Posts Tagged ‘premature birth’

Knowing your family health history may help your baby

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Family at Thanksgiving dinnerRecently I had an appointment with a new healthcare provider and had to complete a health history form at my first visit. It was 3 pages long and took me about 20 minutes to do while in the waiting room. As I was sitting there, I realized that I didn’t know the answers to some of the questions, especially about my relatives.

Was this really that important?

In one word? Yes.

A family health history (FHH) form is a record of health conditions and treatments that you, your sisters, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great grandparents have had. It can help you figure out the medical problems that run in your family. Knowing your FHH may just save your life. It may also have a direct effect on your baby’s health.

How can a FHH form help your baby?

The FHH form will help your provider see if any of the conditions or diseases that run in your family will affect your baby. For example, premature birth can run in families. And, certain conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure put you at a higher risk to have a premature baby.

If you and your partner complete a FHH form and share it with your prenatal provider, you may learn about the health of your baby before she is born. The earlier in your pregnancy that your provider is aware of health conditions, the sooner your provider can decide on treatments for you.

It would be even better if you could complete and share this information with your provider before pregnancy, at a preconception checkup. This way, your provider can help you become as healthy as possible before pregnancy.

Use our FHH form

Here is a form that you can print out and complete.  Print one copy for yourself and one for your partner/spouse. We suggest you take it with you to family gatherings (Thanksgiving anyone?) and ask your relatives to help you fill in the blanks. You may very well find out information about diseases and conditions that run in your family and put you at risk. Early detection is often key in successfully managing a disease.

Here are tips on how to gather information from relatives.

Knowing your risk for certain conditions and that your provider is on top of treatment options, should put your mind at rest. And, knowing you are doing your best to take care of your baby’s health should make you feel even better.

So, when you sit down to apple pie, start a conversation, and fill in your FHH form. The information you share with your family may make a positive difference in everyone’s lives.

Have questions? Text or email us at

On an average DAY in the United States…

Monday, November 16th, 2015

10,926     babies are born
1,045       babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks gestation)
874          babies are born low birthweight (under 5 1/2 pounds)
329          babies are born with a birth defect
174          babies are born very preterm (before 32 weeks gestation)
153          babies are born very low birthweight (under 3 1/3 pounds)
64            babies die before their first birthday

Yes – these numbers are talking about only ONE day!

Numbers don’t lie. And these numbers are way too high. In the U.S., 380,000 babies are born too soon every year. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born prematurely each year.

Some babies will pull through without issues or problems, due to medical advances. But there are so many who won’t. Losing a baby due to premature birth is nothing short of a tragedy. And, the enormous stress and strain of having a child with a disability as a result of prematurity, is lifelong.

This is why the March of Dimes is working so hard to solve this complex problem.

We’re getting resultsNICU doctor and baby resized

After decades of increases, the rate of premature birth in the United States has now been on a steady decline for the last several years.

This decline – to 9.6% today (down from 12.8% in 2006) – means 231,000 fewer babies  have been born premature. That’s significant! It also has saved our nation billions of dollars in excess health care costs. But we still have more work to do. Our goal is to lower the preterm birth rate to 5.5% in 2030. When we reach this goal, it will mean that 1.3 million fewer babies will have been born preterm.

You can help

November 17th marks World Prematurity Day, and the March of Dimes and our partner organizations worldwide are asking everyone to help spread the word on the serious problem of premature birth.

Join the 24-hour #worldprematurityday Buzzday.

Join one of our Twitter chats.

Don’t be silent. Every voice counts. Together we can increase awareness and help end premature birth.

Our babies deserve it.

Pregnancy after a preemie

Friday, November 13th, 2015

You may know that having had a premature baby increases your risk to give birth early in your next pregnancy. No one knows for sure what causes a woman to have a premature baby. However, it is important to understand what factors may make you more likely to give birth early and understand how you may be able to reduce your risk.

When you are ready to think about having another baby after you have had a preemie, here are some things to consider:

When to get pregnant again

Getting pregnant too soon after having a baby increases your chance of giving birth early. If possible, wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. This gives your body time to recover.

Manage preexisting health conditions

Having diabetes or high blood pressure puts you at a higher risk to have a premature baby. Talk to your health care provider about how to best manage these conditions before you get pregnant again. And weighing too much or too little can also be a risk factor. Try to get to a healthy weight before you get pregnant again.

Prevent infections

Having an infection during pregnancy may increase your chance of giving birth early. Always wash your hands thoroughly and practice good hygiene. This won’t prevent all infections, but it can help. Also, get tested for STDs before you become pregnant.

Treatments for preterm labor

Some women may be able to receive progesterone treatment or cerclage in their next pregnancy to reduce their chances of giving birth early again. Talk to your provider to see if these treatments may be right for you.

In the video below, Dr. Siobhan Dolan discusses who may be a good candidate for progesterone treatment:

If you are planning on getting pregnant again, make sure you talk to your health care provider about what you may be able to do to reduce your risk of premature birth. Together, the two of you can make a plan so that hopefully your next pregnancy can be closer to 40 weeks. You can also go to our online community Share Your Story to talk to other women who gave birth early and are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant again.

Have questions? Text or email us at

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

Prematurity, learning disabilities, and ADHD

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

birth announcementPremature birth is a leading cause of lasting childhood disabilities. October is Learning Disabilities and ADHD Awareness Month – a good time to become familiar with the effect prematurity can have on learning and behavior.

Of course, many babies who are born prematurely do very well. We hear stories of preemies who had a rough start in life, spent days, weeks or even months in the NICU and years later have no serious issues to report. But, some preemies will have long-term challenges with learning or behavior.


Learning disabilities (LDs) are persistent difficulties in reading, writing and/or math skills. They are not the same as learning differences. In order to help your child with learning struggles, it is important to first understand what LDs are and are not.

Kids with LD see the world in a slightly different way. Check out this post which describes a great resource from to give you insight into your child’s world.

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors or be overly active.

What are the numbers?

  • Globally, 5 million babies are born too soon every year.
  • Babies born prematurely are more likely than babies born full term to have learning and behavior problems throughout childhood. About 1 in 3 children born prematurely need special school services at some point during their school years. Learning problems may not appear until elementary or even middle school.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education, 1 in 5 children in the U.S. has learning and attention issues. “Approximately 2.5 million students in the U.S. are identified as having a specific learning disability—such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia—and as many as 6 million students are identified as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”
  • The CDC reports that in 2012 more than 5 million children aged 3–17 had ADHD (10%). Boys (14%) were almost three times as likely as girls (5%) to have ADHD.

Resources to explore

If your child struggles with learning or behavior, where should you go for reliable information?

  •  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers articles for parents to better understand ADHD.
  • Parent Training and Resource Centers, available in every state, offer information and support to families. Find your center.
  • The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) has hundreds of easy-to-read articles on disabilities, special education and the law – including how to obtain school services for your child.
  • The Understood website provides a wealth of information and support to individuals and parents of children with learning and attention issues.
  • The State of Learning Disabilities, 3rd Edition, 2014, is a downloadable review of LD. It is available on the National Center for Learning Disabilities website where along with the statistics on LD, it describes public attitudes towards people with LD, characteristics of kids with LD, employment issues, and lots of other information.

Students with LD and/or ADHD may face challenges, but they also have strengths and may possess outstanding abilities in certain areas. Understanding your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and focusing on proven educational methods and therapies will help your child be as successful as possible.

Bottom line

Babies born prematurely are more likely than babies born full term to have learning and behavior problems. But help is available. Check out our table of contents for more information.

And if you have any questions, email or text


Depression: symptoms and treatment options

Friday, October 9th, 2015

contemplative woman faceDepression is more than just feeling sad. It is a medical condition that affects your thoughts, feelings, and even causes changes to your body. You may have depression if you have any of these signs that last for more than 2 weeks:

Changes in your feelings 

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or overwhelmed
  • Feeling restless or moody
  • Crying a lot
  • Feeling worthless or guilty

Changes in your everyday life 

  • Eating more or less than you usually do
  • Having trouble remembering things, concentrating or making decisions
  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Losing interest in things you usually like to do

Changes in your body 

  • Having no energy and feeling tired all the time
  • Having headaches, stomach problems or other aches and pains that don’t go away

If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your health care provider.

Depression during pregnancy

If you’ve had depression before, you’re more likely than other women to experience depression during pregnancy. If left untreated, depression during pregnancy can affect your baby. If you’re pregnant and have depression that’s not treated, you’re more likely to have:

  • Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy).
  • A low-birthweight baby (a baby weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces).
  • A baby who is more irritable, less active, less attentive and has fewer facial expressions than babies born to moms who don’t have depression during pregnancy.

It’s best if a team of providers treats your depression during pregnancy. These providers can work together to make sure you and your baby get the best care. They may include your prenatal care provider and a professional who treats your depression (such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, or counselor).

There are several treatment options available for depression during pregnancy including talk therapy, support groups and medicine, such as antidepressants.

Some research shows that taking an antidepressant during pregnancy may put your baby at risk for certain health conditions. But if you’ve been taking an antidepressant, it may be harmful to you to stop taking it. So talk with your provider about the benefits and risks of taking an antidepressant while you’re pregnant. Together you can then decide what you want your treatment to be. If you’re taking an antidepressant and find out you’re pregnant, don’t stop taking the medicine without talking to your provider first. Not taking your medicine may be harmful to your baby, and it may make your depression come back.

If you’re pregnant and you have any signs of depression, talk to your health care provider. There are things you and your provider can do to help you feel better.

Have questions? Text or email us at

The survival rates of extremely premature babies are improving

Friday, September 11th, 2015

NICU preemieAdvances in treatment options may be helping to increase survival rates and reduce the number of complications for extremely premature babies, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study looked at 34,636 infants born between 22-28 weeks over 20 years (1993-2012). The researchers found that the overall rate of survival for premature babies born between 22-28 weeks increased from 70% in 1993 to 79% in 2012.

According to the researchers, “Survival rates remained unchanged from1993 through 2008. After 2008, trends in survival varied by gestational age.”

  • For babies born at 23-weeks, the survival rate rose from 27% in 2009 to 33% in 2012.
  • For babies born at 24-weeks, the survival rate rose from 63% in 2009 to 65% in 2012.
  • There were smaller increases for babies born at 25 weeks and 27 weeks.
  • There was, however, no change reported for babies born at 22, 26, and 28 weeks.

The researchers also looked at how many babies survived extreme premature birth without developing major neonatal health problems. They found that the rate of survival without major complications increased approximately 2% per year for babies born between 25-28 weeks.  However, there was no change in survival without major complications for babies born between 22 to 24 weeks.

The authors of the study also observed changes in maternal and infant care which may have contributed to the increased survival rates. For instance, the use of corticosteroids prior to birth rose to 87% in 2012 (vs. 24% in 1993). Corticosteroids help to speed up your baby’s lung development. While most babies were put on a ventilator (a breathing machine that delivers warmed and humidified air to a baby’s lungs), continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) without ventilation increased from 7% in 2002 to 11% in 2012. And the rate of late-onset infection decreased for all gestational ages.

“For parents of babies born very early — 22-28 weeks — these data are showing improvements in outcome. We are gratified by the progress, but there is so much more that could be done if we could understand what causes premature labor and birth,” said Dr. Edward McCabe, Chief Medical Officer for The March of Dimes.

“Our focus is on preventing premature births and we are making excellent progress,” he said. “We have saved hundreds of thousands of babies from premature birth since the rate peaked in 2006.”

You can read more about our Prematurity Campaign and our Prematurity Research Centers on our website.

Questions? Email or text us at

A woman’s microbiome may influence her chance of giving birth early

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

research_birthdefectsresearch_rdax_50Last week, the March of Dimes announced that investigators from the Stanford Prematurity Research Center published an important study which may help to better understand some of the factors that may play a role in premature birth.

Researchers at Stanford have been looking into how the microbiomes of women who deliver babies early are different from those who have full-term births. The microbiome is a community of microorganisms (such as bacteria) in the body. Differences in the microbiomes of individuals may help explain why some women give birth early. Microbiome differences may also explain other health issues, such as asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.

Weekly samples were taken of the bacteria from the teeth, gums, saliva, reproductive tract, and stool from 49 pregnant women. Scientists found little change in the bacterial communities in each woman, week to week at each location. But they did find that microbial communities in the reproductive tracts of women who delivered their babies too soon were different from those of women who delivered full term. Those differences were identified early in the pregnancies and continued throughout the pregnancies.

“These findings may help us screen women and identify and predict those who are more likely to have a baby born too soon,” said David Relman, MD, a professor of microbiology, immunology, and of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the lead investigator for the research center on this project.

The researchers also found that the women’s microbiomes changed immediately after they delivered their babies, and did not revert back to pre-pregnancy patterns in some cases until at least a year later. “This might explain why women with closely spaced pregnancies have a higher risk of preterm birth,” said Dr. Relman.

The March of Dimes currently has five prematurity research centers. These unique, transdisciplinary centers bring together scientists from many diverse disciplines — geneticists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, engineers, computer scientists, and others — to work together to find answers to prevent premature birth.

Questions? Text or email them to

Birth announcements for your preemie

Monday, June 1st, 2015

birth announcementThe birth of your baby is such an important and joyous time in your life. Many moms want to commemorate the birth by sending out birth announcements to friends and family. I remember when my nephew was born, my sister-in-law put together a small photo shoot in her living room in order to have the perfect picture to include on the birth announcement. Many parents, however, don’t anticipate giving birth early and having a baby in the NICU. If your baby was born weeks or even months ahead of schedule, how should you announce your baby’s birth?

As your baby is being cared for in the NICU, you may feel like you are riding an emotional rollercoaster. You don’t have to send out birth announcements right away. Your first priority is taking care of your baby (and yourself). Birth announcements are typically mailed out anywhere from a few days to a few months after the arrival of your little one, so wait until your baby’s health stabilizes and you feel ready to focus on it.

What if your baby was born weighing 3 pounds, or less – should you include the weight on the announcement?

This is totally up to you. If you feel uncomfortable sharing that information on a birth announcement, you don’t need to include it. Many parents of full-term babies often leave their baby’s weight off the announcement. You can include your baby’s name and date of arrival, which are the details family and friends really want to know.

Your baby’s birth may not have gone as planned, but as your rollercoaster ride starts to slow, you will want to give your child the welcome celebration that she deserves.

How much weight should I gain?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

During pregnancy, you need to gain a healthy amount of weight to support your growing baby. In this video, Dr. Siobhan Dolan talks about how much weight you should gain and what to do during pregnancy to maintain a healthy weight for you and your baby. It’s important to learn how gaining too much or too little weight can cause problems for your baby including premature birth. Don’t forget to talk to your provider about what is right for you.