Posts Tagged ‘premature birth’

Preemies as adults – are their health problems due to prematurity?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

NICU baby looking at mom resized“I was born prematurely. Can my eye/heart/learning problems be due to my premature birth?” This is a common type of question we receive at the March of Dimes.

Babies born earlier than 37 weeks may have more health issues than babies born full term. Prematurity can cause problems for babies all throughout their lives. In fact, the earlier a baby is born, the more likely he is to have health problems. Some problems are obvious during infancy or childhood. But, other problems may not present themselves until adulthood.

While it may be difficult to know if a health problem an adult is experiencing is related to prematurity, we do know that prematurity can cause long-term health problems. An adult struggling with a disorder or a worsening condition should seek medical attention in the event that treatment or therapy may help.

Health problems due to premature birth

Premature birth can lead to developmental disabilities, (DDs)  which include physical, learning, language or behavioral challenges. These disabilities can range from mild to severe. Roughly 1 in 6 kids in the U.S. has a developmental disability.

DDs are usually diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, when a child is still developing. However, the disabilities can be lifelong. Although individuals may learn how to compensate for disabilities through therapy or special schooling, adults with DDs may continue to struggle for years.

DDs also include hearing loss, vision impairment, ADHD, autism, neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy, and many other medical issues.

Prematurity can lead to dental problems, breathing problems such as asthma, infections such as pneumonia, and intestinal disorders. For example, some babies who had NEC may have scarring which can cause the intestine to become blocked later in life.

Are there doctors who specialize in treating adults who were preemies?

There are specialists for nearly every body part or disorder, but at this time there aren’t specialists who focus specifically on adults who were born prematurely. However, it’s possible to receive treatment for specific conditions from an appropriate medical specialist. Ask your primary care provider for a referral.

Although we don’t always know whether a health condition is due to being born early, it is still important to seek treatment by a medical professional. Make sure you tell your doctors you were born prematurely.

Bottom line

If you have a preemie, getting help as early as possible (during infancy, early childhood and adolescence) is extremely important. Ask your baby’s health care provider for recommendations. Early intervention services may help your baby catch up, while special education and related services can help him get the assistance he needs in school to succeed. Getting an early start with specialists who treat asthma, hearing loss and other conditions can help to minimize long term complications.

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Stress can affect your pregnancy

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Research demonstrates that stress during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for some pregnancy complications. Feeling stressed is common during pregnancy. Your body and your family are going through many changes. While a little stress is fine, serious stress may cause problems.

Causes of stress

The causes of stress are different for every woman. Some common causes of stress during pregnancy include:

  • Managing the typical discomforts of pregnancy, such as nausea, constipation, and exhaustion.
  • Mood swings. Your changing hormones can causes changes in your mood.
  • Worries about childbirth and being a good mom.
  • Work deadlines and managing job-related responsibilities before you give birth.

A little stress can help you take on new challenges and regular stress during pregnancy probably doesn’t add to pregnancy problems. But serious types of stress during pregnancy may increase your chances of certain complications.

Serious stress during pregnancy

While most women who experience significant stress during pregnancy have healthy babies, high levels of stress do increase your chances of certain pregnancy problems.

  • Acute stress in early pregnancy has been linked with an increased risk for premature birth. Acute stress results from a reaction to a traumatic event, such as natural disasters, death of a loved one, or terrorist attacks.
  • Chronic stress can cause complications such as preterm birth, low birthweight, hypertension and developmental delays in babies. Examples of events that can cause chronic stress include financial problems, divorce, serious health problems, or depression.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) disorder coupled with a major depressive disorder has been associated with an increased risk for preterm birth. PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have seen or lived through a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

How does stress cause problems in pregnancy?

We don’t completely understand the effects of stress on pregnancy. But certain stress-related hormones, such as cortisol and norepinepherine, may play a role. Also, serious or long-lasting stress may affect your immune system, which protects you from infection. Infections can be a cause of premature birth.

Stress also may affect how you respond to certain situations. Some women deal with stress by smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking street drugs. These behaviors can lead to pregnancy problems, including preterm birth and low birthweight.

How can you reduce stress during pregnancy?

There are many ways that you can manage your stress during pregnancy. Watch our video to learn more.


Have questions? Email us at


STDs can be harmful to you and your baby

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Pregnant woman talking with doctorSexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause problems such as premature birth, ectopic pregnancy, birth defects, miscarriage or stillbirth. Most babies get infected with an STD through the birth canal during labor and birth, but other STDs can cross the placenta and infect your baby in the womb.

What can you do?

April is STD awareness month, and this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have come up with three steps to prevent or treat a STD:  Talk, Test and Treat.


Have a conversation with your sexual partner about the last time you were tested and how you both plan to have safe sex. You should also talk with your healthcare provider about STD testing and to make sure your vaccines are up to date. Certain vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine, can help protect against genital warts.

Life can get busy; if you aren’t sure of the last time you were tested for STDs or if you received a certain vaccine, a visit with your provider is the best time to ask.


Many people with STDs don’t know they’re infected because some STDs have no symptoms. And if you’re pregnant, STDs can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies. See your healthcare provider and get tested.


If you find out you have an STD, get treatment right away. Receiving treatment can help protect you and your baby during pregnancy and birth.

Don’t wait. Be sure to talk, test and treat to protect your health and that of your baby.

Read our top STD questions answered for lots more info.  


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.

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Smoking during pregnancy can affect your baby’s DNA

Friday, April 1st, 2016

pregnant woman in greenYou already know that smoking during pregnancy is bad for you and your baby. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and can cause serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, stroke, gum disease and eye diseases that can lead to blindness.

A new study published yesterday in the American Journal of Human Genetics suggests that smoking during pregnancy causes chemical changes in a baby’s DNA. These differences are similar to changes found in the DNA of adult smokers.

The study analyzed the umbilical cord blood of over 6,000 newborns. The researchers found that when women smoked every day during pregnancy, their baby’s DNA was chemically different in over 6,000 places when compared with the DNA of babies whose mothers did not smoke. Some of the places where the DNA was chemically different could be linked to specific genes that play a role in cleft lip and palate, asthma, and some adult smoking-related cancers, such as lung cancer.  This new study is important because it adds to our understanding of how smoking during pregnancy affects fetal DNA and it suggests that these DNA changes may play a role in the development of certain birth defects or medical conditions.

It is well known that smoking during pregnancy has been linked to a number of pregnancy complications and medical problems for the baby. When you smoke during pregnancy, chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar pass through the placenta and umbilical cord into your baby’s bloodstream.

These chemicals are harmful. They can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets. This can slow your baby’s growth before birth and can damage your baby’s heart, lungs and brain.

If you smoke during pregnancy, you’re more likely to have:

And your baby is more likely to:

If you smoke during pregnancy, quitting is the best thing you can do for you and your baby. The sooner you quit smoking during pregnancy, the healthier you and your baby can be. It’s best to quit smoking before getting pregnant. But quitting any time during pregnancy can have a positive effect on your baby’s life.

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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