Posts Tagged ‘preconception health’

World Prematurity Day: Why it matters

Friday, November 17th, 2017

In the United States,

About every eight seconds, a baby is born.

Every hour, about three babies die.

African-American infants are more than two times as likely as white infants to die before their first birthday.

About one in ten infants is born preterm (less than 37 weeks gestation).

About every 1½ minutes, a baby is born with low birthweight (less than 5 pounds 8 ounces).

Prematurity/low birthweight and related conditions account for more infant deaths than any other single cause (about 1 in 3).

Every year, about 4,400 babies are born weighing less than one pound.

Premature birth is birth that happens too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Each year 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely and more than a million die as a result. Babies born too early may face life-threatening complications and have lifelong health problems. Today, in honor of World Prematurity Day, we are raising awareness of this serious health crisis.

We don’t always know what causes preterm labor and premature birth. Sometimes labor starts on its own without warning. Even if you do everything right during pregnancy, you can still give birth early. However, there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk for preterm labor and premature birth.

  • Schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. A preconception checkup helps your health care provider make sure that your body is ready for pregnancy.
  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. Use birth control until you’re ready to get pregnant again.
  • Get treated for health conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and thyroid problems.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Get vaccinated, wash your hands frequently, and don’t eat raw meat, fish or eggs. Have safe sex.
  • Reduce your stress. Eat healthy foods and do something active every day.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use street drugs. Ask your provider about programs that can help you quit. Tell your provider about any medicines you take, with or without a prescription.
  • Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. Prenatal care helps your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of preterm labor. This won’t reduce your risk of preterm labor but it will allow you to get treatment quickly and that may help stop your labor.

There is no single cause of premature birth and therefore there is no simple solution. The March of Dimes is working towards giving every mom the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy and every baby the chance to survive and thrive.

September is Infant Mortality Awareness month

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. According to the CDC, in 2015 the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. That means that in 2015 over 23,000 infants died before their first birthday.

Causes of infant mortality

In the US, the leading causes of infant mortality are:

  1. Birth defects
  2. Premature birth and low birthweight
  3. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  4. Maternal pregnancy complications
  5. Injuries (such as suffocation).

What can you do?

Not all causes of infant mortality can be prevented. But there are some steps that you can take to reduce the risks of certain birth defects, premature birth, some pregnancy complications, and SIDS.

Take a multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid. While there are many different types of birth defects, taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs). Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects and cleft lip and palate.

Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy. Being healthy before pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy complications when you do get pregnant. Your provider can also identify any risk factors and make sure they are treated before you get pregnant.

Get early and regular prenatal care. This lets your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy. She can also identify and treat any problems that may arise during your pregnancy.

Stay at a healthy weight and be active. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help you to avoid some complications during pregnancy.

Quit smoking and avoid alcohol and street drugs. Alcohol, drugs and harmful chemicals from smoke can pass directly through the umbilical cord to your baby. This can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage, birth defects and premature birth.

Space pregnancies at least 18 months apart. This allows your body time to fully recover from your last pregnancy before it’s ready for your next pregnancy. Getting pregnant again before 18 months can increase the chance of premature birth, low birthweight, and having a baby that is small for gestational age.

Create a safe sleeping environment for your baby. Put your baby to sleep on his or her back on a flat, firm surface (like a crib mattress). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you and your baby sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed, for the first year of your baby’s life, but at least for the first 6 months.

The March of Dimes is helping improve babies’ chances of being born healthy and staying healthy by funding research into the causes of birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

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

 

 

 

It’s Prematurity Awareness Month – Come chat with us!

Monday, October 31st, 2016

parents in the NICU

We have several Twitter chats scheduled in November, in honor of Prematurity Awareness Month.

Please join us:

Wednesday, November 2 at 1pm ET with neonatologist Dr. Suresh of Texas Children’s Hospital. Use #preemiechat

Topic:  Prematurity – causes, complications, and coping in the NICU

 

Wednesday, November 9 at 2pm ET with Mom’s Rising. Use #WellnessWed

Topic: Can your preconception health reduce your chances of giving birth early?

 

Tuesday, November 15th at 2pm ET with Genetic Alliance and Baby’s First Test. Use #preemiechat

Topic: Is prematurity caused by genetics? Can it run in families?

 

We hope to see you on Twitter!

For questions or more information about these chats, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

birth announcement

A man’s preconception health matters – come chat with us to learn why

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

You're invited! #PCHchat on June 16Join the conversation on Twitter tomorrow, June 16th to learn why and how a man’s preconception health is important.

Use #PCHchat and join in at 1pm EST.

We’ll be joined by other organizations and professionals for what is sure to be a very lively chat.

Feel free to ask questions. Hope to see you then!

It takes two to tango: a man’s preconception health matters

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPHToday we welcome guest blogger Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH, Director, The National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative.

What is Men’s Preconception Health?

It’s National Men’s Health Month! A time to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. What a great time to encourage guys to schedule their annual wellness visit and think about their daily health behaviors.

Men are often an afterthought when it comes to preconception care and sexual health conversations, if they are reached at all. To make it worse, messaging that has been directed to men is often under researched and ineffective. Women are often the focus when it comes to preconception health, but men are just as important! After all, it takes two to tango and create a child. A man’s reproductive health is an important component of his overall health and well-being.

The CDC recommends ten things that men can do to improve their reproductive health and wellness. Healthy guys are more likely to be able to reach for and achieve their life goals.

Here are some key steps men can take towards a healthy lifestyle from Everywoman Southeast:

Make a Plan and Take Action

Men should consult with their health care provider to discuss which contraceptive method is best for him and his partner based on overall health, age, frequency of sexual activity, number of partners, desire to have children in the future, and family history of certain diseases. Men absolutely can and should think about when, if and how many children they would like to have in their life. While there aren’t as many contraceptive choices for men as for women, men should learn about all the options available for their partner and be part of the conversation!

Get Tested!

Get screened and treated for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is important to discuss the risk factors for STIs with a health care provider and ask about getting tested. It is possible to have an STI and not know it, because many do not cause symptoms. Men with STIs need to ask a provider about treatment to address symptoms, reduce progression, and decrease or eliminate the risk of transmission.

Prevent and Stop Drug Abuse

Smoking, illicit drug use, and binge drinking can cause infertility among men. Men are more likely than women to drink excessively. Excessive drinking is associated with significant increases in short-term risks to health and safety, and the risk increases as the amount of drinking increases. Additionally, a pregnant woman who is exposed to secondhand smoke has a 20% higher chance of giving birth to a baby with low birth weight than women who are not exposed. Talk to your health care provider if you need help quitting, and/or contact the National Quit Hotline 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight

People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for many serious conditions, as do people who are underweight. In addition, obesity among men is directly associated with increased male infertility. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about short-term dietary changes. It’s about a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity. Men should be encouraged at every age to be physically active and make healthy food choices.

Prevent and Stop Violence

Violence affects people in all stages of life, and destroys relationships and families. Men, boys, fathers, uncles and brothers DO and MUST play an ACTIVE role in ending violence in all forms. There are a number of resources available to help engage men and youth in preventing violence, and especially, violence against women.

Get Mentally Healthy

Depression is under-diagnosed in men. Men are over four times more likely than women to commit suicide. Most men don’t realize that some of the physical symptoms they may experience -things like chronic pain and digestive problems – could actually be caused by a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety or stress. There are also some men who suspect that they have a problem, but suffer in silence, afraid to admit they need help. Since mental health is very important to one’s overall health and well-being, men of all ages should be encouraged to seek help from a professional when needed.

Recognizing and preventing men’s health issues across the life course is important since it impacts the lives of their families, and the overall community. Remember: The single most important way men can take care of themselves and the ones they love is to actively take part in their health care.

Show Your Love Today Campaign (003)Find more information about men’s role in preconception health and life planning here: www.showyourlovetoday.com.

Bringing men into the conversation!

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. March of Dimes has partnered with PCHHC on this first and only consumer-focused preconception health campaign. Show Your Love seeks to help young men and women understand the significance their choices and health have on their future families. The resource website and social media campaign is meant to spark action for consumers to “Show Your Love” – to themselves, their significant other, their family/future family – by taking care of their health today.

Sarah 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 coordinates the five workgroups within the PCHHC: Consumer, Clinical, Policy & Finance, Surveillance and Research, and Public Health. Sarah is a clinical associate professor at the UNC School of Social Work.

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.

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.

Planning to become a mom

Friday, May 9th, 2014

pregnant womanHopefully we all remember that Mother’s Day is this Sunday. If you aren’t a mom yet, but are thinking of starting a family soon, there are a number of things that you can do to start getting ready. One of the best things you and your partner can do for your baby is to plan ahead. Having a healthy baby begins well before you get pregnant.

More than half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. This means that a lot of women get pregnant without really being ready for it. Babies who are planned are more likely to be born healthy than babies who are unplanned. This is because women who plan their pregnancies are more likely to get healthy before pregnancy. And they’re more likely to get early and regular prenatal care during pregnancy. Doing these things can help you have a healthy baby.

One of the most important things that every woman of childbearing age can do is to take a daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid is B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. If all women take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy, it may help reduce the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects by up to 70 percent. All women, even if they’re not trying to get pregnant, should take folic acid.

When thinking about future pregnancies you may want to make a reproductive life plan. This means thinking about if and when you want to have a baby. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many children do I want?
  • How far apart do I want them to be?
  • How can I get healthy before pregnancy?

Talk about your reproductive life plan with your partner. There are no right or wrong answers and your answers may change during different times in your life. The important thing is to really think about your plan and your family before you get pregnant. On our website we give you some things to think about to help you decide whether you are ready to be a parent, both emotionally and financially.

So to all the moms out there, have a Happy Mother’s Day! And for the moms-to-be, remember, it is never too early to start planning!

Thinking about another baby?

Friday, December 20th, 2013

sibs

After giving birth, there are some women who want to have another baby right away.  Others need a bit more time in between children.  Although there is no right or wrong time to have another child there are certain health considerations that point to optimum birth spacing.

Timing pregnancies less than 18 months or more than five years apart could raise the odds of the second baby being born prematurely, at low birth weight, or small for gestational age.  With too short an interval, researchers theorize, the problem may be that a mother’s body needs more time to recover from the stress and depleted nutrients of the first pregnancy.  With longer spacing, the problem could be that fertility gradually declines after a woman delivers.

Some research (although limited) suggests that a pregnancy within 12 months of giving birth is associated with an increased risk of placental abruption or placenta previa in women who previously had a C-section.

While waiting may be ideal, we understand that not all women can wait 18 months before trying for another child.  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.  Also, if you have had a premature baby, make sure you discuss ways to reduce your risk of having another premature birth.    Together you and your health care provider can choose the best time for you to add to your family.