Posts Tagged ‘birth defects’

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.

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

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

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.

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.