Posts Tagged ‘family health history’

Knowing your family health history may help your baby

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Family at Thanksgiving dinnerRecently I had an appointment with a new healthcare provider and had to complete a health history form at my first visit. It was 3 pages long and took me about 20 minutes to do while in the waiting room. As I was sitting there, I realized that I didn’t know the answers to some of the questions, especially about my relatives.

Was this really that important?

In one word? Yes.

A family health history (FHH) form is a record of health conditions and treatments that you, your sisters, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great grandparents have had. It can help you figure out the medical problems that run in your family. Knowing your FHH may just save your life. It may also have a direct effect on your baby’s health.

How can a FHH form help your baby?

The FHH form will help your provider see if any of the conditions or diseases that run in your family will affect your baby. For example, premature birth can run in families. And, certain conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure put you at a higher risk to have a premature baby.

If you and your partner complete a FHH form and share it with your prenatal provider, you may learn about the health of your baby before she is born. The earlier in your pregnancy that your provider is aware of health conditions, the sooner your provider can decide on treatments for you.

It would be even better if you could complete and share this information with your provider before pregnancy, at a preconception checkup. This way, your provider can help you become as healthy as possible before pregnancy.

Use our FHH form

Here is a form that you can print out and complete.  Print one copy for yourself and one for your partner/spouse. We suggest you take it with you to family gatherings (Thanksgiving anyone?) and ask your relatives to help you fill in the blanks. You may very well find out information about diseases and conditions that run in your family and put you at risk. Early detection is often key in successfully managing a disease.

Here are tips on how to gather information from relatives.

Knowing your risk for certain conditions and that your provider is on top of treatment options, should put your mind at rest. And, knowing you are doing your best to take care of your baby’s health should make you feel even better.

So, when you sit down to apple pie, start a conversation, and fill in your FHH form. The information you share with your family may make a positive difference in everyone’s lives.

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

Schedule your well-woman checkup today

Monday, May 11th, 2015

nwhw-banner-toolsNational Women’s Health Week (NWHW) is as a time to help women understand what it means to be healthy and well.The goal is to get women to make their own health a top priority.

Today is National Women’s Checkup Day. It’s a day when women are encouraged to schedule their annual well-woman visit. If you are thinking about getting pregnant, it is a great time to schedule your preconception checkup.

What is a preconception checkup and why is it important?

A preconception checkup is a time to see your health care provider to help assure that you are as healthy as possible before you conceive. During this visit you and your provider can:
• Discuss your family history, family planning, and lifestyle habits, such as alcohol and tobacco use.
• Get or schedule necessary tests, such as screenings for blood pressure and diabetes.
• Set health goals, such as being active and maintaining a healthy weight.

It is important to schedule a checkup every year. Even if you’ve already had a baby, it is a good idea to see your provider if you are thinking about getting pregnant again. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s considered a preventive service and must be covered by most health plans at no cost to you.

So schedule your checkup today! For more information on National Women’s Health Week and to learn about other ways that you can get involved, visit their website.

Getting healthy between pregnancies

Friday, May 8th, 2015

snugglingAre you getting ready to celebrate Mother’s Day? Flowers, handmade cards, and breakfast in bed are all lovely gifts. But one of the most important things that you can do as a mom is to give yourself the gift of a healthy pregnancy. If you are planning to have another baby sometime in the future, start now to make sure that your body is ready.

The interconception period is the time between the end of one pregnancy and the beginning of another pregnancy. This time between pregnancies allows you and your provider to address any risk factors that may have contributed to prior pregnancy complications, including premature birth, preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.

Here are some things to consider during the interconception period:

  • Birth spacing: Before getting pregnant again, it is best to wait at least 18 to 23 months. This gives your body time to recover from the previous pregnancy.
  • Preexisting medical conditions: Diabetes or high blood pressure can affect your pregnancy. Making sure these conditions are under control before you get pregnant again is very important. Now is the time to alter any medication dosages or change prescriptions completely. It is also the time to modify any lifestyle factors that may be contributing to your condition.
  • Weight: Trying to get to a healthy weight before pregnancy is very important. Being overweight or not weighing enough can affect your ability to conceive. And if you’re at a healthy weight before pregnancy, you’re less likely than women who weigh too little or too much to have serious complications during pregnancy.
  • Smoking: When you smoke during pregnancy, you pass harmful chemicals through the placenta and umbilical cord into your baby’s bloodstream. This can cause health problems for your baby. Being exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with low birthweight. And secondhand smoke also is dangerous to your baby after birth. Try to quit smoking before getting pregnant again.
  • Family history: Your family health history can help you and your provider look out for health problems that may run in your family and it may help to find the cause of any past pregnancy problems.
  • Getting enough folic acid: Finally, make sure you continue to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. All women of child-bearing age, even if they’re not trying to get pregnant, should take folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects but only if taken before pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman may even know she’s pregnant. Because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it’s important that all women take folic acid every day.

All of us here at News Moms Need wish you a very happy and healthy Mother’s Day!

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Holidays are a time for family

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Family at Thanksgiving dinnerAnd learning about family health history! I recently visited some relatives that I had not seen in years. After we caught up, they mentioned to me that colon cancer runs in that side of the family. This was news to me, as I did not know much about our family’s health history. At my next doctor’s appointment I told my doctor what I had learned from my relatives, and we made a plan on how to manage my health care going forward.

At Thanksgiving, you may be getting together with your family over a delicious turkey dinner. This is a great time to bring up your family’s health history. You may discover important information to keep in mind at your next doctor’s visit like I did.

On our website, we have a lot of helpful tips on how to talk to family and relatives, how to use the information they share, and what to do if some family members don’t want to talk about their health.  You can also use our Family Health History form to help you start a conversation with your family.

Knowing your family’s health history is helpful, especially if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming 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 how conditions run in families and how they can affect your health and your baby’s health.

Enjoy spending time with your family this Thanksgiving, and learn about each other’s health at the same time. You may discover a few new things that can help you make healthy decisions for your future.

National Women’s Health Week

Friday, May 16th, 2014

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Join the March of Dimes and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health as we celebrate National Women’s Health Week (NWHW) 2014! Each year, Women’s Health Week kicks off on Mother’s Day and runs through the following Saturday.

The goal is to empower women to make their health a priority. National Women’s Health Week also serves as a time to help women understand what it means to be well.

Being a well woman is not just one action—it is a state of mind. It’s being as healthy as you can be. And, most importantly, it’s about taking steps to improve your physical and mental health:

• Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.
• Get active.
• Eat healthy.
• Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
• Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, texting while driving, and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.

You can also celebrate by scheduling your annual well-woman visit. This is a checkup and a time to see your health care provider to:

• Discuss your family health history, family planning, and personal habits, such as alcohol and tobacco use.
• Schedule necessary tests, such as screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol.
• Set health goals, such as maintaining a healthy weight.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the well-woman visit is considered a preventive service and is covered by most health plans with no cost to you. Talk about good news! Take advantage of this benefit and pledge to schedule your well-woman visit today.

Don’t forget your family health history

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

generations-at-the-tableAs everyone is preparing for holiday travels or out-of-town visits from relatives, it is a good time to remember that family gatherings give you the perfect opportunity to discuss your family health history.  Each year since 2004, the Surgeon General has declared Thanksgiving to be National Family History Day.

A family health history is a written or graphic record of the diseases and health conditions present in your family. A useful family health history shows three generations of your biological relatives, the age at diagnosis of any specific diseases, and the age and cause of death of deceased family members. The family health history is a useful tool for understanding health risks and preventing disease in individuals and their close relatives.

If you have already discussed your family health history, now is a great time to update it.  And if it is not something you have had a chance to do, holidays are the perfect opportunity, when everyone is gathered together.  You can read more about the importance of family health history in some of our previous blog posts.  And you can go to our website to find our helpful family health history forms.  Learning about your family’s health history may help to ensure that your family can celebrate more holidays together in the future.

Thank you Angelina Jolie

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

How can we not be moved by Angelina Jolie’s stunning announcement today that she recently underwent double mastectomy surgery to prevent breast cancer? It is a monumental personal decision, but her generosity in sharing this news in the New York Times with all of us is bold, brave and a true gift.

This announcement comes during National Women’s Health Week. It encourages us to take charge of our health and to ask for the support we all need. It is a reminder of how important it is for all of us, men and women, to know our family health history. If you don’t know yours well, use our family health history form at this link to help you get started.

We admire and appreciate celebrities who use their influence to remind us to support one another and live healthier lives.

Chat on genetic counseling

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Susan Klugman, MDEver wonder if genetic counseling is for you? Join us for a #pregnancychat on genetic counseling and why it’s important. Dr. Susan Klugman, Director of Reproductive Genetics at Montefiore Medical Center, will be our guest to answer your questions, such as: What ethnic groups are more at risk for a genetic disorder? What does a family health history entail? Which prenatal tests are right for you? and more.

Dr. Klugman is a “medical detective” who works to identify the possible genetic risk factors for many inherited diseases. She encourages couples to consider genetic testing even before they get married so they can be as informed as possible when planning their families. She serves on the Board of Directors of the New York State Genetics Task Force. 

Dr. Klugman has appeared on many broadcast media outlets including ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer. Take this unique opportunity to learn from her and ask questions. Join us on Twitter Wednesday, March 6th at 1 PM. Don’t forget to use #pregnancychat to make sure we see your questions.

Thrombophilias and pregnancy

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

The thrombophilias are a group of conditions that increase a person’s chances of developing blood clots. People with a thrombophilia tend to form blood clots too easily because their bodies make either too much of certain proteins (called blood clotting factors) or too little of anti-clotting proteins that limit clot formation.

Thrombophilias may pose special risks in pregnancy. Clots are more likely to develop when a person with a thrombophilia has certain risk factors, including being pregnant or in the postpartum period (up to 6 weeks after delivery)

Most women with a tendency to develop blood clots have healthy pregnancies. However, pregnant women with a thrombophilia may be more likely than other pregnant women to develop deep vein clots and certain other pregnancy complications. Even pregnant women without a thrombophilia may be more likely than non-pregnant women to develop deep vein clots and emboli. This is due to normal pregnancy-related changes in blood clotting that limit blood loss during labor and delivery. However, studies suggest that up to 50% of pregnant women who develop a pulmonary embolus (a clot in the lung) or other venous thromboembolism (a clot that breaks off and travels to a vital organ) have an underlying thrombophilia. Pulmonary embolus is one of the leading causes of maternal death in the United States.

Factor V Leiden and prothrombin mutations are the most common inherited thrombophilias and occur in about 5% to 3% of cases, respectively. Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is the most common acquired thrombophilia. APS occurs in up to 5% of pregnant women. Aside from possible pulmonary embolus, APS also may contribute to repeat miscarriage, stillbirth, preeclampsia and poor fetal growth.

All pregnant women who have had a blood clot should be offered testing. Your provider also may recommend testing if you have a family history of VTE before age 50. Women who have had three or more miscarriages (before or after 10 weeks of pregnancy) or one pregnancy loss after 10 weeks of pregnancy may be offered testing for APS.

Some women may not need treatment, however women with an inherited thrombophilia who have a history of blood clots are usually treated with an anticoagulant during pregnancy and the postpartum period. It is important for any woman with a clotting disorder to discuss with her health care provider what treatment, if any, is appropriate for her specific case. A family health history of blood clots can make a significant impact on the treatment decision – another good reason to know your family health history.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Dr. Fisk GreenToday’s guest post is written by Ridgely Fisk Green, PhD, MMSc. Dr. Fisk Green is Carter Consulting contractor at CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Fisk Green works on improving children’s health through better use of family health history information.

Today, when you end up sitting next to Aunt Irma who likes to talk about everyone’s health problems, don’t tune her out! Take the opportunity to learn more about your family’s health history.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to enjoy delicious food and get together with family. You share more than just special occasions with your family—you share genes, behaviors, culture, and environment. Family health history accounts for all of these. Your mother’s genes may have contributed to her type 2 diabetes and you may share some of those genes, but the fact that she never exercises and eats fast food every day also influences her health, and you might share some of those habits, as well.

Family health history information can also be important for keeping your child healthy. Family health history can help your child’s doctor make a diagnosis if your child shows signs of a disorder. It can show whether your child has an increased risk for a disease. If so, the doctor might suggest screening tests. Many genetic disorders first become obvious in childhood, and knowing about a history of a genetic condition can help find and treat the condition early.

Family health history is also very important if you’re pregnant or thinking of having a baby. Remember to collect family health history information from the baby’s father, too. Family health history can tell if you have a higher risk of having a child with a birth defect or genetic disorder, like sickle cell disease. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your family health history or the father’s family health history.

Tips for Collecting Family Health History for Your Child

•Record the names of your child’s close relatives from both sides of the family: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. For genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease, include more distant relatives. Include conditions each relative has or had and at what age the conditions were first diagnosed.
•Use the US Surgeon General’s online tool for collecting family health histories, called “My Family Health Portrait.”
•Discuss family health history concerns with your child’s doctor. If you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, share family health history information with your doctor.
•Update your child’s family health history regularly and share new information with your child’s doctor.
•The best way to learn about your family health history is to ask questions. Talk at family gatherings and record your family’s health information—it could make a difference in your child’s life.

Click on this link to learn about family health history from the CDC.