Posts Tagged ‘Pregnancy’

Life-long effects of preeclampsia for mom and baby

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Pregnant couple with doctorPreeclampsia is serious; it affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide. And it’s the cause of 15% of premature births in the U.S.

Preeclampsia is a condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or right after you give birth. It’s when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. Some of these signs include having protein in the urine, changes in vision and severe headache.

What does this mean for moms?

If a woman had preeclampsia during a pregnancy, she has 3 to 4 times the risk of high blood pressure and double the risk for heart disease and stroke later in life. She may also have an increased risk of developing diabetes. And for those women who have had preeclampsia and delivered preterm, had low-birthweight babies, or had severe preeclampsia more than once, the risk of heart disease can be higher.

These facts are scary, especially since heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. But having preeclampsia does not mean you will definitely develop heart problems, it just means that this may be a sign to pay extra attention to your health.

What about babies?

Women with preeclampsia are more likely than women who don’t have preeclampsia to have preterm labor and delivery. Even with treatment, a pregnant woman with preeclampsia may need to give birth early to avoid serious problems for her and her baby.

Premature babies and low birthweight babies may have more health problems and need to stay in the NICU longer. And some of these babies will face long-term health effects that include intellectual and developmental disabilities and other health problems.

If you had preeclampsia in the past, there are things you can do now to reduce your future risk:

  • Talk to your health care provider. She can help you monitor your health now to reduce your risk for heart disease later.
  • Get a yearly exam to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar levels.
  • Add activity into your daily routine. No need to run laps around the track, though. Here are some tips to help you get moving, whether you are pregnant or not.
  • Stick to the good stuff. Eat from these five food groups at every meal: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and protein. Check out our sample menu for creative ideas.
  • Ask your provider if taking low-dose aspirin daily may be right for you.
  • If you are a smoker, quit. Try to avoid second-hand smoke as well. Tobacco can raise blood pressure and damage blood vessels.

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

Thinking of having a baby? Now is the time to stop drinking alcohol

Monday, April 4th, 2016

2015D015_3603_rtYou’ve probably heard that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby. But did you know you should also stop drinking alcohol before trying to conceive?

It can be difficult to determine an accurate date of conception. It takes two weeks after conception to get an accurate pregnancy test result. This means that you may be drinking alcoholic beverages during the early stages of your pregnancy, before you learn you are pregnant.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a range of serious problems including miscarriage, premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and stillbirth. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) states that alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities.

FASDs can be costly, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The lifetime cost for one individual with FAS in 2002 was estimated to be $2 million. This is an average for people with FAS and does not include data on people with other FASDs. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs. It is estimated that the cost to the United States for FAS alone is over $4 billion annually.

The good news is that FASD is entirely preventable. If you stop drinking alcohol before and during pregnancy, you can prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and other conditions caused by alcohol.

So if you are trying to become pregnant or are already pregnant, steer clear of alcohol. If you have problems stopping, visit us for tips.

If you have a child with FASD, see our post on how to help babies born with FASD.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Pregnant? How far along are you in your pregnancy?

Monday, March 28th, 2016

pr_mr_lg_ultrasound1Many health care professionals will begin to estimate how far along you are in your pregnancy by asking you when the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) was. But the development of your baby does not begin until conception – which is after your last period.

Are you confused? Let me explain…

Your pregnancy has two ages, gestational age and fetal age. Both are measured in weeks but they will be different numbers. Your gestational age is the age of the pregnancy from the first day of your last normal menstrual period. Your fetal age is the actual age of your growing baby from the day you conceived.

Health care providers use gestational age when dating a pregnancy. It is very difficult to determine an accurate date of conception, so your health care provider may estimate when you conceived based on the first day of your last period. This is your gestational age.

While your provider will use your LMP to initially date your pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), an ultrasound measurement of your baby in the first trimester is the most accurate method of confirming your gestational age. Keep in mind, after a first trimester ultrasound, your due date may be adjusted.

Why is it important to be aware of both?

We often hear from pregnant women that their baby’s development is not matching up with how far along they are in their pregnancy. For example, one question we received, the woman was 12 weeks pregnant but her baby was measuring 10 weeks along.  It is important to confirm with your provider that your gestational age is 12 weeks and your fetal age is 10 weeks – which means your pregnancy is on track. (Keep in mind that there may be other reasons why a baby is not developing on a typical schedule. If you are concerned, speak with your prenatal provider.)

Not sure how far along you are? Our due date calculator, will date your pregnancy based on gestational age.

Still have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Satisfying those pregnancy cravings

Friday, March 25th, 2016

SaladAs the temperature rises here on the east coast, I can’t help but think of warm weather and yummy summer foods like ice cream. But while enjoying your cone this season, remember that nutrition is important, especially if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant.

This month is National Nutrition Month, and this year the theme is to savor the flavor of eating right. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics raises awareness that no one diet is right for everyone. By keeping your lifestyle in mind and focusing on foods and traditions that appeal to you, you can find an eating plan that works for you.

So what does this mean for pregnant women?

Lots of women have food cravings during pregnancy. And it’s usually okay to satisfy those cravings as long as what you eat is safe and you don’t overdo it.

You may have heard that you should be eating from the five food groups: grains, veggies, fruits, milk products and proteins, but what about when you get cravings for crunchy foods and you reach for the potato chips?

Here are some tips:

  • Eat what you crave, but in small amounts. Eating too much of something sweet, spicy or salty can cause problems, such as heartburn or gaining too much weight.
  • Work your cravings to your advantage. If you are craving a crunch, see if some carrots or an apple will satisfy your craving before you reach for the chip bag. Or at least buy the reduced fat kind of chips.
  • Buy single servings instead of in bulk. If you are ready to enjoy some ice-cream, go to your local ice cream shop for a scoop instead of buying a container at the grocery store.
  • Plan your day’s snacks ahead of time. This will help you know what and when you are going to eat between meals and will keep you away from unhealthy convenience foods in a vending machine.
  • If you are trying to stay away from your craving, try distracting yourself by going for a walk or calling a friend.

Not sure if your craving is healthy for your pregnancy? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Pregnant? Feeling forgetful? Absentminded?

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Pregnant with mugYou may be experiencing “pregnancy brain” also referred to as “momnesia.”  We hear from many women that they have a hard time concentrating and experience forgetfulness during their pregnancy and after their baby is born. So what exactly is going on?

Unfortunately, there has been limited research conducted on the effects that pregnancy has on memory. And research findings are inconsistent. However, we do know that your hormones are increased during pregnancy, which may have an effect on your mind as well as your body.

In addition, many pregnant women and new moms are busy, stressed and tired, which greatly affects one’s ability to remember things. It is hard for your mind to stay sharp when you are exhausted.

So what can you do to help with pregnancy brain?

  • Prioritize what’s necessary for the day and concentrate on those tasks. Better yet, decide on 3 “must do” tasks for the day and focus on those. Anything beyond that needs to wait til tomorrow.
  • Simplify your life; get help with your to-do list by designating tasks to your partner, friends and family.
  • Keep a detailed calendar for events and appointments. Having a post-it notepad handy for to-do lists, reminders and phone numbers helps a lot!
  • Get more sleep. This may be difficult, but what you probably need is more zzzz’s. Take a quick nap whenever you can or ask your partner/family member or friend to watch your baby for an hour while you lie down. Make sleep a priority.
  • Keep keys and other important items in designated areas in your house so you can easily find them.
  • Eat well and drink plenty of water. Good nutrition doesn’t only feed your body – it feeds your brain, too!

Have you experienced pregnancy brain? Share your tips and tricks.

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

How do you know when you are able to get pregnant?

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

couple with pregnancy testGetting pregnant comes easily to some women, while others have a more difficult time. It is important to know how your body works, in order to increase your chance of conception. Learning about ovulation (the release of an egg every month) is key.

Why does ovulation matter?

A woman’s ovaries release an egg every month, about 14 days before the first day of her period. When a couple has sexual intercourse and does not use birth control around the time of ovulation, a man’s sperm swim to meet the woman’s egg. When a sperm penetrates the egg, it’s called fertilization or conception. The fertilized egg (embryo) then travels to the woman’s uterus (womb), where it burrows into the lining of the uterus and begins to grow.

A woman’s egg is fertile for only 12 to 24 hours after its release. A man’s sperm can live up to 72 hours after intercourse. So the best time to have sex if you’re trying to conceive is:

  • A few days before ovulation
  • The day of ovulation

When do I ovulate?

Figuring out when you ovulate can be tricky. Some women have their menstrual cycle like clockwork, while others have no idea when their period will come. Every woman is different.

It is easier to tell when you ovulate if you have a regular cycle.

A regular period is one that comes at about the same time each month. Many women have cycles that last between 25 and 28 days, but others can have a regular cycle that lasts up to 35 days. To determine if you have a regular period, calculate your cycle length:

  • Start by counting the first day that your period begins as day one.
  • Count each day after that until you get your period again.
  • Start over with day one.

If you count for a few cycles and all your periods are about the same number of days, then you have a regular period. Not every cycle will be the exact same number of days, it can be normal to have a few days more or less each month.

If your cycle is regular: Use the March of Dimes ovulation calendar to help you figure out when you can get pregnant.

If your cycle is irregular, there are other ways you can determine when you may ovulate.

  • The temperature method: Use a basal body thermometer to take your temperature every day before you get out of bed. This is a thermometer that can measure really small changes in your temperature. You can buy one at a drug store. Your temperature rises about 1 degree just as you ovulate. Have sex as close as you can to this rise in temperature for your best chance of getting pregnant.
  • The cervical mucus method: Pay attention to the mucus in your vagina. It gets thinner, slippery, clearer and more plentiful just before ovulation.
  • Ovulation prediction kit: Ovulation prediction kits test urine for a substance called luteinizing hormone (LH). This hormone increases each month during ovulation and causes the ovaries to release eggs. The kit will tell you if your LH is increasing. You can purchase ovulation prediction kits at pharmacies.

How long will it take to get pregnant?

The timing is different for every woman. Generally speaking, if you have been trying for more than one year, (or six months if you are age 35 or older) you should see your health care provider. Get help along the way: schedule a preconception checkup.

Have more questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Anencephaly: causes, risks & what you can do

Monday, January 25th, 2016

About 1,206 pregnancies are affected by anencephaly each year in the U.S.

Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain, skull and scalp. As a baby’s neural tube develops and closes, it helps form the baby’s brain and skull, spinal cord, and back bones. Anencephaly is a type of neural tube defect (NTD) that happens if the upper part of the neural tube does not close all the way. A baby with anencephaly will be missing large parts of the brain that are necessary for thinking, hearing, vision, emotion and coordinating movement. Other parts of the brain are often not covered by bone or skin.

Babies born with anencephaly have reflexes such as breathing and response to touch and sound, however because of the severity of the condition, almost all babies with anencephaly die before birth or within a few hours or days after birth.

What causes anencephaly?

In most cases, the cause is unknown. Some cases are caused by a change in the baby’s genes or chromosomes. Anencephaly may also be caused by a combination of genes and other environmental factors. Scientists are continuing to study anencephaly in order to discover the causes.

What are the risk factors?

  • Low intake of folic acid before getting pregnant and in early pregnancy increases the risk of having a pregnancy affected by a NTD including anencephaly.
  • Babies born to Hispanic mothers are at an increased risk for anencephaly; reasons for the increased risk are not well understood.

How is anencephaly diagnosed?

  • During pregnancy: a woman can have screening tests done during her prenatal visits. Anencephaly would result in an abnormal result on a blood or serum screening test. Anencephaly might be seen during an ultrasound.
  • After a baby is born: anencephaly is immediately seen at birth.

Is there anything you can do to lower your risk?

Yes.

  • Take a multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and early in pregnancy. Make sure to take your multivitamin even if you are not thinking about becoming pregnant any time soon. Since the U.S. started requiring that folic acid be added to certain foods, there has been a 28% reduction in cases of babies born with NTDs.
  • If you are pregnant, make sure you go to all of your prenatal visits and eat a well-balanced diet
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking and talk to your provider about any medications or drugs you are taking.

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

 

Folic acid can help reduce the risk of spina bifida

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Holding a multivitamin 2If a woman of childbearing age takes 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before and during early pregnancy, it can help reduce her baby’s risk for neural tube defects (NTDs). NTDs are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Spina bifida is the most common neural tube defect, affecting 1,500 to 2000 babies a year.

A baby’s neural tube normally develops into the brain and spinal cord. It starts out as a tiny, flat ribbon that turns into a tube by the end of the first month of pregnancy. NTDs happen if the tube doesn’t close completely.

Since birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, they often occur before a woman knows she’s pregnant. This is why it is important for a woman of childbearing age to take folic acid every day, even if she isn’t planning a pregnancy any time soon. By the time a woman realizes she’s pregnant, it might be too late to prevent these birth defects.

Types of spina bifida

There are four types of spina bifida, ranging from mild to severe. The mildest form (occulta), usually doesn’t cause health problems. However, other forms such as closed neural tube, meningocele and myelomeningocele (also known as open spina bifida) may cause symptoms such as bladder problems, infections and paralysis.

Spina bifida can also cause a number of medical conditions. If your child has spina bifida, he will need a team of medical professionals to monitor his health:

  • Pediatrician – a doctor who takes care of babies and children
  • Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician – a pediatrician with additional training in developmental disorders
  • Neurologist – a doctor who treats problems of the nervous system, brain and spinal cord
  • Psychologist – a professional trained to treat social and mental health problems
  • Psychiatrist – a doctor who specializes in treating mental health disorders
  • Urologist – a doctor who treats problems of the urinary tract (kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra)
  • Orthopedist – a doctor trained to treat disorders of bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves, tendons and overall physical movement problems
  • Occupational Therapist – a professional trained to help with activities of daily living and fine motor problems
  • Physical Therapist – a professional trained to treat movement, balance, strength and physical problems

Learn more about the causes, types and treatments of spina bifida, on our website.

Bottom line

Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, BEFORE and early in pregnancy, to help prevent certain birth defects.

Watch our video to learn how you can get the right amount of folic acid BEFORE and during pregnancy to keep your baby healthy.

Folic acid – why is it important?

Monday, January 4th, 2016

folic acid vitaminFolic acid is a B vitamin that promotes cell growth and helps prevent certain birth defects. It is Folic Acid Awareness Week – a great time to become familiar with how this vitamin can help you and your baby.

Your body needs to make new cells every day for blood, skin, hair and nails. Folic acid also plays an important role in helping red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body.

How can folic acid help your baby?

Folic acid helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects, if taken before pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy.  So it is helpful to get in the habit of taking a multi-vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, before you become pregnant.

Even if you are not planning to become pregnant, your body needs folic acid for normal growth and development.

What if you’re already pregnant?

Most pregnant women need to take a multi-vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid. Talk with your prenatal provider to see if this is the right dosage for you. A pregnant women needs extra folic acid throughout pregnancy to help produce the additional blood cells your body needs during pregnancy. Folic acid also supports the rapid growth of the placenta and fetus.

Can you get folic acid anywhere else?

Yes. Many foods have folic acid added to them. On packages of flour, breads, cereals and pastas, look for the words “fortified” or “enriched” – it means the product has folic acid added to it.

You can also get folic acid in its natural form – folate – in some fruits and vegetables. Folate can be found in spinach, black beans, peanuts and orange juice. Learn about the difference between folic acid and folate here.

Bottom line:

Even if you eat a well-balanced diet that includes fortified foods, fruits and veggies, it can still be hard to get enough folic acid every day.  By taking a multi-vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, you will be sure to get the amount you need.

 

Holiday cocktails and spirits

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Holiday mocktailTis the season for yummy eats and alcoholic drinks. I was at a holiday party this past weekend and as wine was being passed around I noticed my friend was opening her own bottle. “What’s that?” I asked. And she replied “sparkling cider! I’m pregnant, so I’m not drinking alcohol” and we both poured some into our wine glasses, and enjoyed the night with our non-alcoholic beverages.

If you are pregnant, you know you need to stay away from alcohol, but that doesn’t mean you need to miss the party. Don’t be afraid to bring your own cooler of drinks with you – your friends may be asking to have some of yours.

Not sure what to bring? Here is an idea that is festive and works with almost any of your favorite fruits:

  • Select a festive glass, such as a flute champagne or martini glass.
  • Choose your favorite garnish – lemon, lime, mint leaves, cherries, diced apples or oranges.
  • Add seltzer or club soda along with your favorite fruit juice.

For a really fun treat, freeze cranberry, orange or pomegranate juice in ice cube trays and add to your drink. Voila!

Looking for more ideas? Check out our alcohol free bodacious beverages!