Posts Tagged ‘premature birth’

Smoking increases the chance of premature birth

Friday, November 18th, 2016

cigarette-buttsAlthough many people know that smoking during pregnancy can cause problems, 10% of pregnant women reported smoking during the last 3 months of pregnancy. When you smoke during pregnancy, your baby is exposed to dangerous chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar. These chemicals can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets. This can slow your baby’s growth before birth and can damage your baby’s heart, lungs and brain.

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

If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby is more likely to:

Secondhand and thirdhand smoke are also bad for your baby’s health. Being around secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause your baby to be born with low birthweight.  Babies who are around secondhand smoke are more likely than babies who aren’t to have health problems, like pneumonia, ear infections and breathing problems, such as asthma, bronchitis and lung problems. There are also at an increased risk of SIDS.

If you quit smoking during pregnancy, you and your baby immediately benefit. According to the CDC, here’s how:

  • Your baby will get more oxygen, even after just one day of not smoking.
  • There is less risk that your baby will be born too early.
  • There is a better chance that your baby will come home from the hospital with you.
  • You will be less likely to develop heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and other smoke-related diseases.
  • You will be more likely to live to know your grandchildren.
  • You will have more energy and breathe more easily.
  • Your clothes, hair, and home will smell better.
  • Your food will taste better.
  • You will have more money that you can spend on other things.
  • You will feel good about what you have done for yourself and your baby.

So make a plan to quit today. Need help? Check out these resources:

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

Join in World Prematurity Day activities tomorrow

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Light the world purple

The world will light up purple tomorrow to bring awareness to the problem of preterm birth.

Landmarks all over the world will be ablaze in purple to honor premature babies.

Tomorrow marks the 6th annual World Prematurity Day (WPD).

One in ten babies is born too soon. Premature birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide. Babies born too early may have more health issues than babies born on time, and may face long term health problems that affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision. World Prematurity Day on November 17 raises awareness of this serious health crisis.

In New York City, the Empire State Building will be bathed in purple lights. State Capitol buildings in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Tennessee will light up purple, too.Here are just a few more places where World Prematurity Day will be glowing:

  • Birmingham Zoo, AL;
  • Union Plaza Building (downtown skyline), Little Rock, AR;
  • All 5 river bridges spanning the Arkansas River;
  • Hippodrome Theater, Gainesville, FL;
  • Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH;
  • Howard Hughes Corporation Building, Honolulu, HI;
  • Power & Light Building, Kansas City, MO;
  • Biloxi Lighthouse, MS;
  • Pacific Science Center, Seattle, WA;
  • The Auxilio Mutuo Hospital, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.

What can you do?

Share your story and video about babies born too soon here on our blog, as well as on Facebook.

Get decked out in purple tomorrow, take a photo and post it to social media with #worldprematurityday and #givethemtomorrow.

Together, we can honor the 380,000 babies born too soon each year in the U.S.

Together, we can let people know that 15 million babies are born too soon around the world every year, and that 1 million of them won’t live to their first birthday.

Together, we can change the face of premature birth and give every baby a fighting chance.

Please join us tomorrow, to raise your voice.

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Three factors you can control to help prevent premature birth

Monday, November 7th, 2016

preemie and momAlthough there are certain risk factors for premature birth that a woman is not able to change, the good news is that there are three risk factors that most women can do something about.

Researchers at the March of Dimes Ohio Collaborative Prematurity Research Center are making big strides. According to their published study, up to one-quarter of preterm births (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) might be prevented if we focused on three risk factors – birth spacing, weight before pregnancy and weight gain during pregnancy.

What did the research show?

The study looked at the records of 400,000 single births and found that more than 90% of the women had one of these three risk factors. The women in the study who had less than a year between pregnancies, were underweight before pregnancy and gained too little weight during pregnancy had the highest rates of preterm births – 25.2%, according to the researchers. The good news is that women may have more control over these risk factors than other factors, which can influence preterm births.

Birth spacing

Birth spacing is the period of time between giving birth and getting pregnant again. It’s also called pregnancy spacing or interpregnancy interval (also called IPI). Getting pregnant too soon can increase your next baby’s chances of being born prematurely, as well as being born at a low birthweight or small for gestational age (SGA). It’s best to wait at least 18 months after having a baby before getting pregnant again. If you’re older than 35 or have had a miscarriage or stillbirth, talk to your provider about how long to wait.

Weight before pregnancy

Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy is important. Women who are overweight or underweight are more likely to have serious pregnancy complications, including giving birth prematurely. How do you know if you’re at a healthy weight? Schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. This is the best time to discuss your weight and make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant.

Weight gain during pregnancy

Gaining too much or too little weight can be harmful to you and your baby. It’s important to gain the right amount of weight for your body. Your provider can help you determine how much weight you need to gain during pregnancy.

Bottom line

There is still much we do not know about the causes of premature birth. But, knowing some things that a woman can do to decrease her chance of giving birth early, is good news.

Check out the cutting edge research our Ohio Collaborative is working on.

Understanding retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)

Friday, November 4th, 2016

baby-eyesRetinopathy of prematurity is an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye. It mainly affects babies weighing about 2¾ pounds (1250 grams) or who are born before 31 weeks of pregnancy. ROP affects about 14,000-16,000 babies in the United States each year. If your baby has ROP, getting treatment right away is really important. The disease can develop very quickly and cause vision problems or even blindness if it’s not treated.

What causes ROP?

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. Scientists believe that the edge of the retina then sends signals to other areas of the retina for nourishment. This results in abnormal vessels growing. These abnormal vessels are fragile and can bleed easily and cause retinal scarring. If the scars shrink, they pull on the retina and cause it to detach.

Risk factors for ROP

Some things make a baby more likely than others to have ROP. They include:

  • Premature birth.
  • 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.

Stages of ROP

ROP is classified into 5 stages:

  • Stage 1 – Mildly abnormal blood vessel growth. These babies often get better without treatment and go on to have healthy vision.
  • Stage 2 – Moderately abnormal blood vessel growth. These babies often get better without treatment and go on to have healthy vision.
  • Stage 3 – Severely abnormal blood vessel growth. Some of these babies get better without treatment, but others develop a condition called plus disease. This means the retina’s blood vessels get big and twisted. Plus disease is a sign that ROP is getting worse, but treatment can help prevent retinal detachment.
  • Stage 4 – Severely abnormal blood vessel growth and part of the retina detaches. These babies need treatment because part of the retina pulls away from the inside wall of the eyeball.
  • Stage 5 – Total retinal detachment. The retina is completely pulled away from the inside wall of the eyeball. Without treatment, a baby can have severe vision problems or blindness.

Treatment options

Laser or cryotherapy are the most effective treatments for ROP. Laser treatment uses a laser to burn and scar the sides of the retina. This stops abnormal blood vessel growth and prevents scarring and pulling on the retina. Cryotherapy uses a metal probe to freeze the sides of the retina, thereby preventing additional blood vessel growth.

Laser treatments and cryotherapy are done on babies with more advanced ROP, such as stage III.

Later stages of ROP require more intense treatments. Scleral buckle involves placing a silicone band around the white of your baby’s eye (called the sclera). This band helps push the eye in so that the retina stays along the wall of the eye. The buckle is removed later as the eye grows. If it isn’t removed, a child can become nearsighted. This means he has trouble seeing things that are far away.

In a vitrectomy, the doctor removes the clear gel in the center of your baby’s eye (called the vitreous) and puts saline (salt) solution in its place. Your baby’s provider can then take out scar tissue, so that the retina doesn’t pull. Only babies with stage 5 ROP have this surgery.

About 90% of infants with ROP fall into the mild categories and do not need treatment. But ROP can get worse quickly so early diagnosis and appropriate treatment (if needed) are very important. Your baby should be seen by a pediatric ophthalmologist. This is a doctor who identifies and treats eye problems in babies and children. The first eye exam should take place 4 to 9 weeks after birth, depending on when your baby was born.

You can read more about ROP on our website.

If your baby has ROP, visit our online community at Share Your Story to find a network of parents of babies with ROP. You can connect with them for support and comfort throughout your baby’s treatment.

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

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

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

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

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

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

Health problems due to premature birth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line

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

Questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Stress can affect your pregnancy

Monday, April 11th, 2016

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

Causes of stress

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

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

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

Serious stress during pregnancy

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

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

How does stress cause problems in pregnancy?

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

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

How can you reduce stress during pregnancy?

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

 

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

 

STDs can be harmful to you and your baby

Friday, April 8th, 2016

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

What can you do?

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

Talk

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

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

Test

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

Treat

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

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

Read our top STD questions answered for lots more info.  

 

Thinking of having a baby? Now is the time to stop drinking alcohol

Monday, April 4th, 2016

2015D015_3603_rtYou’ve probably heard that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be harmful to your baby. But did you know you should also stop drinking alcohol before trying to conceive?

It can be difficult to determine an accurate date of conception. It takes two weeks after conception to get an accurate pregnancy test result. This means that you may be drinking alcoholic beverages during the early stages of your pregnancy, before you learn you are pregnant.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a range of serious problems including miscarriage, premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and stillbirth. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) states that alcohol use during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities.

FASDs can be costly, too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The lifetime cost for one individual with FAS in 2002 was estimated to be $2 million. This is an average for people with FAS and does not include data on people with other FASDs. People with severe problems, such as profound intellectual disability, have much higher costs. It is estimated that the cost to the United States for FAS alone is over $4 billion annually.

The good news is that FASD is entirely preventable. If you stop drinking alcohol before and during pregnancy, you can prevent fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and other conditions caused by alcohol.

So if you are trying to become pregnant or are already pregnant, steer clear of alcohol. If you have problems stopping, visit us for tips.

If you have a child with FASD, see our post on how to help babies born with FASD.

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

Smoking during pregnancy can affect your baby’s DNA

Friday, April 1st, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

And your baby is more likely to:

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

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

Knowing your family health history may help your baby

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Family at Thanksgiving dinnerRecently I had an appointment with a new healthcare provider and had to complete a health history form at my first visit. It was 3 pages long and took me about 20 minutes to do while in the waiting room. As I was sitting there, I realized that I didn’t know the answers to some of the questions, especially about my relatives.

Was this really that important?

In one word? Yes.

A family health history (FHH) form is a record of health conditions and treatments that you, your sisters, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great grandparents have had. It can help you figure out the medical problems that run in your family. Knowing your FHH may just save your life. It may also have a direct effect on your baby’s health.

How can a FHH form help your baby?

The FHH form will help your provider see if any of the conditions or diseases that run in your family will affect your baby. For example, premature birth can run in families. And, certain conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure put you at a higher risk to have a premature baby.

If you and your partner complete a FHH form and share it with your prenatal provider, you may learn about the health of your baby before she is born. The earlier in your pregnancy that your provider is aware of health conditions, the sooner your provider can decide on treatments for you.

It would be even better if you could complete and share this information with your provider before pregnancy, at a preconception checkup. This way, your provider can help you become as healthy as possible before pregnancy.

Use our FHH form

Here is a form that you can print out and complete.  Print one copy for yourself and one for your partner/spouse. We suggest you take it with you to family gatherings (Thanksgiving anyone?) and ask your relatives to help you fill in the blanks. You may very well find out information about diseases and conditions that run in your family and put you at risk. Early detection is often key in successfully managing a disease.

Here are tips on how to gather information from relatives.

Knowing your risk for certain conditions and that your provider is on top of treatment options, should put your mind at rest. And, knowing you are doing your best to take care of your baby’s health should make you feel even better.

So, when you sit down to apple pie, start a conversation, and fill in your FHH form. The information you share with your family may make a positive difference in everyone’s lives.

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