Posts Tagged ‘Pregnancy’

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!

You’re pregnant, can you drink eggnog?

Monday, December 14th, 2015

eggnogThe answer is yes and no. It depends. Here’s the scoop:

Store-bought eggnog

Traditionally, eggnog was made with raw eggs, which is not good for pregnant women due to the health concerns of salmonella. Salmonella causes salmonellosis, a kind of food poisoning that can be dangerous during pregnancy . However, currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricts the use of raw eggs to less than 1% in products.

  • If you’re buying eggnog at the store, be sure to check the ingredient label to ensure it is egg-free or contains less than 1% egg product.
  • Also it is important that your eggnog be pasteurized. Pasteurization is a heat process that destroys salmonella that might be in eggs.

Homemade eggnog

Many families make a batch of home-made (and alcohol-free!) eggnog as part of their holiday traditions, but homemade eggnog causes many cases of salmonella each year due to raw or undercooked eggs. If you’re going to make your own eggnog, here are some tips:

  • Use egg substitute products or pasteurized eggs.
  • If you are using pasteurized eggs, the FDA recommends starting with a cooked egg base to ensure your safety.
    • To make a cooked egg base, combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe. (Other ingredients, such as sugar may be added at this step.) Cook the mixture gently to a temperature of 160°F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present. At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon. After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.

You can keep your eggnog holiday traditions, but remember to read all the labels on eggnog containers or carefully prepare your homemade eggnog.

The holidays are here…

Monday, December 7th, 2015

pregnant woman in bedBesides the usual stress of pregnancy and getting ready for your baby, the holidays often add more pressure, which can take a toll on your health. Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy, but too much can make you have trouble sleeping, have headaches or lose your appetite. High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems like high blood pressure, which can increase the chances of having a premature baby.

December is a very busy time: there are friends and families to see, holiday gatherings to attend, meals to cook, and gifts to buy. So much to do! During this time, remember to take care of yourself: breathe deeply, relax and concentrate on your pregnancy.

Here are some tips:

  • Keep moving. Exercise can help reduce your stress and prevent pregnancy discomforts. If you are shopping for gifts, walk an extra loop around the mall before you head out to your car. Park further away in the parking lot (this way you can also avoid some of the traffic of shoppers trying to park close to the mall entrance).
  • Holidays are a time for delicious desserts and heavy meals. Before you sit down and indulge in your family dinner, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch earlier in the day.
  • Extra sleep is important during this time, but taking breaks is just as important. If you have some free time between wrapping gifts, put your feet up, read a book or magazine, or watch a favorite TV show. Even just a 15 minute break can help you relax before your next task.
  • Ask for help. Holidays are a time of giving, but also receiving. Accept help when a friend or family member offers and ask for help when you are feeling tired or overwhelmed.
  • Cut back on activities you don’t need to do. Instead of spending time making a holiday dessert, why not have your favorite bakery do it for you?

Holidays can be stressful, but remember to take time for yourself.

Have questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Need to catch up on your zzzz’s?

Monday, November 30th, 2015

sleepingYour baby hasn’t arrived yet, so why is it so hard to get enough sleep? Getting up to go to the bathroom, heartburn and having to adjust pillows to find a comfortable sleep position are just a few of the discomforts of pregnancy.

If you’re like me, you may have spent most of your life sleeping on your back. But now that you’re pregnant, you need to adjust to sleeping on your side. The issue with lying on your back during pregnancy is that the weight of your uterus can flatten a major blood vessel that carries blood between your lower body and heart. It is better to lie on your side, especially the left side, which will promote circulation and help reduce swelling in your feet.

So how can you catch up on your sleep?

  • Reduce your stress before bedtime – try breathing deeply, closing your eyes or relaxing in your favorite armchair before bed. You can take a warm shower or bath before bedtime too.
  • Use pillows: between your legs, to support your back and abdomen, and to lift up your upper body if you suffer from shortness of breath.
  • Use your bed only for sleep- don’t watch TV or use your iPad while in bed. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature and try using a noise machine to block out other sounds.
  • Go to bed earlier – you need as much rest as possible.
  • Avoid drinking fluids right before bedtime. If you suffer from heartburn, try to eat your last meal a few hours before going to sleep.
  • Exercising during the day can help you get a better night’s sleep, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it may make it hard for you to fall asleep. Read about our tips to stay active.

Your baby will be here before you know it. Take this time to grab a few extra zzzz’s whenever possible.

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

Thinking about becoming pregnant? Are you worried about your diabetes?

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Diabetes and pregnancyDiabetes can cause problems during pregnancy, such as premature birth, birth defects and miscarriage. But don’t panic; with some planning ahead, you can become as healthy as possible before you become pregnant.

When you eat, your body breaks down sugar and starches from food into glucose to use for energy. Your pancreas (an organ behind your stomach) makes a hormone called insulin that helps your body keep the right amount of glucose in your blood.  When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use insulin well, so you end up with too much sugar in your blood.

Too much sugar can cause serious health problems, like heart disease, kidney failure and blindness. High blood sugar can be harmful to your baby during the first few weeks of pregnancy when his brain, heart, kidneys and lungs begin to form. It’s really important to get treatment for diabetes to help prevent problems like these.

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant and have diabetes, here are a few tips:

  • Manage your diabetes to get your blood glucose levels in to your target range. Try to get it under control 3-6 months before you start trying to become pregnant.
  • Take a multivitamin that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
  • Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking to make sure that they are OK to continue taking when you do get pregnant. He or she may want to change some medications now, before you get pregnant.
  • Eat healthy foods and keep moving.
  • Get support and guidance. Talk with your provider, a diabetes educator or a dietician about how to manage your diabetes.

Not sure if you are at increased risk of developing diabetes? Read our post to find out.

Remember: If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, now is the time to talk to your doctor about getting as healthy as you can before you conceive. Take small steps now toward a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

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

Considering using a midwife? Here is info to help you choose a maternity care provider.

Monday, October 26th, 2015

pregnant-woman-on-weight-scale-shrunkSpecial thanks to our guest, Ginger Breedlove, PhD, CNM, FACNM, for providing this post.

A Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) and Certified Midwife (CM) are trained health professionals who have completed a graduate education program. They can provide you with a full range of services before and during pregnancy, labor and birth, and postpartum. CNMs and CMs are experts in the care of women who have a healthy pregnancy.

Midwives work in collaboration with physicians for consultation and referral if complications should arise. CNMs and CMs primarily deliver babies in the hospital (97%) with 3-4 % attending at home or in birthing centers.

What can a CNM/CM midwife provide?

  • Gynecological exams
  • Preconception planning
  • Labor and delivery support
  • A more natural childbirth experience
  • Assistance and support with breastfeeding and newborn care

Is there anything a CNM/CM cannot do?

Midwives are trained and licensed to provide comprehensive maternity care services, and work with physician’s to provide medical assistance when necessary. CNMs and CMs provide care to women desiring a non-medicated birth, as well as women that choose epidural anesthesia for birth. Should you need a medical intervention, they work with the collaborating physician and medical team for special care such as Cesarean section. If you have a high-risk pregnancy or a condition such as high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes, or develop a medical complication, your midwife will refer you to an obstetrician for care.

There are different training credentials for midwives, including some (CPMs) that do not have nursing or graduate degree education.

Here is helpful information about the variety of midwife credentials in the U.S.:

  • Certified Nurse-Midwives (CNM)  are registered nurses who have graduated from a nurse-midwifery education program, passed a national exam and are certified through the American Midwifery Certification Board. CNMs can practice in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Certified Midwives (CM) are midwives who have completed a midwifery accredited education program and have passed the same national exam as CNMs. CMs can practice in 5 states: Delaware, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Certified Midwives are also certified through the American Midwifery Certification Board.
  • Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) have training and clinical experience in childbirth and have passed a national exam. CPMs are certified through the North American Registry of Midwives. The majority of CPMs work in private homes and a few in birthing centers.

How do you find or learn more about a midwife?

The American College of Nurse-Midwives can help you find a midwife in your area.
The National Association of Certified Professional Midwives also provides information on midwives.

Dr.Ginger BreedloveGinger Breedlove, PhD, CNM, FACNM is the current President of the American College of Nurse Midwives and full-time professor at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA. She currently sits on the March of Dimes National Nurse Advisory Council, and is engaged in numerous working groups to improve the health of mothers and babies during the childbearing years. As a midwife for over 35 years, Dr. Breedlove has cared for women in hospitals as well as birthing center settings.

Moving through pregnancy: tips to stay active

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Pregnant woman walkingMoving, staying active and gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy can help keep you and your baby healthy. For most women, being active during pregnancy is a good thing. But you don’t need to head to the gym to increase activity. With a few daily changes to your routine, you’ll be moving more in no time.

Healthy pregnant women need at least 2½ hours of exercise each week which is about 30 minutes each day. This may sound like a lot, but don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all at once. Instead, get moving by doing a few minutes of activity throughout your day.

Here are some tips to help you reach your fitness goals:

  • Park farther away in the parking lot when you visit stores or go grocery shopping.
  • Set a timer on your phone to get up, stretch and walk around your house or office once every hour.
  • If you are watching TV, take the time to stretch out your arms and legs.
  • Walk and talk while you are on the phone, whether it be outside or around your house.
  • When walking around the office, grocery store or parking lot, walk the long way instead of taking shortcuts.
  • Plan fun outdoor weekend activities. Apple picking season is in full-swing – take a walk around the orchard while you pick some apples.
  • Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
  • Calling or emailing your co-worker at work? Get up and take a walk over to chat instead.

Tomorrow is National Women’s Health and Fitness Day. The goal is “to encourage women to take control of their health; to learn the facts they need to make smart healthy choices, and to make time for regular physical activity.” By making small changes to your day, you can reach your fitness goals. Be on the lookout for events planned in your local area.

Read our article to understand why physical activity is good for most pregnant women and to learn which activities are safe.