects are new to the medical field and they can occur for other reasons, it has been clearly established that the Zika virus can cause these serious problems, too.

Babies will require coordinated, long-term care

Babies born with Zika related birth defects will require access to coordinated medical care among a team of specialists. Such care may seem daunting to the parents and even to the medical community as they gather new information about the effects of the virus on a daily basis.

Enter the Zika Care Connect Network (ZCC)

This new website will launch in April 2017 to help parents and providers coordinate care for babies with complex medical needs due to Zika infection. The ZCC aims to improve access to medical care, which will jump-start early identification and intervention. The goal is to reduce the long-term effects of Zika on children and families by making it easier to locate a network of specialists knowledgeable about services for patients with Zika. The searchable database will feature a Provider Referral Network, patient resource tools, and a HelpLine.

Bottom line

Zika is still here, and it is seriously affecting babies and families. The best line of defense is to protect yourself from infection. Our website has detailed information on how to stay safe.

If you have questions, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Why do we have World Birth Defects Day?

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

wbddlogoIn a day and age when many cures exist for diseases and conditions, it may seem hard to believe that birth defects still occur. Yet, unfortunately they do.

Every year, millions of babies around the world are born with a serious birth defect. In many countries, birth defects are one of the leading causes of death in babies and young children. Babies who survive and live with these conditions are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities and other health problems.

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They may change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops, or how the body works.

There are thousands of different birth defects. The most common are heart defects, cleft lip and palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida. Our website has a list of common birth defects as well as examples of rare birth defects.

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 environment. In most cases, the causes are unknown.

Why #WorldBDDay?

The goal of World Birth Defects Day is to expand birth defects surveillance, prevention, care, and research worldwide. Naturally, the goal is to raise awareness, too.

You can help.

  • Lend your voice! Register with your social media account and Thunderclap will post a one-time message on March 3rd. The message will say “Birth defects affect 3-6% of infants worldwide. It’s a major cause of death/disability. Lend your voice!”
  • Join the Buzzday on Twitter, March 3, 2017 by using the hashtag #WorldBDDay.

With your help, we’ll raise awareness, which is the first step in improving the health of all babies.

What we’re doing

The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Our research grantees have discovered genes that cause or contribute to a number of common birth defects, including fragile X syndrome, cleft lip and palate, and heart defects. These discoveries may one day lead to interventions so that some birth defects can be prevented.

The March of Dimes offers information about how to have a healthy pregnancy on our website and this blog.

We answer health questions from the public through AskUs@marchofdimes.org, and promote messaging on our Twitter handles, @modhealthtalk, @nacersano (in Spanish) and @marchofdimes.

We welcome your comments and questions.

Key messages from Birth Defects Prevention Month

Monday, January 30th, 2017

MOD dad and babyWe’ve had a busy month spreading the word about birth defects and what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. If you’ve missed some posts, here’s a one page cheat sheet of key messages.

Birth defects are more common than you’d think.

  • Did you know that every 4.5 minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the U.S.? That’s 1 in 33 babies or more than 120,000 babies each year.
  • Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.
  • Common birth defects include heart defects, cleft lip and cleft palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida. Some birth defects are on the rise for unknown reasons – like gastroschisis.
  • Birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths in the first year of life in the U.S.
  • Birth defects are the leading cause of death and disability in children across the world.

There are thousands of different birth defects, and about 70 % of the causes are unknown.

  • Birth defects are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors including our genes, behaviors and environment.
  • Many birth defects are discovered after the baby leaves the hospital or within the first year of life.
  • Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities and lifelong challenges.

Not all birth defects can be prevented, but SOME CAN. Here’s how:multivitamin

Share and connect

Birth defects can happen to any family. Share and connect with others on our online community Share Your Story.

Have questions? Email our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Turtles look cute but are dangerous to pregnant women and young children

Friday, January 27th, 2017

boy w pet turtleIf you’re pregnant or have children under the age of 5, you should remove any reptile or amphibian you may have in your home. That’s because they can carry salmonella, a bacteria that can make you and your children very sick – it can even be life threatening.

The salmonella bacteria is commonly carried by reptiles, such as lizards, snakes and turtles, and amphibians, such as frogs, salamanders and newts. Chickens, ducks and geese can also carry salmonella.

Pregnant women, infants, young children and anyone with a weakened immune system are at a higher risk of getting the infection.

The risk of salmonella is so serious that the sale of turtles less than 4 inches in size has been banned in the United States since 1975. These little creatures may look cute but they have the potential to cause serious disease. The CDC warns: “Don’t be fooled Just because you can’t see the bacteria doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”

According to the FDA, the death of a 4-week-old baby in Florida in 2007 “was linked to Salmonella from a small turtle. The DNA of the Salmonella from the turtle matched that from the infant.”

Scary stuff.

How can you get infected with Salmonella?

You can get infected by eating foods that are contaminated with Salmonella, such as poultry, meat and eggs, or by touching an infected animal.

Even if a pet reptile has a negative test for salmonella, it doesn’t mean the animal is not infected. It may mean that the animal was just not “shedding salmonella” on the day it was tested. Salmonella can be found in feces (poop), soil, water (including fish tank water), and the food and bedding of infected animals. Salmonella germs can spread easily to an animal’s fur, feathers and scales.

Symptoms of salmonellosis

Signs of salmonellosis usually start a half day to three days after contact and symptoms last from four to seven days. Call your health care provider right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Belly pain
  • Blood in your stool (poop) or dark or amber-colored urine (pee)
  • Dehydration (not enough water or fluids in your body)
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting (throwing up)

To check for salmonellosis, your health care provider will take a stool sample and send it to a lab for testing.

Is Salmonella dangerous during pregnancy?

Yes. It can lead to health complications during pregnancy, including:

  • Dehydration
  • Bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), which can lead to problems, like meningitis, a serious infection that causes swelling in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Reactive arthritis (also called Reiter’s syndrome), which can cause swelling or pain in your joints.

Salmonellosis can be passed to your baby during pregnancy. If your baby is born with salmonellosis, she may have diarrhea and fever after birth. She also may develop meningitis.

Bottom line

Don’t have turtles and other reptiles or amphibians in your home. If you touch them at a petting zoo or other place, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands immediately after coming into contact with them.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

When in doubt, wash your hands

Friday, January 20th, 2017

washing handsNow that winter has arrived, it seems like the temperatures are decreasing and the spread of germs is increasing. In an effort to stay healthy this season 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, that help you stay healthy. Maintaining good hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of infections.

Why is washing your hands so important?

Women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by doing things to prevent the risk of infection. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but by including small, healthy hygiene activities into your daily routine, you can help prevent the spread of infections.

So how often, is often?

Wash your hands:

  • Before preparing or eating food
  • After handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables
  • After being around pets or animals
  • After changing diapers or wiping runny noses

Besides washing hands, what else can you do?

Don’t put your child’s food, utensils, cups or pacifiers in your mouth. Children’s saliva or urine 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. Be sure to wash your hands every time after touching a child’s bodily fluids.

By making small changes to your hygiene routine, you can help prevent the spread of germs and infections. Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

“I just found out I’m pregnant and I haven’t been taking folic acid. What should I do?”

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Pregnant couple with providerThis is a question we often receive through AskUs@marchofdimes.org. The good news is that no matter when you find out you are pregnant, you will still benefit from taking a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid.

Folic acid is 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.

Before pregnancy, we recommend taking a daily multivitamin that contains 400 mcg of folic acid to help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, or neural tube defects. As soon as you find out you are pregnant, begin taking a daily prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid. Your health care provider can prescribe prenatal vitamins for you, or you can get them over the counter without a prescription – just be sure to check the label.

Folic acid is important before and during early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects in your baby. However, a pregnant woman needs extra folic acid throughout her pregnancy to help her produce the additional blood cells her body needs. Folic acid also supports the rapid growth of the placenta and your baby, and is needed to produce new DNA (genetic material) as cells multiply.

If you have not been taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid up until now, perhaps you have been getting folic acid from food sources. Fortunately, in the United States, most grain products are fortified with folic acid (such as cereals, breads, pasta, etc.), so you are likely getting a certain amount of folic acid from your diet. Products that say “enriched” or “fortified” usually contain folic acid, but check product labels to be sure.

You also can get folic acid from some fruits and vegetables. When folic acid is naturally found in a food, it’s called folate. Foods that are good sources of folate are:

    • Beans, like lentils, pinto beans and black beans
    • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and Romaine lettuce
    • Asparagus
    • Broccoli
    • Peanuts (But don’t eat them if you have a peanut allergy)
    • Citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit
    • Orange juice (From concentrate is best)

Folic acid is very important throughout your pregnancy, so even if you have been eating the foods listed, you should still take a prenatal vitamin with the recommended amount of folic acid.

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