Posts Tagged ‘family health history’

What is sickle cell disease?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Sickle cell disease (also called SCD) is an inherited condition that affects a person’s red blood cells. Inherited means it’s passed from parent to child through genes. A person with SCD has red blood cells shaped like a sickle. A sickle is a farm tool shaped like the letter C.

Healthy red blood cells are round and flexible. They can move easily through the body’s blood vessels. When a person has SCD, the red blood cells get stuck and clog the blood flow. These blockages cause pain, infections and sometimes organ damage and strokes. SCD also may cause anemia. Anemia is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.

SCD or sickle cell trait

SCD happens when a person inherits a gene change for sickle cell from both parents. If you inherit the gene change from just one parent, you have sickle cell trait. Even though this means you don’t have SCD, you can still pass the sickle cell trait to your children.

If you and your partner both have sickle cell trait, there’s a:

  • 3-in-4 chance (75 percent) that your baby won’t have SCD
  • 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) that your baby will have sickle cell trait
  • 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby will have SCD
  • 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby won’t have SCD or sickle cell trait

Find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait

You can find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait. You are more likely to have them if:

  • You’re black or Hispanic or if your family’s ancestors are from Africa, the Caribbean, Greece, India, Italy, Malta, Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey or South or Central America.
  • Members of your family have SCD or sickle cell trait. To help you find out, take your family health history. This is a record of any health conditions that run in your or your partner’s family.

You and your partner can get tested to find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait. There are two tests, and both are safe during pregnancy. One is a blood test, and the other is a swab inside your mouth. This means your health care provider rubs a cotton swab against the inside of your cheek to get some cells.

How can you find out if your baby has SCD or sickle cell trait?

If you or your partner has SCD or sickle cell trait, ask your provider about having a prenatal test, like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS) to find out if your baby has either condition.

All babies are tested for SCD after birth as part of the newborn screening tests. This allows babies who have SCD to be identified quickly and treated early. Because children with SCD are at an increased risk of infection and other health problems, early diagnosis and treatment are important.

More information

Dad’s health is important for his future baby

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

International Men’s Health Week is June 11-17. Celebrate it by encouraging the men in your life to take steps to improve their preconception health. Yes, men’s health before pregnancy is important too.

Being healthy is beneficial to a man and his future family. Dad’s health before pregnancy is very important. Here are a few things men can do if they are thinking about having a baby in the future:

  • Get an annual medical checkup. During this wellness visit, his health care provider checks for him for health conditions, like high blood pressure and certain infections. Men can discuss their family health history and find out about medical problems that run in families. Certain medical problems may affect his future baby.
  • Avoid harmful substances in the workplace and at home. Men’s sperm may be affected when exposed to certain substances, like mercury, lead and pesticides. If your partner is exposed to substances like these at work, ask him to change his clothes before going home. This can help protect you from these substances before and during pregnancy.
  • Get to a healthy weight. Being overweight increases the chances of health problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure and possibly some cancers. In addition, obesity is associated with male infertility. Men can get to a healthy weight by eating healthy foods and being active every day.
  • Stop smoking, using harmful drugs and drinking too much alcohol. All these behaviors can negatively affect men’s fertility. And they can affect you and your baby, too. For example, a pregnant woman who is exposed to secondhand smoke has a higher chance of having a baby with low birthweight than women not exposed. The smoke from cigarettes also increases health problems in babies, like ear infections, respiratory problems and sudden infant death syndrome (also called SIDS).
  • Prevent sexually transmitted infections (also called STIs). An STI is an infection you can get from having unprotected sex or intimate physical contact with someone who is infected. STIs can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies and cause problems like premature birth, birth defects, miscarriage and stillbirth. Ask your partner to get tested for STIs.

For more information about a man’s wellness checkup and preconception health, visit:

Your preconception to-do list

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

You know that staying healthy during your pregnancy is important. But did you know that having a healthy baby actually starts before you get pregnant? Preconception health is your health before pregnancy. Being healthy before pregnancy can help improve your chances of getting pregnant  and it can help to reduce the chances of complications during your pregnancy. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, make sure you start to focus on your health at least 3 months before you start trying to conceive. Here are some things you can do:

Schedule a preconception checkup: This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. It helps your health care provider make sure you’re healthy and that your body is ready for pregnancy. Your provider can identify, treat, and sometimes prevent health conditions that may affect your pregnancy.

Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. If you take it before and during early pregnancy, it can help protect your baby from birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects.

Review your family healthy history: Your family health history is a record of any health conditions that you, your partner and everyone in your families have had. Your family health history can help you and your provider look for health conditions that may run in your family. Use the March of Dimes Family Health History Form to gather information.

Get to a healthy weight: You’re more likely to have health problems during pregnancy if you’re overweight or underweight. Talk to your provider about what is a healthy weight for you.

Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use street drugs: All of these can make it harder for you to get pregnant and they’re harmful to your baby when you do get pregnant. Tell your provider if you need help to quit.

Review medications that you take: Some medications are not safe to use when you’re pregnant but there may be other alternatives.  Don’t stop taking any prescription medicine without your provider’s OK. Stopping certain medicines, like medicines for asthma, depression or diabetes, can be more harmful to you or your baby than taking the medicine. Talk to your provider about the medications you take.

Get treatment for health conditions: This includes making sure chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure are under control. Your provider can also check for infections, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some STIs can be passed to your baby during pregnancy or a vaginal birth.

Get vaccinated: Make sure you are caught up on all of your vaccinations before pregnancy. Infections like chickenpox and rubella (also called German measles) can harm you and your baby during pregnancy.

Stay safe from viruses and infections: Wash your hands well (especially after contact with any bodily fluids or raw meats), avoid undercooked meats, let someone else change the litter box, and don’t share food, glasses, or utensils with young children.

 

#ShowYourLove by being your healthiest self

Friday, January 12th, 2018

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Today’s guest post is from Suzanne Woodward, Communications Director at the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), to help raise awareness on the steps women can take to be as healthy as possible before having a baby.

Love it or hate it, January is a great time to reflect, set intentions, and start fresh. The bustle around “New Year, Healthier You” is a great opportunity to let yourself be motivated by and encourage others to take steps toward your health and life goals. What did you love about 2017 that you want to keep in your life? What new experiences or attitudes would you like to welcome into this New Year? What support do you need to make this happen? Is starting a family or growing your family in the cards for 2018? This is the cornerstone theme for the #ShowYourLoveToday consumer health and wellness campaign. Have you heard of it?

Show Your Love aims to help young adults live and grow to their full health potential. For themselves, their families and/or for their future families if they choose to have one.

Why is a health and wellness campaign called “Show Your Love?”
We know that women are busy – often caring for friends, family, colleagues and others before themselves. Taking the time to invest in yourself – to give yourself the same love and respect you give to others – is important. Because by showing love to YOURSELF, you are more likely to have the energy and focus you need to work toward your goals and life plans.

How can you show love for yourself?
You “show your love” in many ways. Some ideas could be taking time to walk, take the stairs not the elevator, pray/meditate, get more sleep, get a physical “tune up” with your health care provider, add a fruit and vegetable to your meal, drink less soda, take a vitamin, learn about your family’s health history, and protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (all called, STI), sunburn and insect bites. Maybe this is the  year that you will focus on stopping habits like tobacco and binge drinking that may help you cope with stress but don’t help you reach your goals. Take stock of the relationships in your life – do they build you up or take you down? Do you have people in your life who might want to join you in making positive changes?

If a baby is definitely NOT in your future for 2018, make sure that you are happy with your contraceptive plan whether that’s abstinence, an IUD or anything in between. If getting pregnant is on your list then you can show your love to your future baby this year too by taking care of you now.

How can you show love for others?
Some ideas could be as simple as encouraging your loved ones to make ONE healthier choice each day, asking about their goals, sharing your health and wellness tips, supporting their efforts to understand their health, telling YOUR story and influencing others (to name a few!). By showing your love for other, you show love for yourself.

Many health “resolutions” offer a two for one benefit. They are good for women AND lay the foundation for a healthy next generation too.

Whether you ARE planning to become pregnant or NOT in 2018, there are critical steps that can be taken TODAY to improve your own overall health and wellness AND increase the chance of a healthy baby. This January, the Show Your Love campaign is proud to partner with the March of Dimes to raise awareness about the 1 in 33 babies born with a birth defect. While not all birth defects are preventable, practicing self-care before becoming pregnant can reduce the risk of birth defects. Some key areas for birth defect prevention include:

You can find full health and wellness, life and/or reproductive planning checklists here. These checklists can support you with tips to get healthy before, during or after pregnancy.

Show Your Love is a virtual community of young adults striving to live healthier and encouraging each other along the way. Join our Ambassador Network (it’s free) and share your health journey/goals/messages. I will plug: it is a fun group, an easy way to connect and elevate your voice, and we have lots of cool incentives for healthy challenges. Follow and contribute to our conversation on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook using #ShowYourLoveToday.

Show Your Love is led by the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), a public-private partnership of 90+ national organizations working to advance preconception health. PCHHC is hosting a Tweet chat with the March of Dimes and Mother to Baby on January 30, 2-3pm ET. Join us on Twitter using: #Prevent2Protect.

We can’t wait to hear from YOU!

Want more information about PCHHC or Show Your Love? Email Suzanne at Suzannew@med.unc.edu. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Collecting your family health history

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

While you’re gathered with your family this holiday, remember that Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to record your family’s health history. Your family health history is a record of any health conditions and treatments that you, your partner and everyone in both of your families have had. It can help you find out about medical problems that run in your family that may affect your pregnancy and your baby.

Taking your family health history can help you make important health decisions. It can help you learn about the health of your baby even before he’s born! Knowing about health conditions before or early in pregnancy can help you and your health care provider decide on treatments and care for your baby.

How to collect your family health history

Talk to your family. You can use our family health history form to help you. Print out a few copies and pass them around to your family over Thanksgiving. Have family members add as much information as they can about their health and the health of their parents, grandparents and other family members. Try to get a form from everyone in your family and your partner’s family.

Ask questions. Ask relatives what diseases they have had and when they were diagnosed. Make sure you ask about conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, intellectual disabilities, cancer, and repeat pregnancy loss. Also, find out about your ethnic background is. Knowing what countries or regions your ancestors came from is important because some diseases, like sickle cell and Tay-Sachs, run in people from certain backgrounds or parts of the world.

Update the information regularly. Keeping track of your health history never stops. Add to it as your family grows and changes. To help make sure that your history is up to date, keep copies of:

How to use your family health history

Once you’ve got it, share it! Show it to:

  • Your provider at your preconception checkup or your first prenatal care appointment. Your provider uses it to see if health conditions run in your family. This can help him figure out if you’re likely to pass a condition to your baby during pregnancy.
  • Your family members. It’s great information for everyone in your family. It’s really helpful for someone who’s pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant.

If you learn that your family has a health condition that gets passed from parent to child, you may want to see a genetic counselor. This is a person who is trained to help you understand about how genes, birth defects and other medical conditions run in families, and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health. Your provider can help you find a genetic counselor, or you can contact the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

Why is prenatal care so important?

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Doctor with pregnant woman during check-upGetting early and regular prenatal care can help you have a healthy and full-term pregnancy. However, a recent report shows that the preterm birth rate in the US has increased for the second year in a row. This is an alarming indication that the health of pregnant women and babies in our country is getting worse. As Stacey D. Stewart, president of the March of Dimes states, “Every mother needs healthcare throughout her pregnancy to help avoid preterm birth and birth complications, with the goal of every baby being born healthy.”

So, what can you do to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby? You should call your health care provider to schedule your first appointment as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Make sure you’re ready to talk to your provider about:

  • The first day of your last menstrual period (also called LMP). Your provider can use this to help find out your baby’s due date.
  • Health conditions. Such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and not being at a healthy weight. Conditions like these can cause problems during pregnancy. Tell your provider about your family health history.
  • Medicines. This includes prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, supplements and herbal products. Some medicines can hurt your baby if you take them during pregnancy, so you may need to stop taking it or switch to another medicine. Don’t stop or start taking any medicine without talking to your provider first. And tell your provider if you’re allergic to any medicine.
  • Your pregnancy history. Tell your provider if you’ve been pregnant before or if you’ve had trouble getting pregnant. Tell her if you’ve had any pregnancy complications or if you’ve had a premature baby (a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), a miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs and abusing prescription drugs. All of these can hurt your baby.
  • Stress. Stress is worry, strain or pressure that you feel in response to things that happen in your life. Talk to your provide about ways to deal with and reduce your stress. High levels of stress can cause complications during pregnancy.
  • Your safety at home and work. Tell your provider about chemicals you use at home or work and about what kind of job you have.

Make sure you go to all of your prenatal care appointments, even if you feel fine. Going to all of your checkups gives your provider the chance to make sure you and your baby are healthy and allows you to ask any questions you may have (write them down before your appointment so you don’t forget).

The March of Dimes work to give every baby a healthy start is more vital than ever. We urge everyone concerned about the health of babies to make their voices heard by going to marchofdimes.org.

Pass the turkey, gravy, and the family health history form

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

thanksgiving-turkey21Thanksgiving, or any other family gathering, is a great time to share good times, delicious food, and family memories. It is also a great time to learn about your family health history.

Taking your family health history can help you make important health decisions. It can help you learn about the health of your baby even before he’s born! Knowing about health conditions before or early in pregnancy can help you and your health care provider decide on treatments and care for your baby.

By understanding the health issues that run in your family, you can take positive steps for a healthier future. Since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving as National Family History Day.  Here are a couple of ways you can easily gather your FHH:

So, somewhere between dinner and dessert, start a conversation with your relatives, and find out about your family health history.  The info you learn may make a huge difference in all of your lives, and in your baby’s life!

 

Preconception health for dads

Friday, February 12th, 2016

becoming a dadWe talk a lot about getting a woman’s body ready for pregnancy. But what about men? Dad’s health before pregnancy is important too. Here are a few things men can do if they are thinking about having a baby in the future.

Avoid toxic substances in your workplace and at home

If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, it may be more difficult if you are exposed to the following substances:

  • Metals (like mercury or lead)
  • Products that contain lots of chemicals (like certain cleaning solutions, pesticides or gases)
  • Radioactive waste, radiation or other dangerous substances (like drugs to treat cancer or X-rays)

Read more about how to protect yourself at work and at home here.

Get to a healthy weight

Obesity is associated with male infertility. And people who are overweight have a higher risk for conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and possibly some cancers.

Prevent STDs

A sexually transmitted disease (also called STD) is an infection that you can get from having sex with someone who is infected. You can get an STD from vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Many people with STDs don’t know they’re infected because some STDs have no symptoms. About 19 million people get an STD each year in the United States.

It is important to continue to protect yourself and your partner from STDs during pregnancy. STDs can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies and cause problems, such as premature birth, birth defects, miscarriage, and stillbirth.

Stop smoking, using street drugs, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol

All of these behaviors are harmful to your health. Being around people who smoke is dangerous for pregnant women and babies. Being exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause your baby to be born with low birthweight.

Secondhand smoke is dangerous to your baby after birth. Babies who are around secondhand smoke are more likely than babies who aren’t to have health problems, like pneumonia, ear infections, asthma, and bronchitis. They’re also more likely to die of SIDS.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and using street drugs can negatively affect a man’s fertility.

Know your family’s health history

Your family health history is a record of any health conditions and treatments that you, your partner and everyone in both of your families have had. It can help you find out about medical problems that run in your family that may affect your baby. Taking your family health history can help you make important health decisions. Knowing about health conditions before or early in pregnancy can help you and your health care provider decide on treatments and care for your baby.

Be supportive of your partner

Help your partner. If she is trying to quit smoking, make sure you support her efforts—and join her if you need to quit too! If she has a medical condition, encourage her to see her doctor.

Even before pregnancy, dads play an important role in their baby’s lives, so make sure you are planning for the future too.

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

Wrapping up birth defects prevention month

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Baby girl smilingWe’ve had a busy month spreading the word about birth defects. If you’ve missed some posts, here is a wrap up of messages. More posts will be coming each week, so stay tuned.

Birth defects are common.

  • 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 critical. They 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.
  • Birth defects are costly. The CDC says, each year, total hospital costs for U.S. children and adults with birth defects exceed $2.6 billion.
  • 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.

  • Women can take steps toward a healthy pregnancy. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid during childbearing years can help to reduce the risk for birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs).
  • Pregnant or trying to conceive? Here are steps you can take to help prevent birth defects and have a healthy pregnancy.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and “street” drugs during pregnancy. Talk to your provider before you start or stop taking any type of medications.
  • Prevent infections during pregnancy – wash your hands often and well.
  • Make sure your vaccinations are up to to date.
  • Get chronic medical conditions under control before pregnancy. Diabetes and obesity may increase the risk for birth defects.
  • Collect your family health history and share it with your healthcare provider.

Share and connect

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

 

What you need to know about birth defects

Monday, January 18th, 2016

snugglingEvery 4 ½ minutes in the US, a baby is born with a birth defect. That means that nearly 120,000 (or 1 in every 33) babies are affected by birth defects each year. They are a leading cause of death in the first year of life, causing one in every five infant deaths and they lead to $2.6 billion per year in hospital costs alone in the United States.

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body and can affect any part of the body (such as the heart, brain, foot, etc). They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.

There are thousands of different birth defects and they can be very mild or very severe. Some do not require any treatment, while others may require surgery or lifelong medical interventions.

What causes birth defects?

We know what causes certain birth defects. For instance, drinking alcohol while you are pregnant can cause your baby to be born with  physical birth defects and mental impairment. And genetic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease, are the result of inheriting a mutation (change) in a single gene. However, we do not know what causes the majority of birth defects. In most cases, it is a number of complex factors. The interaction of multiple genes, personal behaviors, and our environment all may all play a role.

Can we prevent birth defects?

Most birth defects cannot be prevented. But there are some things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chance of having a healthy baby:

  • See your healthcare provider before pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as you think you’re pregnant.
  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid reduces the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and “street” drugs.
  • Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications and any dietary or herbal supplements. Talk to your provider before you start or stop taking any type of medications.
  • Prevent infections during pregnancy. Wash your hands and make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
  • Make sure chronic medical conditions are under control, before pregnancy. Some conditions, like diabetes and obesity, may increase the risk for birth defects.
  • Learn about your family health history.

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