Posts Tagged ‘premature birth’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Preeclampsia can lead to premature birth

Monday, May 4th, 2015

preeclampsia, headachePreeclampsia affects one in every 12 pregnancies. It is the cause of 15 percent (about 1 in 8) of premature births in the United States. Women with preeclampsia are more likely than women who don’t have preeclampsia to have preterm labor and delivery. Even with treatment, a pregnant woman with preeclampsia may need to give birth early to avoid serious problems for her and her baby.

What is preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. This condition can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or right after birth. Preeclampsia can be a serious medical condition. Without medical treatment, preeclampsia can cause kidney, liver and brain damage. It can also cause serious bleeding problems. In rare cases, preeclampsia can become a life-threatening condition called eclampsia that includes seizures. Eclampsia sometimes can lead to coma and even death.

Know the signs and symptoms:

• Severe headaches
• Vision problems, like blurriness, flashing lights, or being sensitive to light
• Pain in the upper right belly area
• Nausea or vomiting
• Dizziness
• Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week)
• Swelling in the legs, hands, and face

If you have any of these signs or symptoms, contact your prenatal care provider right away.

Preeclampsia can develop gradually, or have a sudden onset, flaring up in a matter of hours. You can also have mild preeclampsia without symptoms. It’s important that you go to all of your prenatal care visits so your provider will measure your blood pressure and check your urine for protein.

How is preeclampsia treated?

The cure for preeclampsia is the birth of your baby. Treatment during pregnancy 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. Treatments may include medications to lower blood pressure, corticosteroids or anticonvulsant medications to prevent a seizure.  If not treated, preeclampsia can cause complications during pregnancy and result in premature birth.

What causes preeclampsia?

We don’t know what causes preeclampsia, but you may be more likely than other women to have preeclampsia if you:

• are pregnant for the first time
• had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy. The earlier in pregnancy you had preeclampsia, the higher your risk is to have it again in another pregnancy.
• have a family history of preeclampsia.
• have high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, a thrombophilia, or lupus.
• are pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets or more).
• had in vitro fertilization (IVF) – a method used to help women get pregnant.
• have poorly controlled asthma.
• are older than 40.
• are obese.

If your provider thinks you’re at high risk of having preeclampsia, he may want to treat you with low-dose aspirin to help prevent it. Talk to your provider to see if treatment with aspirin is right for you.


When can your baby go home from the hospital?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

giving birthIf you just gave birth and are wondering when your baby will be discharged from the hospital, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just released guidelines for health care providers to use to decide when your baby can go home.

Careful consideration is given to the following factors:

  • The mother’s health and readiness to care for her child – Is she healthy? Does she have support at home?
  • The baby’s health – Has the baby successfully had at least two feedings in the hospital (either by breast or bottle)? Is the baby healthy?
  • The car seat – Do the parents have an appropriate one and do they know how to use it properly?
  • Life at home – Is the home safe for a baby? Are there illicit drugs, alcohol, a history of abuse, neglect or domestic violence in the home? Is there a history of mental illness in a parent?
  • Access to care – Does the mother have access to follow-up care for herself and her baby? Does she have transportation? Does she currently use or know of a clinic or doctor’s office where she and her baby can go for care?

The answers to these questions will help providers determine when a baby can be discharged from the hospital. The goal is to ensure that both mother and baby are cared for appropriately so that neither one will have issues that require going back into the hospital. By double checking on mom, baby, and home life ahead of time, the transition to home will be as safe and smooth as possible.

Preemies? Health problems?

Keep in mind that if your baby was born prematurely or with a medical condition, there will be additional considerations to review before your baby will be ready for discharge. Read our article on Leaving the NICU to learn more.

Questions?  Send them to

For posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.



Understanding intellectual and developmental disabilities

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Raising a child with developmental disabilities is a long road filled with challenges. It is best to have information and support to help you along the way.

Since March is National Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, it gives us an opportunity to increase understanding about these disabilities, and to get the word out on support services that exist to help families. Equally important is learning how some disabilities can be prevented.

Developmental disabilities (DDs) include a wide group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. About one in six children in the U.S. has a developmental disability or a developmental delay.

DDs are diagnosed during the developmental period or before a child reaches age 18, are life-long, and can be mild to severe. They impact a person’s ability to function well every day.

Developmental disabilities is the umbrella term that includes intellectual disabilities (formerly referred to as mental retardation), which is an impairment in intellectual and adaptive functioning. For example, individuals with intellectual disability may have problems with everyday life skills, (such as getting dressed or using a knife and fork), thinking, understanding, reasoning, speaking and the overall ability to learn. See this fact sheet to learn more.

DDs also include: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, fragile X syndrome, hearing loss, vision impairment, muscular dystrophy, Tourette syndrome, learning disabilities, among other disorders.

Developmental disabilities may be due to:

• Genetic or chromosomal problems
Premature birth
Exposure to alcohol during pregnancy
• Certain infections during pregnancy

However, in many cases, the cause is unknown.

Some disabilities can be prevented

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, learn how some disabilities and birth defects can be prevented.

Families need support

This blog series offers lots of resources – check out the Table of Contents for a list of what to do if you suspect your child may have a developmental delay or disability.  The series is updated every Wednesday.

You can also join our online community, Share Your Story, where parents of children with developmental delays and disabilities support one another.

In addition, here are a couple more resources:

The Arc: For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – For more than 60 years, and with nearly 700 chapters in the U.S., the ARC provides supports and services for people with disabilities and for affected families.

AIDD – According to their website, the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities works to advance the concerns and interests of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through an array of programs funded under the Developmental Disabilities Act. AIDD is dedicated to ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are able to fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of community life in the United States and its territories.

Baby’s genes may play a role in some premature births

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

MOD scienceSome babies seem to have a genetic predisposition to a higher risk of being born too soon. Changes in the baby’s DNA – not the mother’s – may be what triggers some early births.

In an exciting new study, researchers analyzed the number of copies of certain genes in the blood or saliva from hundreds of babies and their mothers. A gene is a part of your body’s cells that stores instructions for the way your body grows and works. What the scientists found may be somewhat surprising.  There was no link between the number of copies of the mother’s genes and the chances of a preterm baby. However, there was a two- to eleven-fold increase in premature births before 34 weeks of pregnancy when any of four genes were duplicated or seven genes were deleted in the babies born preterm, when compared to babies born full-term.

The researchers think that the differences in the number of copies of the genes may not be causing a preterm birth, but they may put a baby at a higher risk of infection or reacting to other harmful environmental factors that may trigger early labor and delivery.

“These findings may help explain what triggers early labor in some women even when they’ve done everything right during pregnancy and there’s no obvious cause for an early birth,” explained March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer Edward R. B. McCabe, MD, MPH. “The hope is that this finding may one day lead to a screening test to help identify which babies are at a higher risk of an early birth.”

Stay tuned for upcoming details. We will blog again when we have more information.

Are you ready to have another baby?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

pregnant woman and toddlerEveryone has a different opinion about how far apart in age their children should be. Some people like to have their babies very close together, while others like a little more time between each child. But there may be more to consider than just personal preference. A recent study found that women who wait less than 18 months between pregnancies are more likely to give birth before 39 weeks.

The study found that mothers who had less time between pregnancies were more likely to give birth before 39 weeks when compared to women whose pregnancies were 18 months apart or more. Women with pregnancy intervals of less than 12 months were more than twice as likely to give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks) when compared to women whose pregnancies were at least 18 months apart.

“Short interpregnancy interval is a known risk factor for preterm birth, however, this new research shows that inadequate birth spacing is associated with shorter overall pregnancy duration” states  Emily DeFranco, Assistant Professor of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio and the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and co-author of the study. She adds: “This study has potential clinical impact on reducing the overall rate of preterm birth across the world through counselling women on the importance of adequate birth spacing, especially focusing on women known to be at inherently high risk for preterm birth.”

So if you are thinking about having another baby, make sure you schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider.  The two of you can discuss any health concerns you may have as well as the time between your pregnancies.  Also, if you have had a premature baby in the past, make sure you discuss ways to reduce your risk of having another premature birth.