Posts Tagged ‘premature birth’

Launching new, cutting edge prematurity research centers

Monday, November 17th, 2014

preemie 2Today is World Prematurity Day and communities around the world are joining us to raise awareness of this global problem. It also marks the launch of our newest Prematurity Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, to continue our commitment to provide all babies a healthy start in life.

The March of Dimes is investing a total of $75 million over 10 years in five prematurity research centers. Today, the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, our fourth and newest center was launched. Physicians and researchers will conduct team-based research at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Also collaborating on the project are investigators from Columbia University Medical Center in New York and University of Pittsburgh Magee-Womens Research Institute. In Pennsylvania, 10.7 percent, or more than 16,000 babies, were born preterm in 2013. The center will focus on the energy and metabolism of the cells in the reproductive tract, structural changes in the cervix, and contribution of the placenta to normal and preterm labor.

Dr. Jennifer Howse, President of the March of Dimes says “We’re excited to add the expertise of the University of Pennsylvania’s renowned scientists to our specialized network of investigators nationwide working to discover precisely what causes early labor, and how it can be prevented.”

Our other prematurity research centers

Our first center opened at Stanford University School of Medicine in California in 2011. Stanford University was followed by the Ohio Collaborative, a partnership of universities in Ohio from Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, which launched in 2013.

Our third Prematurity Research Center was launched earlier this month at Washington University, St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri. Washington University’s research center provides a collaborative, team-based research approach to discovering the causes of preterm birth in order to develop new strategies to prevent it. In Missouri, 11.3 percent, or more than 8,000 babies, are born too soon each year. The Washington University center will focus on how sleep patterns and environmental factors change a woman’s risk for premature birth and will document changes in the structure of the cervix and uterus in connection to preterm labor.

Stay tuned…A fifth prematurity research center is coming soon. For more information on our prematurity research centers, visit us here. With your support and the help of these distinguished research centers, more babies will have a healthy start to life.

To find out more about World Prematurity Day and how to become involved, visit our Facebook page.

Are you at risk for premature birth?

Friday, November 14th, 2014

preemie and momHave you had a premature baby in the past? Are you pregnant with twins or other multiples? Do you have problems with your cervix or uterus?  If so, you are more likely to give birth early.

We often get questions from women wondering whether they are at risk to have a premature baby. What makes some women give birth early? We don’t always know what causes preterm labor and premature birth. However, there are some things that we do know make it more likely. These things are called risk factors. Having a risk factor doesn’t mean that you will definitely have preterm labor or give birth early. But it may increase your chances.

These three risk factors make you most likely to have preterm labor and give birth early:
1. Prior premature birth: You’ve had a premature baby in the past.
2. Multiples: You’re pregnant with twins, triplets or more.
3. Cervical or uterine problems: Problems with the structure or function of your cervix or uterus.

Some other risk factors include:

Family history: This means someone in your family (like your mother, grandmother or sister) has had a premature baby. If you were born prematurely, you’re more likely than others to give birth early.

Weight: Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy or not gaining enough weight during pregnancy.

Maternal health conditions, including:
High blood pressure and preeclampsia
Diabetes
Thrombophilias (blood clotting disorders)
o Certain infections during pregnancy, like a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or other infections of the uterus, urinary tract or vagina.

Smoking: Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely than babies born to nonsmokers to be born prematurely.

Stress: High levels of stress that continue for a long time may cause health problems.

Maternal age: Being younger than 17 or older than 35 makes you more likely than other women to give birth early.

Race/ethnicity: We don’t know why race plays a role in premature birth; researchers are working to learn more about it.   In the United States, black women are more likely to give birth early, followed by Native American and Hispanic moms.

These are just a few of the risk factors for preterm labor or premature birth. You can see a complete list on our website.

There are some things that ALL women can do to reduce their risk of preterm labor and premature birth:
• Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or take street drugs.
• Make sure you go to all your prenatal care appointments, even if you’re feeling fine. This allows your doctor to detect any problems early.
• Try to get to a healthy weight before your get pregnant. Once you are pregnant, ask your doctor how much weight you should gain.
• Make sure any chronic health conditions are being treated and are under control.
• Protect yourself from infections by washing your hands with soap and water. Know what foods to avoid during pregnancy. Have safe sex. Don’t touch cat feces (waste).
• Try to reduce stress. Make sure you ask for help from family and friends.
• Once you have had your baby, it is best to wait at least 18 to 23 months before getting pregnant again. And make sure you schedule a preconception checkup before your next pregnancy.

If you have concerns about whether you may be at risk for giving birth early, see your health care provider. With guidance and care, you will have a better chance of having a healthy pregnancy.

Have questions? Send them to our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Diabetes and premature birth: know the facts

Monday, November 10th, 2014

speak to your health care providerDid you know that having diabetes during pregnancy is a risk factor for preterm labor and premature birth? Diabetes is a serious health concern, especially when left untreated or undiagnosed. November is prematurity awareness month and we want to make sure you’re aware of the risks diabetes can have on your pregnancy.

About 9 out of 10 women in the U.S. have diabetes – a condition in which your body has too much sugar (called glucose) in the blood. You can develop diabetes at any time in your life.

Some women also develop diabetes during pregnancy, which is called gestational diabetes. Four out of every 100 pregnant women (4 percent) develop this type of diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth. But if you have it in one pregnancy, you’re more likely to have it in your next pregnancy. You’re also more likely to develop diabetes later in life.

Having diabetes or gestational diabetes can cause you to go into preterm labor, before 37 weeks gestation. Babies born this early can face serious health problems including long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities.

How can you find out if you have diabetes?

If you are not pregnant yet, speak with your health care provider about your concerns. He will ask you about your family health history, and evaluate your present health. He can give you a glucose tolerance test and measure your blood glucose levels to see if you have diabetes.

If you are pregnant already, you may get a glucose tolerance test at 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy, or earlier if your provider thinks you’re likely to develop gestational diabetes. You may have heard of other pregnant women having to drink an 8oz cup of a thick syrupy drink – this is part of the glucose tolerance test, along with measuring your blood glucose levels.

Who is at risk for developing gestational diabetes?

You may be more likely than other women to develop gestational diabetes if:

• You’re 30 years old or older.
• You’re overweight or you gained a lot of weight during pregnancy.
• You have a family history of diabetes. This means that one or more of your family members has diabetes.
• You’re African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic or Pacific Islander. These ethnic groups are more likely to have gestational diabetes than other groups.
• You had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy.
• In your last pregnancy, you gave birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 1/2 pounds or was stillborn.

What else can you do?

It’s important for you to take care of yourself, but especially if you have diabetes or a risk factor for gestational diabetes. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider about taking a glucose tolerance test. Getting diabetes under control could help prevent preterm labor and premature birth. Being active, eating healthy foods that are low in sugar and losing weight may help reduce your chances of developing diabetes later in life.

Learn more about managing pre-existing diabetes and gestational diabetes.  And, as always, visit your health care provider before and during pregnancy.

 

What grade did your state receive?

Friday, November 7th, 2014

2014 report card map

This year we have some great news to report: the national premature birth rate fell to 11.4 percent in 2013 – the lowest in 17 years — meeting the federal Healthy People 2020 goal seven years early. Despite this progress though, the U.S. still received a “C” on the 7th annual March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card because it fell short of the more-challenging 9.6 percent target.

“Achieving the Healthy People 2020 goal is reason for celebration, but the U.S. still has one of the highest rates of preterm birth of any high resource country and we must change that,” said March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse. “We are investing in a network of five prematurity research centers to find solutions to this still too-common, costly, and serious problem.”

The March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card compares each state’s premature birth rate to the March of Dimes goal of 9.6 percent of all live births by 2020. On the 2014 Report Card, 27 states and Puerto Rico saw their premature birth rates improve between 2012 and 2013, earning better grades for five of them: Iowa, Virginia, Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma. Five states earned an “A,” including California, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont. Twenty states earned a “B,” 20 states received a “C,” two states and the District of Columbia got a “D,” and only three states and Puerto Rico, received an “F” on the Report Card. Click here to see how your state your did.

The Report Card also tracks states’ progress toward lowering their premature birth rates by following three principle risk reduction strategies:
• 30 states and the District of Columbia reduced the percentage of uninsured women of childbearing age;
• 34 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico reduced the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke;
• 30 states and Puerto Rico lowered the late preterm birth rate, babies born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation.

Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face serious and sometimes lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, jaundice, developmental delays, vision loss, and cerebral palsy. Even babies born just a few weeks too soon have higher rates of death and disability than full-term babies.

The March of Dimes is also calling for a nationwide effort to reduce U.S. premature births to 5.5 percent of all live births by 2030.  Seven other developed countries already have premature birth rates below 6 percent, and 15 have rates below 7 percent.  The U.S. rate of 11.4 percent in 2013 is one of the highest.  The U.S. ranked 37th out of 39 high resource countries in 2010.

“The United States spends more money per capita on health care than almost any other country in the world, and yet our premature birth rate and our infant mortality rate are among the highest.” says Dr. Howse.  “The U.S. should aspire to be among the best globally in preterm birth rates and give all our children a healthy beginning.”

Sensory difficulties in children

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Itchy shirt. Icky foods. Hair brushing is a nightmare. Shoes won’t stay on. Sounds make him cringe.
child dislikes food

Picky child or sensory dysfunction?

Our five senses: taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight help us navigate so much of our world. But for some children (and even adults), their senses are especially heightened and can interfere with daily life in a negative way.

•    Taste and smell
Parents often complain that their child can’t tolerate the taste or smell of many foods. Feeding their child becomes a nightmare. When my daughter was little, she would only eat approximately 10 foods (if that). She did not like the taste or smell of most foods and could not stay in the same room when I was cooking broccoli or another offending food.  She preferred sweets to salty treats, and a vegetable would not pass her lips (she would rather die fighting!).  Even if cajoled or bribed (yes – I bribed her) to eat a new food, she would often gag on it because the taste, smell or texture was too awful for her. As she grew up she would relate that she wanted to eat more foods, and was not happy that she had such a limited range of foods she found acceptable to eat. But, alas, it was not something she could control.

•    Sound
child coveringn earsAnother common sensory complaint is that of a hearing sensitivity. Certain sounds or noises are painful to hear. I am not talking about a rock concert or music being cranked on the highest volume. The bothersome sounds could be the barking of a dog, the crinkling of tin foil, the din of the voices in a cafeteria, the sound of a blender, hair dryer or vacuum cleaner. Typical sounds are abnormally loud to a child with a sound sensitivity and may cause him to cover his ears (at best) or disengage socially (at worst).

•    Touch
Other children are extra sensitive to touch. For example, they hate the feeling of certain clothes against their skin. They dislike getting dressed or undressed, and may have a vast wardrobe but will only wear three outfits! Clothes that are scratchy, have tags or are not soft enough for their skin will be tossed aside.  They may resist going into a bath (or getting out of the bath) due to the uncomfortable sensory changes on their skin. Similarly, applying sunscreen becomes a feat in and of itself.

•    Sight
Lastly, some children are extra sensitive visually. For example, bright lights, flashing lights and the change from indoor light to sunlight can make them close their eyes or head in the opposite direction.

Any one of the above sensory issues can wreak havoc on your child’s life – and yours. Some children have difficulties with more than one sense, too. There is debate as to whether sensory dysfunction is a diagnosis in and of itself, or if it is a symptom of a larger diagnosis (such as ADHD, autism, or another disorder). The important thing to remember is that for whatever reason, and whatever you want to call it, these sensory issues are real challenges in your child’s life.

In many cases, these sensitivities may be reduced through occupational therapy (read this post on OT) and through other kinds of treatments. If your child is extra sensitive, speak with his pediatrician and ask if OT or another kind of treatment may be helpful.

Stay tuned for future blog posts on treatment options and helpful hints for the above sensory issues.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

How preeclampsia affects your baby

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

preemieLast week we reviewed the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. Today we’ll talk about how preeclampsia can affect your baby.

If you have preeclampsia, your health care provider can help you manage most health complications through regular prenatal care.

Treatment for preeclampsia depends on how severe your preeclampsia is and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Even if you have mild preeclampsia, you need treatment to make sure it doesn’t get worse.

Treatment for mild preeclampsia may include seeing your prenatal care provider more frequently for tests to make sure you and your baby are doing well. You may be able to stay at home and just be monitored.

More severe preeclampsia may require you to be admitted to the hospital or for you to be induced before your due date.

The high blood pressure that is a part of preeclampsia can narrow blood vessels in the uterus (womb) and placenta. The placenta supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. If the blood vessels in the placenta are narrow, your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients, causing him to grow slowly. This can lead to a low birthweight baby, a baby who weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.

In many cases the only treatment for preeclampsia is the birth of your baby. This may result in your baby being born prematurely, or before 37 weeks of pregnancy.  Although the thought of having a premature baby can be frightening, it is important to remember that most babies of moms with severe preeclampsia before 34 weeks of pregnancy do better in a NICU than if they stay in the uterus.

Premature babies and low birthweight babies may have more health problems and need to stay in the NICU longer than babies born full-term. The earlier in pregnancy a baby is born, the more likely he is to have health problems. Some babies may have complications that can affect them their whole lives. But thanks to advances in medical care, even babies born very prematurely are more likely to survive today than ever before.

Anne Geddes supports March of Dimes

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Jack Holding Maneesha

World-renowned photographer Anne Geddes is lending her talent to support the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign and World Prematurity Day 2014. She will be taking an exclusive image this week that will be released specifically for the campaign in November. We couldn’t be more thrilled!

Ms. Geddes is a longtime advocate for children and babies, and says the issue of preterm birth is close to her heart. One of her earliest and most iconic images is this one called “Jack Holding Maneesha,” a photograph of a baby born prematurely at 28 weeks. This year, Maneesha celebrates her 21st birthday.

If you want to know more about this exciting collaboration, read our news release.

What is dysgraphia?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

chld-in-schoolPremature birth can lead to long-term challenges, such as learning disabilities.  Dysgraphia is a learning disability (LD) in the area of writing. It is a processing disorder, not just a problem with penmanship. It could mean your child has trouble holding a pencil or pen, forming letters and numbers, or spelling correctly. It can also mean your child struggles to organize his thoughts in his head and put those thoughts down on paper. Written work may be unclear and unorganized. In short, dysgraphia includes difficulty in all of the aspects of acquiring and expressing written language. Although dysgraphia may affect many preemies, it is also seen in children who are born full term.

Understanding writing

Writing involves a complex series of steps.  First, a child must learn how to form letters and understand combinations of letters and how they form sounds. Then he must learn how to put them all together in a coherent way using paper and pencil. The paper/pencil part requires eye/hand coordination and a certain amount of muscle strength and dexterity. And then there is another aspect to writing – organizing ideas in his head and being able to transfer his thoughts down on to paper. Whew…that is a lot of stuff going on just to write a few paragraphs on a piece of paper!

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), dysgraphia can be due to visual-spatial processing problems (when the brain has trouble making sense of what the eyes see) or language processing problems (when the brain has trouble making sense of what the ears hear).

Because writing depends so much on interpreting and using language, many children with dysgraphia also have other learning disabilities, such as dyslexia (reading), or other language impairments. Some may have attention problems, too. If your child has more than one challenge, the act of writing can become overwhelming. (And he is surely not going to like doing it.)

What are the warning signs of dysgraphia?

It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of dysgraphia because often children with an LD (or LDs) are mistaken for being lazy or unmotivated. The symptoms of dysgraphia vary widely depending on the age of your child. NCLD provides lists of signs or symptoms by age group, from very young children through adults.

How is dysgraphia treated?

Unfortunately, dysgraphia (like other LDs) is lifelong. But, fortunately, there are different treatments that may help a child overcome obstacles.

  •      A child may benefit from occupational therapy, as it may help increase hand coordination and muscle strength to improve writing stability.
  •      A child may also benefit from specialized instruction in school (through special education). Specialized writing programs can help a child with letter formation. Other programs help with topic and paragraph organization (such as graphic organizers).
  •      There are also ways around the problem – such as learning to type on a computer or boy on computerusing voice activated computer software which types a child’s words. Many children with writing problems find using a laptop or other computer to be the ticket to success for them. (My daughter started learning keyboarding skills in first grade (as part of her IEP), as a result of her dysgraphia. The fluent sentences that emerged from the computer shocked her teacher so much that she thought that I had helped her with her work! We were all amazed at what my daughter was able to do once we shifted all her written work to a computer.)

Where can you find more info?

If you suspect that your child has dysgraphia or any kind of LD, speak with your child’s pediatrician. You can also ask that your child be tested through your local school system. Of course, there are professionals who can test him outside of school, too. Getting a clear diagnosis and help as soon as possible is very important.

NCLD provides a list of helpful writing resources,  including a Resource Locator,  specific to your location and type of help needed.

Bottom line

With any disability, it takes time to find the right treatments to put in place. Then it takes lots of patience and tons of practice. During this time, your child may not want to have anything to do with drawing or writing. I can understand this, can’t you? I don’t like being forced to do things that are particularly hard for me.  But, hopefully, with the right therapy and program, and tons of positive reinforcement, your child will begin to overcome or learn to compensate for his challenges.

The sooner the disability is diagnosed and treatment is targeted and begun, the sooner your child can improve. As with any disability, the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the happier your child will be.

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

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Congratulations CVS Caremark

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

stop smokingThe March of Dimes congratulates CVS Caremark for its historic decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its pharmacies and stores nationwide. By becoming the first U.S. pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco, CVS Caremark has become a pioneer in improving the health of American women and children today and in the future. Tobacco is poisonous to women who smoke and to their unborn babies. Smoking during pregnancy contributes to miscarriage and premature birth, and we learned just last month from the U.S. Surgeon General that smoking is a proven cause of disfiguring oral clefts. We’re grateful to CVS Caremark for working to improve the health and the lives of mothers and babies.

What are learning disabilities?

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

chld-in-schoolPrematurity can cause problems during infancy, childhood and well into adulthood. The long lasting effects of premature birth can cause delays in understanding, reasoning, speaking and learning. One consequence of preterm birth may be learning disabilities. Learning disabilities (LD) do not only occur in babies born prematurely – they may occur in many babies who are born full term. It is important to learn about LD so that if your child is affected, you will know what to do.

There are different kinds of LD

At some point in your child’s life, he may have trouble with listening, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, reasoning or doing math. But when it becomes more than a temporary or minor struggle, it could be the sign of a learning disability. A learning disability is a problem with acquiring and processing information. It is also called a Specific Learning Disorder. There are different kinds of LD and they can vary from mild to severe.

By definition, an LD child is bright. In fact, he has at least average intelligence, and often well above average, but somehow learning is extra hard for him. An LD child is not lazy or undisciplined – he learns differently. However, without specialized instruction in “learning how to learn,” he can quickly fall behind his peers due to the additional time and effort it requires for him to make strides and stay on track. The amount of effort required to accomplish tasks that his peers can do is off kilter. As a result, your child may become frustrated and exhausted, and if he does not receive intervention, the problem may continue to worsen.

The most common forms are grouped into the following areas:

Dyslexia – difficulty processing language- trouble with reading, spelling and writing
Dysgraphia – difficulty with handwriting
Dyscalculia – difficulty learning math –arithmetic, telling time and word problems

Other forms of LD or related disorders include CAPD (central auditory processing disorder), nonverbal learning disability, visual and motor disabilities, dyspraxia, apraxia and aphasia. A child can have a learning disability in more than one area. Click here to learn more.

A learning disability usually becomes evident when a child is in elementary school, as this is the time when he is required to learn to read, spell, write and do math. In other words, there are suddenly hard expectations put on your child, and his difficulties become much more noticeable. However, the early signs or symptoms of LD may have been present in the preschool years (such as difficulty with counting or rhyming, fine motor skills or listening) so suddenly all those difficult behaviors you noticed back then make sense now.

What should you do?

If you suspect that your child is not learning as he should, speak to your child’s health care provider. Also, check out the National Institute of Health’s discussion on LD to see the possible signs of LD and learn what to do to have your child’s school (or another professional) test him. If your child has a learning disability, beginning intervention (usually through specialized teaching), is critical in helping your child learn how to learn and start catching up. It is also important for self-confidence and overall happiness.

Your child is in good company

Individuals with LD have gone on to become incredibly successful in every walk of life. It is said that the following famous people (along with hundreds of other famous people) suffer from dyslexia or another type of learning disability.

Director Steven Spielberg
Actors Henry Winkler, Whoopie Goldberg, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly and Emma Thompson and Tom Cruise
Comedian Jay Leno
Entertainer Cher
Olympian Bruce Jenner
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy

I urge you to do your own internet search as you will be amazed by how many accomplished individuals have a learning disability. You can start your search here.

On a personal note

My daughter’s journey includes learning disabilities. (She was born at 38.2 weeks.) She will be the first to tell you that without her specialized schooling she would not be the young adult she is today. Even though she had all 3 of the D’s as well as CAPD, she grew up loving to read and write. (OK, so she still hates and struggles with math…you can’t win them all!) She acted in plays in high school and continues to act in Community Theater productions. She is working on writing a collection of stories for “tweens.”  Her day job is in a preschool as an assistant teacher. The kid that hated school (reading, writing and math), overcame much of her disability to become successful. The key was getting her help early.

Bottom line

There is no “cure” for LD. But, if your child is diagnosed with a learning disability, don’t despair. With the right services and supports, your child with LD can learn. In time, the focus will shift from his disabilities to his abilities. Just get help for him as soon as possible.

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

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.