Posts Tagged ‘premature birth’

For the third year in a row, more babies are being born too soon.

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

According to recent data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the preterm birth rate in the U.S. rose in 2017. This is the third year in a row with an increase. In 2015, the rate increased to 9.63 percent, in 2016 to 9.85 percent, and in 2017 to 9.93 percent. This is a very alarming trend.

The data also shows great disparities among racial and ethnic groups. The most significant increase in the preterm birth rate was seen among non-Hispanic black women and Hispanic women, while the rate among non-Hispanic white women was essentially unchanged. Babies who are born too soon may face more health problems or need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born on time. Some of these babies also have long-term health effects, like problems that affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision. These problems are affecting more babies whose moms are black or Hispanic.

At March of Dimes, we recognize an urgent need for new solutions to address the serious problems of premature birth. We are working hard to help close the racial and ethnic gaps in preterm birth rates and achieve equity in birth outcomes. We won’t stop advocating, searching for answers or supporting all moms and babies. All babies deserve the best possible start in life and the opportunity to thrive and be healthy.

To learn more visit: marchofdimes.org

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Preeclampsia is a blood pressure condition that only occurs in pregnancy and during the postpartum period. Women who have preeclampsia develop high blood pressure and may also have signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working normally.

Preeclampsia is a serious health problem for pregnant women around the world. It affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide. In the United States, it’s the cause of 15 percent of premature births. Premature birth is birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Most women with preeclampsia have healthy babies. But if it’s not treated, it can cause severe health problems for you and your baby.

For most women, preeclampsia happens after 20 weeks of pregnancy. When it happens during the postpartum period, it is usually within 48 hours of having a baby. However, it can develop up to 6 weeks after birth.

One of the best ways to detect preeclampsia is to go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. Preeclampsia sometimes develops without any signs. This means you may have preeclampsia and not know it. During your prenatal care checkups your health care provider will measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein. In the case of preeclampsia, there’s usually a presence of protein in the urine. 

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include:

  • Changes in vision, like blurriness, flashing lights, seeing spots or being sensitive to light
  • Headache that doesn’t go away
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting or dizziness
  • Pain in the upper right belly area or in the shoulder
  • Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week)
  • Swelling in the legs, hands or face
  • Trouble breathing

Many of these signs and symptoms are common discomforts of pregnancy. If you have even one sign or symptom, call your provider right away. Without treatment, preeclampsia can cause serious health problems for you and your baby, even death.

If you’re at risk for preeclampsia, your provider may want you to take low-dose aspirin to help prevent it. Talk to your provider to see if treatment with low-dose aspirin is right for you. Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about how to have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

April is Sexually Transmitted Infections Awareness Month. In the United States, nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections happen each year.

Sexually transmitted infections (also called STI, sexually transmitted diseases or STD) are infections that you can get from having unprotected sex or intimate physical contact with a person who is infected.

Having an STI during pregnancy can cause serious problems for babies, including premature birth, low birthweight, miscarriage, and other problems after birth. Many people with STIs don’t know they’re infected because some STIs have no signs or symptoms. Therefore, the best way to protect your baby from STIs is to protect yourself from STIs.

Here’s what you can do to help protect yourself from STIs:

  • If you have sex, have safe sex. Have sex with only one person who doesn’t have other sex partners.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex. Condoms are barrier methods of birth control and help prevent pregnancy, as well as STIs.
  • Get tested and treated. The sooner you get tested and treated, the less likely you are to have complications from your infection.
  • Ask your partner to get tested and treated. Even if you get treated for an STI, if your partner’s infected you can get the infection again.
  • Go to all your prenatal care visits, even if you’re feeling fine. If you think you may have an STI, let your health care provider know. That way you can get tested and treated right away.
  • Get vaccinated. Some vaccinations can help protect you from some STIs, like hepatitis B and some types of human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Don’t have sex. This is the best way to prevent an STI.

Counseling for sexually transmitted infections is a preventive service covered by most health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, at no extra cost to you. Learn more about recommended preventive services that are covered under the Affordable Care Act at Care Women Deserve.

Healthy babies across the life course: Past reflections and future progress during National Minority Health Month

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

By Kweli Rashied-Henry, March of Dimes Director of Health Equity

Frederick Douglass once said “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” As a country, we have made tremendous strides in the health of all populations since this famed abolitionist spoke these words in the mid-19th century. Overall life expectancy has increased and infant death before the age of one has declined. However, health is still experienced disproportionately in the United States.

Nearly twenty years ago, April was established as National Minority Health Month to encourage health and health equity partners and stakeholders to work together on initiatives to reduce disparities, advance equity, and strengthen the health and well-being of all Americans. In the U.S., racial and ethnic disparities (or inequities) in preterm birth are worsening. Black women are about 50 percent more likely to give birth prematurely compared to other women and their babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday compared to babies born to white women. This stark reality signals the need for health equity, which means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. It also signals the need for healthy moms before, during and after pregnancy.

Being healthy across the course of one’s life is essential for having a healthy baby in the future. Most of us recognize the importance of prenatal care during pregnancy. Experts also advise screenings for medical and social risk factors, providing health education, and delivering effective treatment or prevention plans as a set of practices that could improve health prior to conception. Women and men of reproductive age who improve their preconception health can increase their likelihood of having a healthy baby if and when they desire. In short, healthy moms and dads can lead to stronger babies. Yet disparities can be stubborn and may require more than simply changing behavior.

According to the Office of Minority Health, your zip code can be a predictor of your health. In other words, your place of birth, where you work and play, your income and education, and a host of other factors – in addition to the choices you make each day about what to eat, when to work out and whether or not to see a doctor can impact your health. These factors are often referred to as the “social determinants of health,” and they contribute to health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in America. “Addressing the social determinants is key to ensuring that every baby is born healthy regardless of wealth, race or geography.”

According to the Pew Research Center, rapid growth among minority populations is projected by 2050.  If this trend holds, many of tomorrow’s parents will come from communities that share a disproportionate burden of preterm birth and infant death. Although advances in medicine and technology were likely responsible for much of the improvements in these health outcomes in the U.S. over the years, it is also likely that the collective actions of everyday people has helped us realize that better health is not just for ourselves but for future generations. Looking back on this progress can surely help us look forward to what it will take for our babies to continue to grow and thrive.  National Minority Health Month is a special occasion for us to acknowledge the struggles that continue to evade us and what’s needed to support future generations.

Weight gain and pregnancy: what’s right for you

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy is important. It can help protect your health and the health of your baby.

Why is weight gain during pregnancy important?

If you gain too little weight during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other women to have a premature baby or a baby with low birthweight.

If you gain too much weight during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other women to:

  • Have a premature baby. Premature babies may have health problems at birth and later in life.
  • Have a baby with fetal macrosomia. This is when your baby is born weighing more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Having a baby this large can cause complications, like problems during labor and heavy bleeding after birth.
  • Need a c-section.
  • Have trouble losing weight after your baby’s birth. This can increase your risk for health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

How much weight should you gain during pregnancy?

This depends on your health and your body mass index (also called BMI) before you get pregnant. BMI is a measure of body fat based on your height and weight. To find out your BMI, go to www.cdc.gov/bmi. Your provider will use your BMI before pregnancy to determine how much weight you should gain during pregnancy.

In general, if you’re pregnant with one baby:

  • If you were underweight before pregnancy, you want to gain about 28 to 40 pounds during pregnancy.
  • If you were at a healthy weight before pregnancy, you want to gain about 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.
  • If you were overweight before pregnancy, you want to gain about 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy.
  • If you were obese before pregnancy, you want to gain about 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy.

If you’re overweight or obese and are gaining less than the recommended amounts, talk to your provider. If your baby is still growing well, your weight gain may be fine.

Gaining weight slowly and steadily is best. Don’t worry too much if you don’t gain any weight in the first trimester, or if you gain a little more or a little less than you think you should in any week. You may have some growth spurts—this is when you gain several pounds in a short time and then level off. Don’t ever try to lose weight during pregnancy.

Just thinking about getting pregnant?

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, remember that it’s best to start your pregnancy at a healthy weight. You can make sure you’re at a healthy weight at your well-woman checkup (which can also be your preconception checkup). Did you know that your well-woman checkup is a preventive service and is covered by most insurance plans with no extra costs to you? Learn more about recommended preventive services that are covered under the Affordable Care Act at Care Women Deserve.

Antiviral medications for flu during pregnancy

Friday, February 16th, 2018

This year’s flu season has been particularly bad and shows no signs of letting up soon. Health complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, can be serious and even deadly, especially if you’re pregnant or just had a baby. If you think you may have the flu, contact your health care provider right away. Quick treatment with antiviral medications can help prevent serious flu complications.

How do you know if you have the flu?

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • Chills
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Feeling very tired
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Vomiting (throwing up) and diarrhea (more common in children)

Fever and most other symptoms can last a week or longer. But some people can be sick from the flu for a long time, including children, people older than 65, pregnant women and women who have recently had a baby.

Why is the flu more dangerous for pregnant women?

The flu can be dangerous during pregnancy and up to two weeks postpartum because:

  • Pregnancy affects your immune system. During pregnancy your immune system doesn’t respond as effectively to viruses and illnesses. This means you are more likely to catch the flu.
  • Your lungs need more oxygen during pregnancy but your growing belly puts pressure on your lungs, making them work harder in a smaller space. Your heart is working harder as well. This extra stress on your body can make you more likely to get the flu.
  • You’re more likely to have serious complications, like pneumonia.
  • Pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to have preterm labor and premature birth (before 37 weeks).

What treatment is available?

If you think you have the flu, your health care provider can prescribe antiviral medication. Antivirals kill infections caused by viruses. They can make your flu milder and help you feel better faster. Antivirals can help prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. For flu, antivirals work best if you take them within 2 days of having symptoms. But they may still be helpful if started later, so make sure you talk to you provider even if you have been sick for more than 2 days.

In the United States, two medicines are approved for preventing or treating the flu in pregnant women and women who recently had a baby. You can only get them with a prescription so talk to your provider about which one is right for you:

  • Oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu®)
  • Zanamivir (brand name Relenza®). This medicine is a powder that you breathe in by mouth. It isn’t recommended for people with breathing problems, like asthma.

Can you still get a flu shot?

YES! It’s not too late to get a flu shot. Everyone 6 months and older should get their flu shot every year. The flu shot is safe to get during pregnancy. If you do get the flu, having had a flu shot may make your illness milder and it can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization.

What are antenatal corticosteroids?

Friday, February 9th, 2018

Preterm labor is labor that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. If you have preterm labor, your health care provider may recommend antenatal corticosteroids to help speed up your baby’s lung development and reduce the chances of some complications.

How do antenatal corticosteroids work?

There are two types of corticosteroids that may be used if you’re in preterm labor, betamethasone and dexamethasone. Both of these steroids help your baby’s lungs produce surfactant. Surfactant is a protein that helps keep the small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing. When a baby is born full-term, her lungs produce surfactant naturally. But babies born premature do not produce enough surfactant, and that means the air sacs in the lungs do not expand the way they should. This results in premature babies having breathing difficulties.

When should you get antenatal corticosteroids?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends a single course of corticosteroids for pregnant women who are at-risk of premature birth within the next 7 days. This includes women whose membranes have ruptured and women pregnant with twins or other multiples. If you’re pregnant and at-risk for giving birth early, talk to your health care provider and discuss the best treatment options for your specific situation.

Are antenatal corticosteroids effective?

If you’re in preterm labor and you receive antenatal corticosteroids, your baby’s chances of having certain health problems after birth are reduced, including:

  • Respiratory Distress syndrome (RDS). This is a breathing problem most common in babies born before 34 weeks of pregnancy. Babies with RDS don’t have enough surfactant and it results in breathing problems.
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). This is bleeding in the brain. It usually happens near the ventricles in the center of the brain. A ventricles is a space in the brain that’s filled with fluid.
  • Necrotizing enterocoloitis (NEC). This is a problem with a baby’s intestines. It can cause feeding problems, a swollen belly and diarrhea. It sometimes happens 2 to 3 weeks after a premature birth.

Are there side effects?

Possible side effects of medicines like betamethasone and dexamethasone for mom may include fluid build-up in the body and increased blood pressure. There are no side effects for your baby.

If you’re at risk of giving birth early, talk to your provider about antenatal corticosteroids and how they may be able to help your baby. You can learn more about other treatments for preterm labor on our website. And all pregnant women should learn the signs and symptoms of preterm labor. If you have even one sign or symptom, call your health care provider. If you’re having preterm labor, getting help quickly is the best thing to do.

Diabetes during pregnancy: a risk factor premature birth

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Diabetes is a serious health concern, especially when left untreated. About 9 out of 100 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.

Seven out of every 100 pregnant women (7 percent) develop diabetes during pregnancy, also called gestational 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.

Are you at risk?

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

  • You’re older than 25.
  • 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.

You can develop gestational diabetes even if you don’t have any of these risk factors. This is why your health care provider tests you for gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

How do you know if you have gestational diabetes?

If you’re pregnant, you will 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.

What else can you do?

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider. 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.

World Prematurity Day: Why it matters

Friday, November 17th, 2017

In the United States,

About every eight seconds, a baby is born.

Every hour, about three babies die.

African-American infants are more than two times as likely as white infants to die before their first birthday.

About one in ten infants is born preterm (less than 37 weeks gestation).

About every 1½ minutes, a baby is born with low birthweight (less than 5 pounds 8 ounces).

Prematurity/low birthweight and related conditions account for more infant deaths than any other single cause (about 1 in 3).

Every year, about 4,400 babies are born weighing less than one pound.

Premature birth is birth that happens too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Each year 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely and more than a million die as a result. Babies born too early may face life-threatening complications and have lifelong health problems. Today, in honor of World Prematurity Day, we are raising awareness of this serious health crisis.

We don’t always know what causes preterm labor and premature birth. Sometimes labor starts on its own without warning. Even if you do everything right during pregnancy, you can still give birth early. However, there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk for preterm labor and premature birth.

  • Schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. A preconception checkup helps your health care provider make sure that your body is ready for pregnancy.
  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. Use birth control until you’re ready to get pregnant again.
  • Get treated for health conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and thyroid problems.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Get vaccinated, wash your hands frequently, and don’t eat raw meat, fish or eggs. Have safe sex.
  • Reduce your stress. Eat healthy foods and do something active every day.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use street drugs. Ask your provider about programs that can help you quit. Tell your provider about any medicines you take, with or without a prescription.
  • Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. Prenatal care helps your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of preterm labor. This won’t reduce your risk of preterm labor but it will allow you to get treatment quickly and that may help stop your labor.

There is no single cause of premature birth and therefore there is no simple solution. The March of Dimes is working towards giving every mom the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy and every baby the chance to survive and thrive.

What does it mean to have a short cervix?

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

A short cervix means the length of your cervix is shorter than normal. To be more specific, a short cervix is one that is shorter than 25 millimeters (about 1 inch) before 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Why is the length important?

If you have a short cervix, you have a 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) of having a premature birth, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. So if you have a short cervix and you’re pregnant with just one baby, your health care provider may recommend these treatments to help you stay pregnant longer:

  • Cerclage
  • Vaginal progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone that helps prepare your body for pregnancy. It may help prevent premature birth if you have a short cervix and you’re pregnant with just one baby. You insert it in your vagina every day starting before or up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, and you stop taking it just before 37 weeks.

If your provider thinks you have a short cervix, she may check you regularly with ultrasound.

How do you know if you have a short cervix?

Checking for a short cervix is not a routine prenatal test. Your provider probably doesn’t check your cervical length unless:

  • She has a reason to think it may be short.
  • You have signs of preterm labor. This is labor that begins too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • You have risk factors for premature birth, like you had a premature birth in the past or you have a family history of premature birth (premature birth runs in your family).

What makes a cervix short?

Many things can affect the length of your cervix, including:

  • Having an overdistended (stretched or enlarged) uterus
  • Problems caused by bleeding during pregnancy or inflammation (irritation) of the uterus
  • Infection
  • Cervical insufficiency

Read about our own Health Education Specialist Juviza’s personal experience being pregnant with a short cervix and her new connection to the March of Dimes’ mission.