Posts Tagged ‘preconception checkup’

Thinking about pregnancy after premature birth

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Even if you do everything right, you can still have a premature birth. We don’t always know what causes premature birth, but we do know that if you’ve had a premature baby in the past, you’re at increased risk of having a premature birth in another pregnancy. If you have given birth early, here are some ways you may be able to reduce the chances of premature birth in another pregnancy:

Wait 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again

Waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies gives your body time to recover from one pregnancy so that is it ready for the next one. Use birth control so you don’t get pregnant again too soon. Talk to your provider about the best birth control option for you.

Schedule a preconception checkup

Being as healthy as possible when you get pregnant can help you have a healthy, full-term pregnancy. At your preconception checkup you and your provider can talk about:

Talk to your provider about progesterone shots

Progesterone is a hormone that helps your uterus grow and keeps it from having contractions. Progesterone shots may help prevent you from giving birth early again if:

  • You’re pregnant with just one baby.
  • You were pregnant before with just one baby and had spontaneous premature birth.

Get treatment for short cervix

Your cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. The cervix opens, shortens and gets thinner and softer so your baby can pass through the birth canal during labor and birth. Having a short cervix increases your risk for giving birth early. Talk to your provider about cerclage and vaginal progesterone.

Take low dose aspirin to help prevent preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a kind of high blood pressure some women get after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth. If not treated, it can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including premature birth. If you have risk factors for preeclampsia, like you’ve had it before or you have high blood pressure or other health conditions, your provider may want you to take low-dose aspirin during pregnancy.

Quit smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs and misusing prescription drugs.

All of these can put your health and your baby’s health at risk and make you more likely to give birth early. Quitting or getting help to quit is the best thing you can do. Talk to your provider about programs that can help.

Learn the signs of preterm labor

Learning the signs and symptoms of preterm labor doesn’t reduce your risk of premature birth. But if you know them and know what to do if you have them, you can get treatment quickly that may help stop your labor. If you have any signs or symptoms of preterm labor, call your provider right away or go to the hospital.

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

Prenatal health and nutrition start before pregnancy

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Today’s guest post is written by Donna Dell of Mission Pharmacal on the findings of a survey, conducted in part by March of Dimes, on the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy.

Did you know that taking multivitamins or vitamins containing folic acid is an important component for a healthy mom and baby?

A recent survey conducted by the March of Dimes, in partnership with Mission Pharmacal, showed that only 34 percent of women ages 18-45 started taking a prenatal vitamin or multivitamin before they knew they were pregnant, and the number drops to 27 percent for Hispanic women and to 10 percent for African-American/black women.

Taking a multivitamin containing folic acid every day before and during pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine, also called neural tube defects. More than 120,000 babies — or three percent of all births — will be born with birth defects in the U.S. this year.

Here are some other key findings from the survey:

  • While, 97% of women reported taking prenatal vitamins or multivitamins during their last or current pregnancy, 36% of women of childbearing age said they are currently not taking any vitamin or mineral supplements at all.
  • 77% of all women worry that there may be changes to the healthcare system that may negatively impact access to prenatal care.
  • 43% of women who have been or are currently pregnant reported that cost affected when and whether they sought prenatal care for their pregnancy.
  • 84% of women who reported being familiar with folic acid either didn’t know (59%) or weren’t sure of the recommended amount of the nutrient is needed, in order to help have a healthy baby or pregnancy.

So, what are some steps you can take to support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby?

  • Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin containing at least 400 micro-grams (mcg) of folic acid every day before pregnancy to help prevent serious birth defects.
  • If you’re thinking of having a baby, see your health care provider for a preconception checkup and talk about prescription or over-the-counter vitamins.
  • Once you are pregnant, keep getting your folic acid by taking a prenatal vitamin every day containing 600 mcg.
  • Iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA and iodine have also been found to play a key role in a baby’s growth and development during pregnancy.
  • Folic acid comes in different forms other than vitamins. Look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” on the package label of foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, flour, pasta, and products made from corn masa, and white rice.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol, and stay up-to-date on vaccines.

Please visit marchofdimes.org for the latest health information, resources and tools for moms and babies.

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

What vaccines do you need before, during, and after pregnancy?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is very important to make sure that you are up-to-date on all of your vaccinations. Vaccines help protect you from infection and you pass this protection to your baby during pregnancy. This helps keep your baby safe during the first few months of life until he gets his own vaccinations.

Before pregnancy

These vaccines are recommended before you get pregnant:

  • Flu. Get the flu vaccine once a year before flu season (October through May). There are many different flu viruses, and they’re always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four flu viruses that are likely to make people sick during the upcoming flu season. If you come down with the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications, such as pneumonia.
  • HPV. This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine.
  • MMR. This vaccine protects you against the measles, mumps and rubella.
  • Varicella. Chickenpox is an infection that causes itchy skin, rash and fever. It’s easily spread and can cause birth defects if you get it during pregnancy. It’s also very dangerous to a baby. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and you never had the chickenpox or the vaccine, tell your provider.

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, schedule a preconception checkup, so your provider can make sure you are up-to-date with all of your vaccinations.

During pregnancy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:

  1. Flu shot if you didn’t get one before pregnancy. The flu mist isn’t safe to use during pregnancy.
  2. Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy at 27 to 36 weeks. The Tdap vaccine prevents pertussis (also called whooping cough). Pertussis is easily spread and very dangerous for a baby.

Not all vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider to make sure any vaccination you get is safe.

After pregnancy

If you haven’t caught up on vaccinations before or during pregnancy, do it after your baby’s born.

If you didn’t get the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy, make sure to get it right after you give birth. Getting the Tdap vaccine soon after giving birth prevents you from getting pertussis and passing it on to your baby. Your baby should get his first pertussis vaccine at 2 months old.

Until your baby gets his first pertussis shot, the best way to protect him is to get the vaccine yourself and keep him away from people who may have the illness. Caregivers, close friends and relatives who spend time with your baby should also get a Tdap vaccine at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby. Babies may not be fully protected until they’ve had three doses of the Tdap vaccine.

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s safe to get routine adult vaccines, but ask your provider if you have concerns.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

What are cleft lip and cleft palate?

Friday, July 7th, 2017

cleft lipCleft lip and cleft palate occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form completely during pregnancy. A cleft lip is an opening in a baby’s upper lip. Cleft palate occurs when a baby’s palate (the roof of the mouth) has an opening in it. About 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate each year in the United States.

What causes cleft lip and cleft palate?

Cleft lip and palate happen very early in pregnancy. Your baby’s lips form between 4 and 7 weeks of pregnancy, and the palate forms between 6 and 9 weeks of pregnancy. Oral clefts don’t have to happen together—a baby can have one without the other.

We’re not sure what causes cleft lip and cleft palate. They may be caused by a combination of factors, like genes and things in your environment, such as medicines you may take. Some risk factors include:

  • Smoking.
  • Diabetes. If you have diabetes before pregnancy, you have an increased risk of having a baby with a cleft lip with or without cleft palate, compared to women who do not have diabetes.
  • Taking certain medicines. If you have epilepsy and take anti-seizure medicines (like topiramate or valproic acid) during the first trimester, you’re more likely to have a baby with cleft lip (with or without cleft palate) than women who don’t take these medicines.

How are cleft lip and cleft palate treated?

In most cases, surgery is needed. Each baby is unique, but surgery to repair cleft lip usually is done at 10 to 12 weeks of age. Surgery for cleft palate is done between 9 and 18 months of age. Children who have a cleft lip or palate may need services such as speech therapy and special dental care as they get older.

Can cleft lip and cleft palate be prevented?

These conditions cannot always be prevented. But here are some things you can do to reduce the chance of your baby having a cleft:

  • Take folic acid. Before pregnancy, take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. During pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid in it every day.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Get a preconception checkup.
  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and talk to your provider about gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your provider to make sure any medicine you take is safe during pregnancy. Don’t stop taking any medicine without talking to your provider first.
  • Get early and regular prenatal care.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Make sure all your vaccinations are up to date, especially for rubella. Wash your hands often.

You can learn more about cleft lip and cleft palate on our website.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

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.

How can we prevent birth defects?

Friday, January 30th, 2015

speak to your health care providerBirth defects are common, costly, and critical.
Common: Every 4 ½ minutes in the United States, a baby is born with a birth defect.
Costly: Hospital costs for children and adults with birth defects exceeds $2.6 billion. That does not include outpatient expenses.
Critical: Birth defects cause 1 in every 5 deaths during the first year of life. They can result in lifelong challenges and disabilities.

As Birth Defects Prevention Month draws to a close, let’s recap what we know and look at steps that can be taken to prevent them.

Preconception and pregnancy planning
We know that it essential for a woman to take an active role in planning her pregnancy.  If you are thinking of having a baby or if you may want to have children sometime in the future, it is important to make a PACT: plan ahead, avoid harmful substances, choose a healthy lifestyle, and talk to your doctor. You can read more here.

Changing a few behaviors now can make a big difference when you are ready to have a baby. It is best to get any preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, under control before pregnancy. Some medications, such as opioid-based prescription pain medications, are not safe to use when you are pregnant. All of these concerns can be discussed with your doctor during a preconception checkup.

Folic acid fortification
It is well known that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day can help to reduce the risk of neural tube defects or NTDs (disorders of the brain and spine). Since the US mandated folic acid fortification of enriched cereal grain products in 1998, the rates of NTDs have decreased by 35%.  That means that there are 1,300 fewer NTDs each year as a result of fortification. And that translates into an annual cost savings of approximately $508 million.

Surveillance
State surveillance systems record the number of babies born with a birth defect each year. The information gained from these surveillance systems furthers research on the causes of birth defects. The data also helps researchers to better understand which populations are at highest risk for specific birth defects. This information can then be used by public health professionals, policymakers, and health care providers to implement prevention strategies.

Research
The March of Dimes is funding research to understand the causes of birth defects and to develop new ways to prevent and treat them. Some March of Dimes grantees are studying basic biological processes of development. A more advanced look at the process of development will help reveal what can go wrong along the way. Others researchers are conducting clinical studies aimed at finding ways to prevent or treat specific birth defects.

Birth Defects Prevention Month may be coming to an end, but there is still a lot of work to do. Go to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to learn more.

Are you ready to have another baby?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

pregnant woman and toddlerEveryone has a different opinion about how far apart in age their children should be. Some people like to have their babies very close together, while others like a little more time between each child. But there may be more to consider than just personal preference. A recent study found that women who wait less than 18 months between pregnancies are more likely to give birth before 39 weeks.

The study found that mothers who had less time between pregnancies were more likely to give birth before 39 weeks when compared to women whose pregnancies were 18 months apart or more. Women with pregnancy intervals of less than 12 months were more than twice as likely to give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks) when compared to women whose pregnancies were at least 18 months apart.

“Short interpregnancy interval is a known risk factor for preterm birth, however, this new research shows that inadequate birth spacing is associated with shorter overall pregnancy duration” states  Emily DeFranco, Assistant Professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio and the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and co-author of the study. She adds: “This study has potential clinical impact on reducing the overall rate of preterm birth across the world through counselling women on the importance of adequate birth spacing, especially focusing on women known to be at inherently high risk for preterm birth.”

So if you are thinking about having another baby, make sure you schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider.  The two of you can discuss any health concerns you may have as well as the time between your pregnancies.  Also, if you have had a premature baby in the past, make sure you discuss ways to reduce your risk of having another premature birth.

Cleft and craniofacial awareness and prevention month

Monday, July 21st, 2014

July is cleft and craniofacial awareness and prevention month. Craniofacial abnormalities are  defects of the head (cranio) and face (facial) that are present when a baby is born. Cleft lip and/or cleft palate are a couple of the most common abnormalities.

Craniofacial abnormalities can range from mild to severe. These defects can present a variety of problems including eating and speech difficulties, ear infections and misaligned teeth, physical learning, developmental, or social challenges, or a mix of these issues. However, there are steps you can take to help prevent cleft and craniofacial defects before your baby is born.

What increases the risk of having a baby with craniofacial abnormalities?

We’re not sure what causes these defects. Some possible causes are:

• Changes in your baby’s genes. Genes are part of your baby’s cells that store instructions for the way the body grows and works. They provide the basic plan for how your baby develops. Genes are passed from parents to children.

• Diabetes. Women who have diabetes before they get pregnant have a higher risk of having a baby with a cleft or craniofacial birth defect.

• Maternal thyroid disease. Women who have maternal thyroid disease or are treated for the disease while they are pregnant have been shown to have a higher risk of having a baby with an abnormality.

• Not getting enough folic acid before pregnancy. Folic acid is a vitamin that can help protect your baby from birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects. It also may reduce the risk of oral clefts by about 25 percent.

• Taking certain medicines, like anti-seizure medicine, during pregnancy.

• Smoking during pregnancy.

• Drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

• Having certain infections during pregnancy.

How can you prevent cleft and craniofacial defects?

There are steps you can take to decrease the chance of having a baby with cleft and craniofacial defects.

• Before pregnancy, get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup to help make sure you are healthy before you get pregnant.

• Take a multivitamin that contains folic acid. Take one with 400 micrograms of folic acid before pregnancy, but increase to one with 600 micrograms of folic acid during pregnancy. Your provider may want you to take more – be sure to discuss this with him.

• Talk to your provider to make sure any medicine you take is safe during pregnancy. Your provider may want to switch you to a different medicine that is safer during pregnancy.

• Don’t smoke.

• Don’t drink alcohol.

• Get early and regular prenatal care.

If you have any question about cleft or craniofacial defects, causes or prevention, read more here or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Scleroderma and pregnancy

Friday, June 27th, 2014

June is National Scleroderma Awareness Month. Scleroderma is a group of diseases that result in the abnormal growth of connective tissue. Connective tissue is tissue that supports your skin and internal organs, like your kidneys, lungs and heart. Scleroderma is a chronic condition meaning that it lasts for a long time and can affect many aspects of your life.

If you have scleroderma, your body makes too much of a connective tissue protein called collagen. When too much collagen builds up in your body, it causes your skin and connective tissues to get hard or thick. Scleroderma can lead to pain and swelling in your muscles and joints. There are two main kinds of scleroderma: localized and systemic. Both can be mild to severe, with periods of remission (wellness) and flares (illness).

Localized scleroderma only affects certain parts of your body, like your skin, skin tissues and sometimes muscles. Localized scleroderma doesn’t harm major organs and often gets better or goes away over time without treatment. But sometimes it can be severe and cause lasting skin changes.

Systemic scleroderma can affect the whole body, including your skin, tissues, blood vessels and major organs, like your heart, lungs and kidneys.

If you have scleroderma and you’re thinking about getting pregnant,  you should schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. If you have localized scleroderma, it may not affect your pregnancy at all. But systemic scleroderma can cause problems with your heart, lungs or kidneys. These complications are most likely to appear during the first three years of scleroderma symptoms, and can cause health difficulties for you and your baby during pregnancy. For this reason, it’s best not to get pregnant during the first three years of symptoms.

If you have systemic scleroderma, you may be more likely than other pregnant women to have:

• Preeclampsia and other kinds of high blood pressure,

• Poor growth in your baby,

• Premature birth,

• Cesarean birth (C-section).

Right now, there is no specific treatment that stops the body from making too much collagen. However, doctors use several types of medication to control the symptoms. But not all of these are safe to use during pregnancy. Some can cause birth defects if a woman takes them while she is pregnant. That is why it is so important to discuss your condition with your doctor before pregnancy.

During pregnancy a woman with scleroderma may be treated by multiple doctors, including a rheumatologist as well as a high-risk obstetrician. Depending on her individual symptoms, a pregnant woman may need to see a few other providers to treat specific complications. Fortunately though, with today’s medical care, many women with scleroderma can have successful pregnancies.

Overweight pregnancy can have long-term health consequences for children

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Too much weight before and during pregnancy can have serious health consequences not only for the mother, but for her child’s health for many years, new research shows.

“While it’s pretty well-known a healthy weight is crucial to a healthy and long life, new research is showing that if a woman is overweight while pregnant, her baby is more likely to be overweight,” says Alan R. Fleischman, MD, March of Dimes medical director. Health risks continue into childhood, with a higher risk of developing insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which can lead to heart disease and diabetes.

We realize that weight is a sensitive subject for many women and that some health care professionals are uncomfortable discussing it. But weight is a risk factor that can be changed, greatly improving outcomes. It’s very important to talk about this and get essential changes started. If a woman begins her pregnancy at a healthy weight, it can not only lower the risk of preterm birth and birth defects, but can give her baby a healthier start that can have life-long benefits. You can read a lot more about it at this link.

The March of Dimes recommends that women who are planning a pregnancy should get a preconception health check-up. During the visit, your health care provider can identify and treat health conditions that can pose a risk in pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or certain infections.  Your provider can offer information on weight as well as nutrition, smoking, drinking alcohol and occupational exposures that can pose pregnancy risks. If weight might be an issue for you, don’t put off talking to your doc about about it. It will be good for both you and your baby.