Posts Tagged ‘breathing’

The A’s and B’s of the NICU

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

help-breathingApnea (A) and bradycardia (B) are two conditions that are monitored in the NICU. Apnea refers to an interruption in your baby’s breathing, while bradycardia is the slowing of your baby’s heart rate.

Babies in the NICU are constantly monitored for these “A’s and B’s.”

Premature babies often have breathing problems because they were born before their lungs were fully developed. As many as 80 percent of babies born before 30 weeks of pregnancy have apnea. Full-term babies may have breathing problems due to birth defects, infections or complications from labor and delivery.

When is irregular breathing considered apnea?

Often, preemies do not breathe regularly. Your baby may take a long breath, a short one, and then pause for 5-10 seconds before breathing regularly. This is not considered harmful and your baby should outgrow it. But, if a preemie or sick baby stops breathing for 15 – 20 seconds or longer, or if the pause in breathing happens along with a slower heart rate (bradycardia) or a change in your baby’s color, then it is called apnea.

A premature baby’s heart beats much than faster yours. Bradycardia is defined as “the slowing of a baby’s heart rate from its usual range of 120 to 160 beats per minute to a rate of fewer than 100 beats per minute” according to the authors of the Preemies book.

The sensors on your baby’s chest are connected to a machine which will start beeping if your baby stops breathing. The nurse will check your baby and determine if she needs to be stimulated to help her start breathing again. To resume breathing, the nurse may gently touch your baby.

If necessary, your baby’s neonatologist may give your baby medication or place her on a C-PAP machine to help deliver air to your baby’s lungs. In C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure), air is delivered to your baby’s lungs either through small tubes in her nose or through a tube that has been inserted into her windpipe. The tubes are attached to a machine, which helps your baby breathe. With C-PAP, your baby breathes on her own, but the steady flow of air coming in through the tubes keeps enough pressure in her lungs to prevent the air sacs from collapsing after each breath. It’s a little extra support to help her lungs work better.

Machines can be scary

Seeing your baby hooked up to machines can be scary, and when those machines start to beep, it can be nerve wracking. But, the way your baby looks is a very important indicator of how she is doing. For example, some experts recommend that when machines start beeping, take a look at your baby, not at the machine. Is your baby pink? Is her chest moving in and out? Are her nostrils slightly widening with each breath? If so, she is breathing and getting oxygen.

In addition, the machines are set up to start beeping with plenty of time for the nurse to attend to your baby, before your baby is in distress.

If your baby’s apnea is not resolving, the medical team will consider whether there is something else going on, such as an infection or other problem. As difficult as it is to see your baby struggle with breathing, it may be very comforting to know that apnea usually resolves without any problems.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We are here to help.

Did your baby experience apnea? Did it resolve on its own?

 

Special moms need special care

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

two women meditatingA new study published in Pediatrics shows that groups led by other moms reduced stress in mothers of children with disabilities. It helped to improve “maternal well-being and long-term caregiving for children with complex developmental, physical, and behavioral needs.” These support groups were uniquely focused on learning specialized techniques to reduce stress.

Mothers of children with developmental disabilities experience stress, anxiety and depression more often and to a greater degree than mothers who parent children without disabilities. It is thought that the chronic stress and the associated poor health that often result may impact a mom’s ability to parent effectively.

This study looked at what would happen if a program were put in place specifically for moms of children with disabilities (or what I will call “Special Moms”).  Researchers randomly assigned 243 Special Moms into two groups to attend a program led by peer mentors (eg. other Special Moms who received training to lead the groups).

One group learned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) techniques while the other group learned Positive Adult Development (PAD) techniques. MBSR and PAD are evidence-based practices, which mean that they have been shown, through research, to be beneficial.

The MBSR group learned meditation, breathing and movement techniques and the relaxation response. The PAD group learned ways to “temper emotions such as guilt, conflict, worry and pessimism by identifying and recruiting character strengths and virtues…and by exercises involving gratitude, forgiveness, grace and optimism.” All the moms attended weekly group sessions and practiced what they learned at home on a daily basis.

What were the results?

According to the study, the moms in both groups experienced less stress, anxiety and depression, and improved sleep and life satisfaction.  After 6 months, these improvements continued. There were some differences between the two groups that related to whether they received the MBSR or PAD practice, but the important take-away from this study is that both treatments proved beneficial to the moms.

There are programs in place to help children with disabilities, but few programs exist to help their parents, especially when the stress causes mental, emotional and physical fatigue. Moms often become anxious or depressed, which does not help them as they face the intense daily challenges of parenting a child with a disability. This study shows the positive effect of proven stress reduction techniques when taught in a peer-mentored program.

The authors conclude that “future studies should be done on how trained mentors and professionals can address the mental health needs of mothers of children with developmental disabilities since doing so can improve maternal well-being and long-term caregiving for children with complex needs.”

Bottom line

If you are a Special Mom, your personal take-away message from this study is to try to include a stress reduction program into your daily life, such as meditation, yoga, or another relaxation technique. If you can do so with a group of other Special Moms, all the better!

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

In the NICU – what is surfactant?

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

We were recently asked about surfactant and how it helps a premature baby’s lungs.

“Surfactant” is a condensed form of the term “surface-active agent,” meaning something that reduces the surface tension of liquids. So what does that really mean? Example:  Detergents are surfactants – their lowering of the natural surface tension of water is what keeps bubbles from collapsing, and lets dishwater foam.  Mature lungs are foamy organs, largely composed of tiny, bubble-like air sacs that are prevented from collapsing by lung surfactant.  This complex mixture of fatty substances and specialized proteins is produced in the lungs, starting many weeks before birth.

Premature babies often lack lung surfactant.  The more prematurely a baby is born, the less likely it is to be producing enough surfactant to enable normal lung function.  Immature lungs resist inflation and collapse after each exhale.  The effort of breathing under these circumstances – called “respiratory distress syndrome,” or RDS – can exhaust a very small, premature newborn and lead to severe complications and even death.  Survivors of RDS may have brain damage due, in part, to being unable to get enough air.  In recent decades, respiratory treatments have contributed to the improved survival rates for premature babies, but the lungs of some babies have been injured in the process.

Lung surfactant was identified in the 1950s. During the 1980s, many research groups around the world studied surfactant from human amniotic fluid and synthetic varieties.  Such studies showed the safety and effectiveness of both rescue treatment (given to babies already developing RDS) and preventive treatment (given to very premature infants before they show signs of RDS.)

The March of Dimes is pleased to have supported early research on lung surfactant for premature infants.  Widespread use of surfactant has contributed to a significant drop in deaths from RDS and a drop in the U.S. infant mortality rates. In the past decade, the March of Dimes has invested over $2.6 million in research involving lung surfactant.

 

Updated October 2015.

Car seats: Just for the car

Friday, August 28th, 2009

car-seatCar safety seats are an excellent way to protect children in the first years of life. The best position for baby in the seat is upright. But this same position can compress the chest and cause the baby to get less oxygen. These are the findings from a new study published recently in the medical journal Pediatrics.

What to do? Use the car seat only in the car and not at any other time. For instance, don’t use the car seat as a place for your baby to sit when you’re in your house or visiting. That way, you protect your baby in the car and outside of it, too.

The risks of teen pregnancy

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

teenage-girl-2For so many women, pregnancy is a wonderful time: full of hope and excitement about a new baby. But for teens, pregnancy brings some  challenges.

Teen mothers and their babies face special health risks. Compared to other pregnant women, the teen mom is more likely to face complications. Examples:  premature labor, anemia and high blood pressure.

Babies born to teen moms are at increased risk of premature birth, low weight at birth, breathing problems, bleeding in the brain,  and vision problems.

Teen pregnancy also affects a young woman’s educational and job opportunities. Teen moms are less likely to graduate from high school than other teenagers. They are also more likely to live in poverty than women who wait to have a baby.

Today is the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Teen birth rates in the United States are on the rise again after a steady decline between 1991 and 2005.

If you are a teen, please think carefully about getting pregnant. If you know a teen, help her understand why it’s usually best to delay pregnancy.

For more information, read the March of Dimes fact sheet.

A promising treatment for peanut allergy? Maybe

Monday, March 16th, 2009

peanuts-sm1The media has been buzzing about a possible new treatment for peanut allergy. Here’s what we know.

Scientists from Duke University presented new research at a national medical meeting on Sunday. This sparked headlines and conversation.

One pilot study involved 33 children who were severely allergic to peanuts. Symptoms of this allergy include stomach upset, skin reactions and, in the most serious cases, breathing problems that can be deadly.

Researchers gave each child a dose of peanuts every day using a powder sprinkled on food. At the beginning, the dose was very small. Over time, it increased, amounting to 15 peanuts per day.

Most children in the study did not have allergic reactions. But four dropped out of the research because they did. After 2 1/2 years, five children in the study stopped the treatment. They can now eat peanuts just like their friends who aren’t allergic.

Are these five children “cured” of peanut allergy? It’s too early to say. Doctors will watch them carefully for several years to know for sure.

So what does this mean for people who have peanut allergies? Too early to say. More research is needed to confirm the pilot study.

Most important: Don’t try this on yourself or on your children. All the children in the study received their doses under the supervision of medical professionals. They were watched closely for allergic reactions.

To learn more about food allergies, read the March of Dimes article on our Web site.

Cleaner air helps children breathe easier

Friday, March 6th, 2009

barn-smallAir pollution can lead to inflamed airways, which can cause breathing problems such as asthma.

It makes  sense:  When the air is cleaner, children breathe easier. An article in the March issue of the medical journal Pediatrics reported these research results.

So what can parents do to help their children breathe the cleanest air possible? Moving to the country where the air is clean is a good idea. But that’s probably hard for most of us!

Here are some tips:

* When local health agencies issue air pollution or smog alerts, keep your child indoors. If you must take your baby out on these days, do so early in the morning or after sunset.

* Don’t use paint sprayers around your child.

* Keep air conditioning units, heaters, furnaces, wood stoves and fireplaces in good working order.

* If your baby has asthma or other lung problems, ask her health care provider what else you can do.

For more ideas, read the March of Dimes article Protecting Your Baby from Air Pollution.

Food allergies: Lots to learn

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

I dropped by my local Dunkin’ Donuts the other morning (I confess; I had a pumpkin doughnut). And there was a little sign saying that some of their products contain nuts. This gentle warning, in DD’s bright orange and pink, was for people who have nut allergies. Food allergies are on the rise in the United States, and no one really knows why.

In the United States, 4 to 6 out of every 100 children under the age of 4 are allergic to at least one food. Most allergic reactions are mild. But a small number are very serious and even life threatening. In the worst cases, the blood pressure drops, and the person has trouble breathing.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says, “Little is known about why only some people develop food allergies.” So the NIH has funded 12 new studies at medical institutions across the country. According to The New York Times, some scientists say this will be the most comprehensive research on food allergies ever conducted.

To learn about the eight foods that cause most food allergy reactions, read the March of Dime article Food Allergies and Baby.

Yoga during pregnancy

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

 I’m giving Yoga a second shot. The first time I explored the idea was in my early-twenties. My sister dragged me to a class after I had been out the night before celebrating the fact that it was Thursday. It was almost the weekend…woo hoo! Anyway, we went to this Yoga studio where I immediately felt self-conscience and very, very warm. I wasn’t wearing trendy work-out clothes like the other women (I opted for baggy shorts and an over-sized t-shirt) and the room was set to 110 degrees. Ugh. As the lights dimmed and the instructor chanted her first “ohm”, I got a wicked case of the giggles and had to leave the class. Or was I asked to leave? Either way, I promise I’ve matured since.

I’ve attended classes 3 times a week for the past month and it’s going really well so far. This is a Korean form of Yoga that focuses on balance, flexibility and relaxation — minus the really hot room. It’s something I plan to continue for as long as I’m able. It’s low impact, soothing and the personalized attention is wonderful. My doc thinks it’s an ideal type of exercise for me. My sister thinks it’s funny, though. She never let’s me live stuff down! LOL!

Hee-hee-WHO

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Here’s the story with breathing techniques. Back in the day, complex breathing patterns were taught to correlate with the various stages of labor. Several methods of childbirth preparation emphasized breathing as the primary way to relieve pain during labor. However, unless diligently practiced with a well-trained support person, these highly structured techniques have the potential to produce hyperventilation

Breathing is a tool to provide adequate oxygenation for mom and baby and to enhance relaxation. For best results, techniques should be simple, easy to follow, paced at the mother’s own rate and may include a pattern if she desires. Her respiratory rate should never be more than double and she should never feel air hunger at the end of a contraction.

So, whether you’re rehearsing, “IN…out-out-out…IN”, or “pant-pant-BLOW” get some professional guidance so you don’t get dizzy!