Posts Tagged ‘birth defects’

What you need to know about drinking alcohol during pregnancy

Friday, April 6th, 2018

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. Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby. When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and the umbilical cord to your baby.  No amount of alcohol has been proven safe at any time during pregnancy.

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 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.
  • 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

What can you do?

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. Giving up alcohol during pregnancy may be hard.

Here are some tips to help you:

  • Think about when you usually drink alcohol. Plan to drink other things, like fruit infused water, sparkling water or just plain water. Use a fun straw or put an umbrella in the glass to make it seem more fun.
  • If you are having problems with self-control, is best to 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 may help you find resources on how to stop drinking.

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

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.

September is Infant Mortality Awareness month

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. According to the CDC, in 2015 the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. That means that in 2015 over 23,000 infants died before their first birthday.

Causes of infant mortality

In the US, the leading causes of infant mortality are:

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

What can you do?

Not all causes of infant mortality can be prevented. But there are some steps that you can take to reduce the risks of certain birth defects, premature birth, some pregnancy complications, and SIDS.

Take a multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid. While there are many different types of birth defects, taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs). Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects and cleft lip and palate.

Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy. Being healthy before pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy complications when you do get pregnant. Your provider can also identify any risk factors and make sure they are treated before you get pregnant.

Get early and regular prenatal care. This lets your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy. She can also identify and treat any problems that may arise during your pregnancy.

Stay at a healthy weight and be active. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help you to avoid some complications during pregnancy.

Quit smoking and avoid alcohol and street drugs. Alcohol, drugs and harmful 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.

Space pregnancies at least 18 months apart. This allows your body time to fully recover from your last pregnancy before it’s ready for your next pregnancy. Getting pregnant again before 18 months can increase the chance of premature birth, low birthweight, and having a baby that is small for gestational age.

Create a safe sleeping environment for your baby. Put your baby to sleep on his or 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.

The March of Dimes is helping improve babies’ chances of being born healthy and staying healthy by funding research into the causes of birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

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

 

 

 

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.

Zika Care Connect website offers access to specialists

Monday, April 24th, 2017

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), Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm EST, 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.

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.