Posts Tagged ‘healthy pregnancy’

How Life and Pregnancy Planning Can Effect Outcomes

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Show Your Love. Your Baby will thank you for it. www.cdc.gov/showyourlove

Special thanks to our guest blogger, Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH.

This January, it is a great time to celebrate babies and raise awareness of those affected by birth defects. #1in33 babies are born with a birth defect, and while not all birth defects are preventable, men and women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by taking proper care of their health and their lifestyle before they become pregnant.

The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative, a public-private partnership of 70+ national organizations working to advance preconception health, is gearing up to launch Show Your Love. The March of Dimes is a partner in this consumer-focused preconception health campaign, which seeks to help young women and men understand the significance their choices and health have on their future families. This upcoming resource center and campaign is meant to spark action for consumers to “Show Your Love” – to yourself, your significant other, your family/future family – by taking care of yourself today.

Whether young adults are planning to become pregnant or not, there are critical steps that can be taken TODAY to improve their own overall health and wellness and increase the chance of a healthy baby. Some key areas to start incorporating into daily life to decrease risk of birth defects include:

• Planning pregnancies
• Eating healthy foods
• Staying active
• Taking a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily
• Protecting against sexually transmitted infections
• Protecting from other infections
• Avoiding harmful chemicals and toxins
• Updating vaccinations
• Managing and reducing stress and getting mentally healthy
• Learning about your family’s health history
• Getting regular health checkups
• Stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake before trying to get pregnant.
• Stop drinking alcohol while trying to get pregnant and during pregnancy.
• Seeking support in abusive or violent situations
• Managing health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, overweight

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.

From story sharing, social media and blog posts, and ongoing awareness initiatives, the support and engagement during National Birth Defects Prevention Month is inspiring. Let’s do our part to keep the momentum rolling year-round!

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPHSarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH, is the Executive Director at UNC Center for Maternal & Infant Health, which provides direct clinical services to high risk mothers and infants, conducts health services research, coordinates statewide programs, and provides patient and health care professional education. She serves as the Director of The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative (PCHHC), a public-private partnership of over 70 organizations focused on improving the health of young women and men and any children they may choose to have. She leads the five workgroups within the PCHHC: Consumer, Clinical, Policy & Finance, Surveillance and Research, and Public Health. Sarah is an associate professor at UNC School of Social Work.

Holiday fatigue

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

tired santaWell, the holiday season is coming to a close. We thought we’d share this post from last year about how to combat holiday fatigue if you are pregnant. Happy New Year!!

Holiday season is in full swing—we just have to make it to New Year’s Eve. I am exhausted. Traveling, family, kids, parties—it all adds up to a lot of late nights and early mornings. And if you are pregnant, you may be more tired than usual. This is especially true during the first and third trimesters, when your body is producing new hormones and getting ready for the many changes that will be coming soon.

So what can you do to try to relieve your holiday fatigue? Here are some tips:

  • Rest when you can during the day and try to take a few breaks to renew your energy.
  • Lots of family activities may leave you feeling drained at the end of the day. Go to bed early, if you can.
  • Don’t drink lots of fluids too close to bedtime. Hopefully then, you will not have to get up to go to the bathroom.
  • If you often have heartburn, make sure you do not lie down right after you eat. Try to eat your last meal a few hours before you go to bed.
  • To avoid leg cramps, gently stretch your leg muscles before bedtime.
  • A nice 30 minute walk can refresh and invigorate you (make sure your doctor has said exercise is OK). But do not get too much exercise right before bed.
  • Be sure to drink enough fluids—water is usually best.
  • Deep breathing and meditation can help you find a moment of peace when you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Try to limit unhealthy snacks. These can drain your energy. Fruits, vegetables, and foods high in iron and protein are good choices.
  • During this busy season, do not forget to take your prenatal vitamin. If you are anemic, ask your provider about an iron supplement.

You can read more about fatigue during pregnancy on our website. And if you have any questions, email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

You’re pregnant, can you drink eggnog?

Monday, December 14th, 2015

eggnogThe answer is yes and no. It depends. Here’s the scoop:

Store-bought eggnog

Traditionally, eggnog was made with raw eggs, which is not good for pregnant women due to the health concerns of salmonella. Salmonella causes salmonellosis, a kind of food poisoning that can be dangerous during pregnancy . However, currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricts the use of raw eggs to less than 1% in products.

  • If you’re buying eggnog at the store, be sure to check the ingredient label to ensure it is egg-free or contains less than 1% egg product.
  • Also it is important that your eggnog be pasteurized. Pasteurization is a heat process that destroys salmonella that might be in eggs.

Homemade eggnog

Many families make a batch of home-made (and alcohol-free!) eggnog as part of their holiday traditions, but homemade eggnog causes many cases of salmonella each year due to raw or undercooked eggs. If you’re going to make your own eggnog, here are some tips:

  • Use egg substitute products or pasteurized eggs.
  • If you are using pasteurized eggs, the FDA recommends starting with a cooked egg base to ensure your safety.
    • To make a cooked egg base, combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe. (Other ingredients, such as sugar may be added at this step.) Cook the mixture gently to a temperature of 160°F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present. At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon. After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.

You can keep your eggnog holiday traditions, but remember to read all the labels on eggnog containers or carefully prepare your homemade eggnog.

The holidays are here…

Monday, December 7th, 2015

pregnant woman in bedBesides the usual stress of pregnancy and getting ready for your baby, the holidays often add more pressure, which can take a toll on your health. Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy, but too much can make you have trouble sleeping, have headaches or lose your appetite. High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems like high blood pressure, which can increase the chances of having a premature baby.

December is a very busy time: there are friends and families to see, holiday gatherings to attend, meals to cook, and gifts to buy. So much to do! During this time, remember to take care of yourself: breathe deeply, relax and concentrate on your pregnancy.

Here are some tips:

  • Keep moving. Exercise can help reduce your stress and prevent pregnancy discomforts. If you are shopping for gifts, walk an extra loop around the mall before you head out to your car. Park further away in the parking lot (this way you can also avoid some of the traffic of shoppers trying to park close to the mall entrance).
  • Holidays are a time for delicious desserts and heavy meals. Before you sit down and indulge in your family dinner, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch earlier in the day.
  • Extra sleep is important during this time, but taking breaks is just as important. If you have some free time between wrapping gifts, put your feet up, read a book or magazine, or watch a favorite TV show. Even just a 15 minute break can help you relax before your next task.
  • Ask for help. Holidays are a time of giving, but also receiving. Accept help when a friend or family member offers and ask for help when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed.
  • Cut back on activities you don’t need to do. Instead of spending time making a holiday dessert, why not have your favorite bakery do it for you?

Holidays can be stressful, but remember to take time for yourself.

Have questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Fruit and veggies > ice cream

Friday, March 13th, 2015

National Nutrition Month and pregnancyHot fudge, crumbled cookies and sprinkles. These are some of my favorite ice cream toppings. But if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, your grocery list should consist of mainly healthy and nutritious foods.

March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme is “bite into a healthy lifestyle.” There are many healthy foods you can bite into and enjoy during your pregnancy.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

• Eat foods from these five food groups at every meal: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and protein. Check out our sample menu for creative ideas.

• Choose whole-grain bread and pasta, low-fat or skim milk and lean meat, like chicken, fish and pork. Eat 8 to 12 ounces of fish that are low in mercury each week.

• Put as much color on your plate as you can, with all different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.

• Plan on eating four to six smaller meals a day instead of three bigger ones. This can help relieve heartburn and discomfort you may feel as your baby gets bigger.

• Make sure your whole meal fits on one plate. Don’t make huge portions.

• Drink six to eight glasses of water each day.

• Take your prenatal vitamin each day. This is a multivitamin made just for pregnant women.

Knowing what foods to eat more of, and what foods to avoid or limit will help you make healthy meal choices throughout your pregnancy. You can still enjoy the occasional bowl of ice cream with your favorite toppings though, but do so as a special treat instead of a daily snack.

 

 

Staying active during pregnancy – winter edition

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Staying active in the winterBbrrr it’s cold outside and those warm blankets on the couch are calling my name. It’s tough to get motivated to go outside and be active during these cold and snowy days of winter. I want to stay under the blankets! But for healthy pregnant women, exercise can keep your heart, body and mind healthy.

Healthy pregnant women need at least 2.5 hours of being active each week. This is about 30 minutes each day. If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all at once. Instead, do something active for 10 minutes three times a day.

Stay safe

The safety of any activity depends on your health and fitness level. Not all pregnant women should exercise, especially if you have a condition such as heart or lung disease. As each woman and pregnancy is different, it is essential that you check with your prenatal health care provider first before engaging in any fitness program. The information provided here is meant as a guide.

How to get started

Pick things you like, such as walking, swimming, hiking or dancing. Brisk walking for 30 minutes or more is an excellent way to get the aerobic benefits of exercise, and you don’t need to join a health club or buy any special equipment. There are a variety of activities that you can participate in throughout your pregnancy.

Try an indoor class such as a low-impact aerobics class taught by a certified aerobics instructor. You can also try a yoga class designed for pregnant women. If you have a gym membership already, walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I usually go to the gym when my favorite TV show is on so I can walk and watch at the same time. Swimming is also a great way to get your heart rate up, and the water feels great, especially as your belly grows. See if a YM/YWCA or other community club near you has a pool.  If the weather outside is moderate and the sidewalks are clear, bundle up and head out for a walk in the fresh air. Staying home, though, may be the only way to avoid all the snow and freezing temperatures, so go ahead and turn on your favorite music and dance around your house or get moving to a DVD from the library. You can even add light resistance bands to help you maintain strength and flexibility. With any activity, remember to drink water to stay hydrated.

What to avoid

You should avoid any activities that put you at high risk for injury, such as downhill skiing. Stay away from sports in which you could get hit in the belly, such as kickboxing or soccer and any sport that has a lot of jerky, bouncing movements. After the third month of pregnancy, avoid exercises that make you lie flat on your back as it can limit the flow of blood to your baby. Also, avoid sit-ups or crunches.

Be aware

When you exercise, pay attention to how you feel. If you suddenly start feeling out of breath or overly tired, listen to your body and slow down or stop your activity. If you have any serious problems, such as vaginal bleeding, dizziness, headaches or chest pain, stop exercising and contact your health care provider right away.

Final tips

Exercise is cumulative – meaning every little bit of activity in a day adds up to the total that you need. Being active in small chunks of time, several times a day is a great way to get your activity quota in. Use tricks such as parking farther away in a parking lot and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Pretty soon you will meet your optimal daily activity level and you will feel more energized.

For more information on exercise during pregnancy, visit our website.

Thinking of getting pregnant? Get your blood pressure checked.

Friday, February 6th, 2015

blood pressureWhen was the last time you had your blood pressure checked? Nearly one in three adults has high blood pressure or hypertension. And yet, many of us do not even know that we have it. High blood pressure can be especially dangerous for both mom and baby during pregnancy. If you have high blood pressure and are thinking about getting pregnant, it is very important that you talk to your health care provider and get it under control as soon as possible.

Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries (blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body). When the pressure in the arteries becomes too high, it is called high blood pressure or hypertension.

If you are 20 pounds or more overweight or if you have a family history of hypertension, you are at an increased risk to have high blood pressure yourself.

If you do have high blood pressure, there are a few lifestyle changes that you can make to get it under control, and to help prepare your body for pregnancy:
• Eat healthy foods and reduce your intake of salt, cholesterol, and saturated fats
• Exercise regularly
• Get to a healthy weight
• Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.

Not all medications for high blood pressure are safe to continue during pregnancy. If you are taking any prescriptions to manage your hypertension, make sure you discuss them with your doctor. You should never stop taking any medications without talking to your provider first.

About 8 percent of women have problems with high blood pressure during pregnancy. Although most health problems can be managed with regular prenatal care, pregnant women with high blood pressure are more likely than women without high blood pressure to have these complications:
• Low birthweight: when a baby weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. High blood pressure can narrow blood vessels in the uterus and your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients, causing him to grow slowly.
• Premature birth: birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. A pregnant woman with severe high blood pressure or preeclampsia may need to give birth early to avoid serious health problems for her and her baby.
• Placental abruption: the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth. It can separate partially or completely. If this happens, your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients.

Work with your provider before and during your pregnancy to control your blood pressure. Making a few changes now can help you to have a safer, healthier pregnancy.

Make a PACT to prevent birth defects

Friday, January 9th, 2015

MOD woman eatingEach year in the United States, about 120,000 babies (1 in 33) are affected by 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. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chances of having a healthy baby.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month and this year’s theme is “Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects—Make a PACT for Prevention.” If you are thinking of having a baby, follow this PACT:

Plan ahead:
• Get as healthy as you can before becoming pregnant.
• Make sure you are taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Studies show that if all women in the United States took the recommended amount of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, up to 70 percent of neural tube defects (NTDs) could be prevented. Folic acid also may help prevent other birth defects, including cleft lip/palate and some heart defects.

Avoid harmful substances:
• Do not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use street drugs.
• Make sure you are aware of any harmful exposures at work or home and do your best to avoid them.

Choose a healthy lifestyle:
• Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean proteins.
• Exercise and stay physically active.
• Make sure you work with your health care provider to get any pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, under control and managed.

Talk to your doctor:
• Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy and make sure you go to all of your prenatal visits during pregnancy.
• Discuss all medications you are taking with your doctor. This includes both prescription meds and over-the counter medicines.
• Review your family health history.

So this year, make a PACT to prevent birth defects by following these healthy guidelines. The National Birth Defects Prevention Network’s website has more information.

How to combat holiday fatigue

Friday, December 26th, 2014

tired santaHoliday season is in full swing—we just have to make it to New Year’s Eve. I am exhausted. Traveling, family, kids, parties—it all adds up to a lot of late nights and early mornings. And if you are pregnant, you may be more tired than usual. This is especially true during the first and third trimesters, when your body is producing new hormones and getting ready for the many changes that will be coming soon.

 

So what can you do to try to relieve your holiday fatigue? Here are some tips:

• Rest when you can during the day and try to take a few breaks to renew your energy.

• Lots of family activities may leave you feeling drained at the end of the day. Go to bed early, if you can.

• Don’t drink lots of fluids too close to bedtime. Hopefully then, you will not have to get up to go to the bathroom.

• If you often have heartburn, make sure you do not lie down right after you eat. Try to eat your last meal a few hours before you go to bed.

• To avoid leg cramps, gently stretch your leg muscles before bedtime.

• A nice 30 minute walk can refresh and invigorate you (make sure your doctor has said exercise is OK). But do not get too much exercise right before bed.

• Be sure to drink enough fluids—water is usually best.

• Deep breathing and meditation can help you find a moment of peace when you are feeling overwhelmed.

• Try to limit unhealthy snacks. These can drain your energy. Fruits, vegetables, and foods high in iron and protein are good choices.

• During this busy season, do not forget to take your prenatal vitamin. If you are anemic, ask your provider about an iron supplement.

You can read more about fatigue during pregnancy on our website. And if you have any questions, email us at askus@marchofdimes.org.

October is here (and so are pumpkin spiced lattes)

Monday, October 6th, 2014

pumpkins and autumnPumpkin pie and pumpkin spiced lattes are two of my favorite autumn indulgences. But if you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, here’s what you need to know.

Caffeine during pregnancy

The March of Dimes recommends that women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant consume no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day. This is the amount of caffeine in about one 12-ounce cup of coffee. If you are pregnant and craving a pumpkin spiced latte or beverage, you can find a variety of them. Many coffee houses display nutrition facts for their drinks. You can also request this info from their employees or visit their website (if they have one), which makes checking caffeine and sugar easier. At one coffee shop I visited, their pumpkin spiced latte had approximately 75 mg of caffeine in a 12 oz serving, which is fine for pregnant women. But it also contained 38 grams of sugar, which is a lot for one drink.

Keep in mind, during pregnancy, caffeine passes through the placenta and reaches your baby. For more information on caffeine and pregnancy, visit our website.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin and roasted pumpkin seeds are safe and nutritious to eat during pregnancy, not to mention delicious. Pumpkin seeds contain nutrients such as protein, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, iron and potassium. To learn different ways to prepare pumpkin seeds visit our blog post. Pumpkin and canned pumpkin puree are low calorie, nutritious foods. Pumpkin itself is a good source of fiber, iron, potassium and vitamin A and C. So if you decide to skip the pumpkin spiced latte, you can still enjoy other pumpkin treats.

If you have any questions about what foods or beverages are safe to consume during pregnancy, email us at askus@marchofdimes.org.