Posts Tagged ‘premature birth’

September is Infant Mortality Awareness month

Monday, September 18th, 2017

Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. According to the CDC, in 2015 the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. That means that in 2015 over 23,000 infants died before their first birthday.

Causes of infant mortality

In the US, the leading causes of infant mortality are:

  1. Birth defects
  2. Premature birth and low birthweight
  3. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  4. Maternal pregnancy complications
  5. Injuries (such as suffocation).

What can you do?

Not all causes of infant mortality can be prevented. But there are some steps that you can take to reduce the risks of certain birth defects, premature birth, some pregnancy complications, and SIDS.

Take a multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid. While there are many different types of birth defects, taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs). Some studies show that it also may help prevent heart defects and cleft lip and palate.

Get a preconception checkup before pregnancy. Being healthy before pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy complications when you do get pregnant. Your provider can also identify any risk factors and make sure they are treated before you get pregnant.

Get early and regular prenatal care. This lets your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy. She can also identify and treat any problems that may arise during your pregnancy.

Stay at a healthy weight and be active. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may help you to avoid some complications during pregnancy.

Quit smoking and avoid alcohol and street drugs. Alcohol, drugs and harmful chemicals from smoke can pass directly through the umbilical cord to your baby. This can cause serious problems during pregnancy, including miscarriage, birth defects and premature birth.

Space pregnancies at least 18 months apart. This allows your body time to fully recover from your last pregnancy before it’s ready for your next pregnancy. Getting pregnant again before 18 months can increase the chance of premature birth, low birthweight, and having a baby that is small for gestational age.

Create a safe sleeping environment for your baby. Put your baby to sleep on his or her back on a flat, firm surface (like a crib mattress). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you and your baby sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed, for the first year of your baby’s life, but at least for the first 6 months.

The March of Dimes is helping improve babies’ chances of being born healthy and staying healthy by funding research into the causes of birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

 

 

Just had a baby, but pregnant again?

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

If you’ve already had a baby and are planning for more children, it’s best to wait at least 18 months between birth and getting pregnant again. Getting pregnant before 18 months increases your risk for certain health problems for your baby like premature birth, low birthweight and being small for gestations age (SGA).

We receive many questions through AskUs@marchofdimes.org from women who have become pregnant again in less than 18 months and want to know how to have a healthy pregnancy.

As soon as you learn you are pregnant schedule your first prenatal care appointment with your health care provider. After your first appointment be sure to continue to go to all of your prenatal care visits, even if you are feeling fine. If you have not already, start taking a prenatal vitamin with 600 mcg of folic acid in it every day to help prevent neural tube defects in your baby.

Experts don’t know for sure why getting pregnant again too soon increases your chances of complications like premature birth. So the best thing you can do is be prepared – know the warning signs of preterm labor:

  • Change in your vaginal discharge (watery, mucus or bloody) or more vaginal discharge than usual
  • Pressure in your pelvis or lower belly, like your baby is pushing down
  • Constant low, dull backache
  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea
  • Regular or frequent contractions that make your belly tighten like a fist. The contractions may or may not be painful.
  • Your water breaks

If you have even one sign or symptom of preterm labor, call your health care provider right away. If you have preterm labor, getting help quickly is the best thing you can do.

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

March of Dimes-funded researchers have identified genes involved in preterm birth

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Premature birth is a complex problem with no single solution. Each year, about 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely, and more than one million of them will die. Over 50 percent of the time, the cause of premature birth is not known. However, scientists have always believed that genetic factors play a role. A new study led by the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center-Ohio Collaborative, is the first to provide strong information as to what some of those genetic factors are. The team identified six genes that influence the length of pregnancy and the timing of birth. The findings were published Sept. 6 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This international team of researchers looked at the DNA of 50,000 pregnant women from around the world. The identification of these six gene regions allowed scientists to learn that:

  • The cells within the lining of the uterus play a larger-than-suspected role in the length of pregnancy.
  • Low levels of selenium—a common dietary mineral found in some nuts, certain green vegetables, liver and other meats—might affect the risk of preterm birth. Future studies will look at selenium levels in pregnant women who live in areas with low selenium in their diet or soil.

The six genes that have been identified can now be studied in more detail. The population of women in this study was mostly from Europe. Researchers are already trying to determine if these gene associations are the same for women from Africa and Asia.

Louis Muglia, MD, PhD, co-director of the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s and principal investigator of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center–Ohio Collaborative stated, “This is just the beginning of the journey, but we think it leads to an exciting horizon where we can really make a difference in human pregnancy.”

The March of Dimes believes that these new findings will lead to new diagnostic tests, medications, improved dietary supplements or other changes that could help more women have full-term pregnancies and give more babies a healthy start in life.

Retinopathy of prematurity

Friday, August 25th, 2017

If you have a premature baby, you may have heard of retinopathy of prematurity or ROP. ROP is an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye.

During the last 12 weeks of pregnancy, the eye develops quickly. When a baby is born full-term, the growth of the blood vessels that supply the retina is almost complete. The retina then typically finishes growing the first few weeks after birth.

However, if a baby is born too early, the blood vessels may stop growing or not grow correctly. These vessels can then leak and cause bleeding in the eye. Scar tissue forms, and if the scars shrink, they may pull the retina loose from the back of the eye. This is called retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is the main cause of vision problems and blindness in ROP.

Risk factors for ROP

Some babies are more likely to develop ROP. Risk factors include:

  • Premature birth. Although all premature babies are at risk for ROP, it occurs most often in babies born before 30 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Apnea. This is when a baby’s breathing stops for 15 to 20 seconds or more.
  • Anemia. This is when the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of the body.
  • Heart disease
  • Infection
  • Trouble breathing or respiratory distress
  • Slow heart rate (also called bradycardia)
  • Problems with the blood, including having blood transfusions.

How is ROP diagnosed?

Your baby will get a special eye exam for ROP if she:

  • Was born before 30 weeks
  • Weighed less than 3 pounds at birth
  • Has any other risk factors for ROP

A pediatric ophthalmologist will examine your baby’s eyes. Babies born at 27 weeks or later usually have their first eye exam when they’re 4 weeks old. Babies born before 27 weeks usually have the exam later, because the more premature a baby is at birth, the longer it takes to develop serious ROP. Because ROP can develop later, it’s very important to take your baby to all of her eye exams, even after she is home from the NICU.

If your baby’s first eye exam shows that the blood vessels in both retinas have finished normal development, she doesn’t need a follow-up exam. If your baby’s eye exam shows that she has ROP and needs treatment, she should start treatment within 72 hours. Early treatment gives your baby the best chance of having healthy vision.

Treatment

Most mild cases of ROP heal without treatment and with little or no vision loss. In more severe cases, the ophthalmologist may perform laser therapy or do a procedure called cryotherapy (freezing) to eliminate abnormal blood vessels and scars. Both treatments help protect the retina.

If your baby has ROP, visit our online community at Share Your Story to connect with other parents for support and comfort throughout your baby’s treatment.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Pregnancy after a preterm birth: can you prepare?

Monday, August 21st, 2017

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant after having a premature baby, you may have many questions and concerns. Having had a premature baby in the past makes you more likely to have preterm labor and give birth early in another pregnancy.

When you’re ready to become pregnant again, schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. This is the best time to discuss your previous pregnancy and ask all of your questions and concerns about becoming pregnant again.

Not sure where to start? Here are some questions to ask your provider:

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Do you have questions? Ask us

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Have a question about becoming pregnant? Do you want to learn more about what to expect during your pregnancy? Is your baby in the NICU? Let us help.

Our Health Education Specialists provide women and families with evidence-based information about having a healthy pregnancy and reducing the risk of having a preterm birth. Our specialists have been answering questions from women and families since 1997.

How can you reach our specialists?

Our specialists can answer your questions in both English and Spanish. For English, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. For Spanish, text or email preguntas@marchofdimes.org. You can also submit your questions through our website. Just complete our online form and one of our staff will respond within 2 business days.

Health Education Specialists all have master’s degrees in health fields such as public health, health science, nutrition and genetic counseling. We also have a certified lactation counselor on staff.

What information can our center provide?

Our specialists can provide information on many topics including:

  • starting a family
  • how to have a healthy pregnancy
  • pregnancy complication and risks
  • newborn health
  • prematurity
  • the NICU experience
  • lasting effects of prematurity
  • birth defects and special needs
  • pregnancy and infant loss.

If you are looking for information related to any of the topics listed, you’ve come to the right place. Reach out for resources and support. Our Health Education Specialists are here for you.

Preeclampsia can lead to premature birth

Friday, May 26th, 2017

woman with physicianPreeclampsia is a serious health problem for pregnant women around the world. It affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide and 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:

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.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Can stress, PTSD, or depression affect your pregnancy?

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Contemplative womanWe receive a number of questions about the effects of stress and depression on pregnancy. Here is some information that can help you better understand these conditions, how they can affect your pregnancy, and when you should talk to your provider.

Stress

Feeling stress during pregnancy is very common. There are so many changes happening all at once—to your body, your emotions, and your family—it is hard not to feel overwhelmed. But too much stress can make you uncomfortable. Stress can make you have trouble sleeping or have headaches. Regular stress during pregnancy, such as work deadlines and sitting in traffic, probably don’t add to pregnancy problems.

However, more serious types of stress may increase your chances for premature birth. Serious types of stress include:

  • Negative life events. Such as divorce, serious illness or death in the family.
  • Catastrophic events. Earthquakes, hurricanes or terrorist attacks.
  • Long-lasting stress. This type of stress can be caused by having financial problems, being abused, having serious health problems or being depressed.
  • Racism. Some women may face stress from racism during their lives. This may help explain why African-American women in the United States are more likely to have premature and low-birthweight babies than women from other racial or ethnic groups.
  • Pregnancy-related stress. Some women may feel serious stress about pregnancy. They may be worried about miscarriage, the health of their baby or about how they’ll cope with labor and birth or becoming a parent. If you feel this way, talk to your health care provider.

We don’t completely understand the effects of stress on pregnancy. But stress-related hormones may play a role in causing some pregnancy complications.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD occurs in some people after they have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. People with PTSD may have:

  • Serious anxiety
  • Flashbacks of the event
  • Nightmares
  • Physical responses (like a racing heartbeat or sweating) when reminded of the event

As many as 8 in 100 women (8 percent) may have PTSD during pregnancy. Women who have PTSD may be more likely than women without it to have a premature or low-birthweight baby. A 2014 study looked at the effects of PTSD on pregnancy. Researchers reviewed over 16,000 births and found that having PTSD in the year before delivery increased a woman’s chance of giving birth early by 35%.

Depression

Depression is a medical condition in which strong feelings of sadness last for a long time and interfere with your daily life. People who have depression need treatment to help them get better. About 1 in 5 women has depression sometime in her life. And 1 in 7 women is treated for depression at some time between the year before pregnancy and the year after pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant and have depression that’s not treated, you’re more likely to have:

  • A premature baby.
  • A baby born at a low birthweight.
  • 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

Being pregnant can make depression worse or make it come back if you’ve been treated and are feeling better. If you have depression that’s not treated, you may have trouble taking care of yourself during pregnancy. And if you have depression during pregnancy that’s not treated, you’re more likely to have postpartum depression (PPD) after pregnancy. PPD can make it hard for you to care for and bond with your baby. Treatment for depression during pregnancy can help prevent these problems.

If you are concerned that you may have one of these conditions, please talk to your health care provider. She can help you to get the appropriate treatment so that you and your baby can be as healthy as possible.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

Do you know the signs of preterm labor?

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

If you’re pregnant, it’s important to know the signs of preterm labor and what to do if you experience any symptoms. Watch our video with Dr. Siobhan Dolan to learn more:

You can get more information about preterm labor and premature birth on our website.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Health disparities in premature birth

Friday, April 14th, 2017

In the United States, rates of preterm birth, low birthweight, and infant mortality are higher for black, non-Hispanic infants than for white, non-Hispanic infants. These differences, or disparities, Baby w pacifierbetween races and/or ethnicities have a great impact on the health and well-being of families.

What we know

  • Premature birth is when a baby is born too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • While the overall preterm birth rate in 2013 was 11.4%, the rate was higher among non-Hispanic black infants (16.3%) compared to non-Hispanic white infants (10.2%). This means that the preterm birth rate for black infants was 60% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white infants.
  • 11.3% of Hispanic infants were born prematurely. Hispanic women account for about 1 out of every 4 premature births in the US (23.2%). The preterm birth rate among Hispanic women is falling more slowly than the rate in the non-Hispanic white population and the non-Hispanic black population.
  • The number of black infants born at a low birthweight (a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) was almost twice that of white infants and Hispanic infants.
  • The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. The rates of infant mortality are higher for babies born before 37 weeks and at a low birthweight.
  • A recent study published by the CDC, showed that from 2005 to 2014, infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives. But babies born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

We don’t know why race plays a role in premature birth.

Even when researchers compare women of different races and ethnicities and remove any known risk factors in their analysis (such as smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure), the disparities in the rate of premature births still exist.

Researchers at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative are trying to better understand health disparities. Dr. Irina Buhimschi has found that there is a population of Somali women in the US with a low rate of premature birth—as low as or lower than white women. Dr. Buhumschi and her team are trying to determine what makes this population different. “We believe a variety of genetic, environmental and social factors are involved in preterm birth. From stress and resilience, to diet and lifestyle, to vaginal and gut bacteria, we will comprehensively study why Somali-American women have lower rates of preterm birth.” Dr. Buhimschi then hopes to develop a plan that can help all populations reduce their chances of premature birth.

You can read more about Dr. Buhimschi’s research here.

The March of Dimes supports research, community programs, and advocacy policies that try to reduce health disparities and make sure that all babies have a healthy start in life.