Posts Tagged ‘preconception health’

Heart conditions and pregnancy

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

It’s not surprising to hear that being healthy before pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy complications. But if you have a heart condition like heart disease or a health problem like high blood pressure (which can lead to heart problems), you might worry about how it could affect your pregnancy. Here are a few things to know:

  • High blood pressure can cause preeclampsia and premature birth during pregnancy. But managing your blood pressure can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
  • During pregnancy, your heart has much more work to do than before you got pregnant. It has to beat faster and pump more blood. If you have heart disease, then this extra stress on your heart may be a concern.
  • Most women with heart disease have safe pregnancies. But symptoms of heart disease can increase during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters.
  • Some medicines carry a risk for birth defects. These include ACE inhibitors and blood thinners. These are a type of medicine that may be used to treat heart and blood pressure conditions. If you take these medicines, ask your health care provider about their safety and about other medicines that may be safer for you and your baby. But don’t stop taking any medicine without your provider’s OK.

Planning your treatment before pregnancy

Planning your pregnancy can help you make informed decisions about what’s best for you and your baby. Heart problems are one of the leading causes of pregnancy related-death. Getting early treatment for conditions that can cause complications during and after pregnancy may help save your life.

If you have a heart condition, talk to your health care team (for example, your cardiologist and obstetrician) before you get pregnant. They can help you understand what risks (if any) you may have during pregnancy. You also can talk to them about any concerns you have, like changing to a safer medicine. You may want to meet with a genetic counselor to review the risks of passing congenital heart problems to your baby. This risk varies depending on the cause of the heart disease.

If you have high blood pressure, talk to your provider about a treatment plan to help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy. By managing your health before pregnancy, you and your provider can make sure you’re ready for pregnancy.

Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about having a healthy pregnancy and reducing your risk for complications.

September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month

Monday, September 10th, 2018

September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month. It’s a time for us to bring attention to the fact that, sadly, babies die during infancy. And it’s a time to talk about why we must take action to help fix this problem.

Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his first birthday. According to the CDC, in 2016 the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. The rate for Non-Hispanic black was much higher at 11.4 per 1,000 live births.

These facts are alarming. March of Dimes is working hard in advocacy, education and research to level the playing field so all moms and babies are healthy.

What are the leading causes of infant mortality in the U.S.? 

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

What can you do?

Not all causes of infant mortality can be prevented. But here’s what you can do to help keep your baby healthy and reduce the risk of infant death:

Before pregnancy

  • Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects. Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects and cleft lip and palate in your baby.
  • Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. At this checkup, your provider looks for health conditions that may affect your pregnancy and the health of your baby. Your provider can help you get treated for these conditions to help your baby be born healthy.
  • Get to a healthy weight. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help prevent complications during pregnancy. Eat healthy foods and do something active every day.

During pregnancy

  • Get early and regular prenatal care. Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. This lets your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy. She also can spot and treat any problems that you may have during pregnancy.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful drugs. Alcohol, drugs and 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.

After your baby’s birth

  • Make sure your baby sleeps safely. Put your baby to sleep on 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.
  • Wait at least 18 months after having a baby before getting pregnant again. Getting pregnant again before 18 months can increase the chance in your next pregnancy of premature birth and low birthweight. Waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies allows your body time to fully recover from your last pregnancy before it’s ready for your next pregnancy.

Take action today

You can help us lead the fight for the health of all moms and babies. Join March of Dimes’ advocacy network and take action now to support legislation that can help protect moms and babies.

Visit marchofdimes.org and learn more about the steps you can take to be as healthy as possible before and during pregnancy.

Get vaccinated before pregnancy

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

If you’re planning a pregnancy, make sure that you are up-to-date on all of your vaccinations. Vaccinations contain medicine that makes you immune to certain diseases. If you’re immune, you can’t get the disease. You can get vaccinations to prevent certain infections, like chickenpox and rubella (also called German measles), that can harm you and your baby during pregnancy.

Why do adults need vaccinations?

You probably got vaccinations as a child, but they don’t all protect you your whole life. Over time, some vaccinations stop working. So you may need what’s called a booster shot as an adult. And there may be new vaccinations that weren’t available when you were young.

What vaccinations do you need before pregnancy?

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant. At your checkup, ask your provider if you need any vaccinations and how long to wait after getting them to try to get pregnant.

Your provider may recommend these vaccinations before you get pregnant:

  • Flu (also called influenza). 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 get the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications, such as pneumonia.
  • HPV (stands for human papillomavirus). This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts and cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also called CDC) recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine. You can’t get the HPV vaccine during pregnancy, so if you need it, get it before you get pregnant.
  • MMR (stands for measles, mumps and rubella). This vaccine protects you against the measles, mumps and rubella. Wait 4 weeks after you get an MMR vaccination before you get pregnant.
  • Varicella (also called chickenpox). 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. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and you never had the chickenpox or the vaccine, tell your provider. Wait 1 month after you get this vaccination to get pregnant.

Your provider may recommend other vaccinations before pregnancy to protect you against certain diseases, depending on your risk. These include:

  • Pneumonia. This is an infection in one or both lungs.
  • Meningitis. This is an infection that causes swelling in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Hepatitis A and B. These are liver infections caused by the hepatitis A and B viruses.
  • Haemophilus Influenzae Type b (also called Hib). This is a serious disease caused by bacteria. It can cause meningitis, pneumonia, other serious infections and death.
  • Tdap (stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). Pertussis also is called whooping cough. In some cases, providers recommend a Td vaccination, which protects against tetanus and diphtheria but not pertussis. Ask your provider what’s best for you.

Learn more about vaccinations before and during pregnancy at: marchofdimes.org

Pregnancy loss: Will it happen again?

Friday, March 9th, 2018

The loss of a pregnancy or a baby is one of the most difficult experiences. Whether you had a miscarriage, stillbirth or your baby died soon after birth, it’s normal to have mixed feelings about a future pregnancy. Some women may want to start trying getting pregnant as soon as possible, while others may prefer to wait. Will it happen again? – is a common question many women ask themselves when thinking about getting pregnant again.

Trying to get pregnant again after a baby’s death may be really stressful for you. Here are few things you can do:

  • Share your feelings with your partner about getting pregnant again. Your partner may feel differently about getting pregnant again, but you and your partner are the only ones who can decide what’s right for you.
  • Try to be hopeful. Remind yourself that every pregnancy and baby are different. Just because you’ve had a baby die doesn’t mean it will happen in your next pregnancy.
  • If you work, talk to your boss about how to reduce the stress at your job.
  • Talk to your provider or a counselor about ways you can reduce stress.
  • Go to your preconception checkup to make sure you’re healthy. Being healthy when you get pregnant can help you have a healthy pregnancy.
  • Eat healthy foods, drink lots of water and do something active every day. Try to get a full night’s sleep.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful drugs.

How long to wait before getting pregnant again?

For most women, it’s best to wait at least 18 months (1½ years) from the end of one pregnancy before getting pregnant again. This gives your body enough time to recover before your next pregnancy.

Not all women can wait 18 months between pregnancies. Talk to your provider about how long to wait between pregnancies if:

  • You’re older than 35.
  • You’ve had a miscarriage or stillbirth. Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

When you’re ready to try again

The best thing you can do to help you have a healthy pregnancy next time is to take good care of yourself. Before your next pregnancy:

  • Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy to help make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.
  • Take a vitamin supplement every day with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it. Folic acid is a vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. If you take it before pregnancy and during early pregnancy, it can help protect your baby from birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects, birth defects of the mouth called cleft lip and palate and some heart defects.
  • Get to a healthy weight. Eat healthy foods and do something active every day. Talk to your provider about the right weight for you.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful drugs. Talk to your provider if you need help to quit.

For more information

  • From hurt to healing (free booklet from the March of Dimes for grieving parents)
  • Share Your Story (March of Dimes online community for families to share experiences with prematurity, birth defects or loss)

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.

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.