Posts Tagged ‘Pregnancy’

Shingles, kids and pregnant women – know the facts

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Many pregnant women have written to us expressing concern about being exposed to a family member who has shingles. Usually it is their parent or grandparent, or another older adult who has the virus. However, did you know that children can get shingles, too?

When my daughter was in fourth grade, she came home from school with a tiny rash on her back about the size of a quarter, complaining of pain and exhaustion. I had never seen a rash like that before; it was a little clump of tiny bumps. Sure enough, her pediatrician diagnosed it as shingles. I was shocked, as I never associated shingles with kids. Although it isn’t common, it does happen, and the risk of getting singles increases with age. My daughter had a mild case, and after about 2 weeks she was on the mend. She was lucky – it can be very painful and last longer.

What causes shingles?

Shingles (formally known as Herpes Zoster) is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Only someone who has had chickenpox – or, rarely, has gotten the chickenpox vaccine – can get shingles, according to the CDC. The chickenpox virus stays in your body and can re-appear at a later date, often many years later. When it reappears, it does not return as chickenpox – it comes back as shingles.

How common is shingles?

My daughter had chickenpox (the disease) when she was four years old. At that time, the vaccine was not yet available. It is far less common to develop shingles if your child has had the chickenpox vaccine. By vaccinating your child against chickenpox you will decrease her chances of getting shingles later in life.

At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles. Shingles is far more common in people 50 years of age and older. It also occurs more in people whose immune systems are weakened because of a disease such as cancer, or drugs such as steroids or chemotherapy.

Can you catch shingles from someone who has shingles?

No, you can’t catch shingles from another person who has shingles. However, a person who has never had chickenpox (or the chickenpox vaccine) could get chickenpox from someone with shingles. However, this is not very common. Shingles is not spread through the air and infection can only occur after direct contact with the rash when it is in the blister-phase. A person with shingles is not contagious before the blisters appear or after they scab over.

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant…

• First, get a blood test to find out if you’re immune to chickenpox. If you’re not immune, you can get a vaccine. It’s best to wait 1 month after the vaccine before getting pregnant.

• If you’re already pregnant, don’t get the vaccine until after you give birth. In the meantime, avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or shingles.

• If you’re not immune to chickenpox and you come into contact with someone who has it, tell your provider right away. Your provider can treat you with medicine that has chickenpox antibodies. It’s important to get treatment within 4 days after you’ve come into contact with chickenpox to help prevent the infection or make it less serious.

• Tell your provider if you come in contact with a person who has shingles. Your provider may want to treat you with an antiviral medication.

What does all this mean for your child?

• If you think your child may have shingles, contact her health care provider. Prompt treatment may shorten the duration and keep pain to a minimum.

• Get your child the chickenpox vaccine to protect her against chickenpox, and so that she has a far less chance of getting shingles in the future.

Learn more about shingles exposure and chickenpox during pregnancy.

 

If you have questions, send them to AskUs@machofdimes.org.

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

 

 

Epilepsy and pregnancy

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

speak to your health care providerEvery year in the US, approximately 20,000 women with a seizure disorder give birth. Most of these pregnancies are healthy. But there are a few additional concerns that women who have epilepsy must consider when thinking about getting pregnant.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time. Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain activity that cause changes in attention or behavior. Epilepsy is a specific type of seizure disorder.

People with epilepsy are usually prescribed medication to help to control seizures. These are known as antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). There are a number of different types of AEDs and they are prescribed depending on age, the type of seizure, and the side effects of the medications. Some individuals with epilepsy may need more than one AED to control their seizures.

Can epilepsy cause problems during pregnancy?

If you have epilepsy and are thinking about getting pregnant, there are a few important things that you need to consider.

  • Women who have epilepsy have an increased chance to have a baby with a birth defect compared to women who do not have epilepsy. This may be the result of the epilepsy or the AEDs used to control seizures. Some AEDs have been associated with an increased risk of cleft lip and palate, neural tube defects, and heart defects.
  • Pregnancy can cause a change in the number of seizures. Most women with epilepsy will have no change in the number of seizures they experience or they will have fewer seizures during pregnancy. A few women will experience more seizures.

Controlling seizures during pregnancy is very important. Having a seizure during pregnancy can cause problems for you and your baby. Seizures during pregnancy can cause:

  • Decreased oxygen to the baby and fetal heart rate deceleration during the seizure.
  • Injury to the baby as a result of any falls or trauma experienced during the seizure. This can include premature separation of the placenta from the uterus (placental abruption) or miscarriage.
  • Preterm labor
  • Premature birth

Should you continue to take anti-seizure medications during pregnancy?

Many women with epilepsy are concerned about taking their AEDs during pregnancy. But according to ACOG, “Because there are serious risks associated with having a seizure during pregnancy and because the potential risk of harm to your baby from taking AEDs is small, experts recommend that seizures be controlled with AEDs, if necessary, during pregnancy. However, the type, amount, or number of AEDs that you take may need to change.”

Will you need any special care during your pregnancy?

One of the most important things that any woman can do to have a healthy pregnancy is to schedule a preconception checkup. If you have epilepsy, it is important to talk to your prenatal care provider as well as your neurologist prior to getting pregnant. Here are some other things to consider:

Before pregnancy:

  •  Review your seizure medications with both your prenatal provider and your neurologist. If changes need to be made, it is better to do this prior to getting pregnant.
  • Take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. Talk to your health care team about how much folic acid is right for you.
  • Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and avoid cigarettes, alcohol.

During pregnancy:

  • Plan for additional visits to your health care providers. Medication levels will need to be monitored to make sure they stay consistent.
  • Talk to a genetic counselor about prenatal testing.
  • Most women with a seizure disorder can have a vaginal birth.
  • Women with epilepsy are encouraged to breastfeed. Talk to your health care team.

If you have epilepsy, planning and working with your health care team can help to ensure that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Stop. Rest. Relax…Repeat.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

things to do I am not one who can easily relax. Usually, I need a brick wall in front of me to make me stop (or a cliff will do fine, too). Adrenaline runs through my veins. I am continually creating and updating my to-do lists (or as I call them, my must-do lists) and the I-don’t-have-time-to-relax attitude often overtakes me.

Now, I KNOW, that I need to relax, for the sake of good health and a clear mind. I KNOW I need sleep, a healthy diet and exercise. But, when the list of all that needs to be done is before my eyes, or in my hand, or on my phone, I have a very hard time turning away from it and shutting down my mind. Does this happen to anyone else out there?

As parents, we have the responsibility of providing for our children – financially, physically, emotionally and in every other way that they need. Parents of children with special needs face additional tasks to conquer, from appointments with specialists, to IEP meetings, to figuring out a system with continual twists, turns and dead ends. For pregnant women, stress related hormones may play a role in causing certain pregnancy complications. Unless we purposefully have a method or a way to shut off the engine and refuel it, we risk burn-out and ill health.

But, easier said than done.

A few years ago, I took up yoga, as I knew that it offered health benefits. Among the benefits is a curious thing called “mindfulness.” Now, I am a science geek at heart, so the touchy-feely aspect was not really something I gravitated toward. But, I gave it a try anyway. What is this thing called “mindfulness?”

Well, it is a way to help shut out the noise of everything around you (and even your own busy mind), and just…be. At first I was not able to just sit and “be.” Be what? I am a do-er. Not a be-er. But, I kept going to yoga class thinking that there must be something to this, and to just give it time.

relaxing at workEventually, (after about a year!) I got comfortable and even good at sitting down on my mat, crossing my legs, uttering OOOOOOOMMMMMMM a few times, and becoming “present in the moment.” My yoga instructor would say “you have nowhere to be, nothing to do, but to be here, present.” I would concentrate on my breathing (never did that before!), and work on blocking everything out of my mind (much harder than it sounds).

During class, I give myself permission to put the world on hold for an hour. My must-do list will be there when I am done, and my noisy world will return, but for this one hour I honor myself, I rest my mind, I invigorate my body, and I …..relax. What a concept!

When my son was in first grade, he received a writing assignment; the topic was “my favorite thing to do.” He wrote “My favorite thing to do….is to relax. I like to go home, lie on the couch, put my feet up and just watch a movie.” (His teacher was not too happy, as she expected to hear he liked to play a sport or build a Lego creation, but I found it enlightening.) His favorite thing, was letting go, relaxing….just “be”ing. Hmmmm. Kids GET this.

April is Stress Awareness Month, so, as you rush around, going from appointment to appointment, crossing off items on your must-do list, remember that you can only go so far without re-fueling. The stop-rest-relax portion of your day is as important as the go-go-go part. It does not have to be through yoga, but find something that helps you relax your body AND mind. Then, when you pick up and go again, you will be refreshed and able to handle whatever comes your way. Believe me, if I can do it, you can, too.

So, try this as your new mantra for today:  stop – rest – relax.

And tomorrow?

Repeat.

 

For more posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.

 

FASDs – what you need to know

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Alcohol Awareness MonthIt’s important to stop and think before you drink.

Many women who are pregnant or thinking about pregnancy know that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, but it’s important to note that even light drinking may also harm your developing baby. No level of alcohol use during pregnancy has been proven safe – none. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders or FASDs, which include a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and lasting emotional and behavioral problems in a child.

What happens to your baby when you drink?

When you drink alcohol during pregnancy, so does your baby. The same amount of alcohol that is in your blood is also in your baby’s blood. The alcohol in your blood quickly passes through the placenta and to your baby through the umbilical cord. Although your body is able to manage alcohol in your blood, your baby’s little body isn’t. Your liver works hard to break down the alcohol in your blood. But your baby’s liver is too small to do the same and alcohol can hurt your baby’s development.

That’s why alcohol is much more harmful to your baby than to you during pregnancy.

What should you do?

The good news is that FASDs can be completely avoided. If you had an occasional drink before knowing you were pregnant, chances are it probably won’t harm your baby. But it’s very important that you stop drinking alcohol as soon as you think you might be pregnant.

Also, be sure to get regular prenatal care and tell your health care provider about any concerns you may have.

Bottom line: There is no safe amount of alcohol a pregnant woman can consume. Even a small amount can harm your baby.

April is alcohol Awareness Month – help us get the word out. Stop and think before you drink.

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.

Pregnant? Stay centered.

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

third trimesterHave you felt off balance lately? Are your legs wobbly under your growing belly? You’re not alone. If you are in your third trimester of pregnancy, your center of gravity may be off balance, which could make you more prone to slips and falls. And your unsteady legs may be due to factors other than your growing belly.

Your center of gravity refers to the place in your body that helps anchor you to the earth, so that you don’t tip over. A natural point of balance is below the navel and halfway between the abdomen and lower back. Having a strong center of gravity helps you have good balance. During pregnancy, as your baby grows, your center of gravity moves forward and upward. Therefore, feeling off-balance is likely to worsen later on in your pregnancy, especially in the third trimester. Slipping and falling is much easier when your center of gravity has shifted.

But it’s not just your growing belly making you feel off kilter. During pregnancy, your body releases a hormone called relaxin. Toward the end of your pregnancy, this hormone helps to soften the cervix and loosen the pelvic joints so they are more flexible for labor and delivery. This softening can affect the hips, knees and ankles, which is what makes your legs feel shaky or wobbly.

Be extra careful when walking or going up/down stairs. Hold a handrail whenever one is available.  Winter is here, and there is a lot of snow and ice on the sidewalks and streets in many parts of the country. When you’re walking outside, take extra caution. Walk slowly. Be aware of your center of gravity and be sure to wear appropriate shoes or snow boots.

The good news is that soon after the birth of your baby, your center of gravity will shift again, and return to normal.

Cheers! with alcohol-free alternatives

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Mocktails for the holidayTis the holiday season, and often that means lots of parties and gatherings, usually involving alcohol. But if you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you need to steer clear of alcoholic beverages. However, here are some delicious substitutions.

One of the easiest drink alternatives is simply mixing a fruit juice with seltzer water. If you use cranberry or pomegranate juice, you’ll have a “mocktail” with a festive red color. Add a twist of lime, and serve it in a martini glass or champagne flute. This is one of my favorite drinks every day. You can really play around with this basic recipe, changing juices and garnishes to your specific taste—and cravings.

Also, there are so many flavored seltzers available that you can have a lot of fun mixing and matching juices and seltzers to create some really unique combinations. If you freeze the fruit juice in ice cube trays, you can then add them to your favorite flavored seltzer. The combinations are really endless. And when it is time to ring in the New Year, ginger ale or sparkling cider make great alternatives to a glass of champagne. You can read our past post on Bodacious Beverages for some more great recipes.

Although alcohol may not be on the menu this holiday season, you can still share a toast with family and friends. Cheers!

Did you get your pertussis vaccine?

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Pertussis VaccinePertussis, also referred to as whooping cough, is a respiratory infection that is easily spread and very dangerous for a baby. Pertussis can cause severe and uncontrollable coughing and trouble breathing. Pertussis can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age. And, about half of those babies who get whooping cough are hospitalized. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 17,325 cases of pertussis from January 1-August 16, 2014, which represents a 30% increase compared to this time period in 2013. The best way to protect your baby and yourself against pertussis is to get vaccinated.

If you are pregnant:

Pregnant women should get the pertussis vaccine. The vaccine is safe to get before, during or after pregnancy, but works best if you get it during your pregnancy to better protect your baby once he is born. Your body creates protective antibodies and passes some of them to your baby before birth, which provides short term protection after your baby is born.  Your baby won’t get the first of the 3 infant vaccinations until he is 2 months old, so your vaccination during pregnancy helps to protect him until he receives his vaccines. The pertussis vaccine is part of the Tdap vaccine (which also includes tetanus and diphtheria).

The CDC recommends women get the Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy. The best time to get the shot is between your 27th through 36th week of pregnancy.

The vaccine is also recommended for caregivers, close friends and relatives who spend time with your baby.

Click here for more information or speak with your prenatal health care provider.

Bottom line
Get vaccinated for pertussis  – it may save your baby’s life.

Join our Twitter chat on pregnancy

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Pregnancy chatAre you pregnant? Do you have questions about pregnancy? Join us on Thursday, August 28th at 2pm EDT for a Twitter chat and get your questions answered.

We will be joining the National Institute of Child Health and Human development (@NICHD_NIH) and the Federal Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health (@FDAWomen) to discuss:

• common pregnancy myths
• how to reduce health problems during pregnancy
• how long your pregnancy should last
• important info about labor and delivery

Jump in the conversation any time to ask questions or tell us your story.  Follow #pregnancychat.

We hope to see you then!

If you have questions, feel free to email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.