Posts Tagged ‘premature birth’

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.

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.

Prematurity Awareness Month has arrived and here’s how you can help

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Here at the March of Dimes November means Prematurity Awareness Month. Although we work all year round to fight preterm birth, this month we are working especially hard to get the word out about the serious problems of preterm birth and how you can help us end prematurity.

Each year in the U.S., 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely. And being born too soon is not only the leading cause of death for children under the age of five, but it can also lead to long-term disabilities. This is a heartbreaking reality for too many families. That is why we are hard at work funding groundbreaking research, education, advocacy and community programs to help give every mom the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy and every baby the chance to survive and thrive.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Join our Twitter chat with Show Your Love on November 16th at 12pm ET. Just use #PreemieChat
  • November 17th is World Prematurity Day. Share/Retweet/Repost March of Dimes social messages with your friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Change your profile picture on Facebook with our branded World Prematurity Day frame.
  • Add a #worldprematurityday profile picture to your Twitter account with the WPD Twibbon.
  • Add your voice and sign-up to automatically post a message of support and awareness of prematurity on your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts on World Prematurity Day.
  • Participate virtually in our Imagine a World event! Make a short video sharing what you imagine for future generations. Post your video on social media using #MODImagines. Together, we’re imagining a world where every baby has the chance to thrive!

Create a purple movement!

  • Wear your March of Dimes gear and share photos using #prematurityawarenessmonth and/or #worldprematurityday and @marchofdimes.
  • Light your front porch/home/office lobby/building. Purchase purple lights through Amazon Smile! For every light purchased Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of the price of your purchase to the March of Dimes. Go to smile.amazon.com, select March of Dimes and use the search term “purple lights.”
  • Host an information booth in a prominent spot, such as outside your cafeteria, to promote November as Prematurity Awareness Month to your employees or coworkers.
  • Spread your gratitude by celebrating, thanking and remembering anyone who has helped you and/or the people you care about who have been affected by our mission.

We have much more in store this month, so stay tuned as we work to spread the word about World Prematurity Month.

It’s time for the dentist

Friday, October 20th, 2017

There’s a lot to think about if you’re pregnant, or considering getting pregnant. Scheduling your preconception checkup or your prenatal care visits and remembering to take your prenatal vitamin every day are just a few of the things to keep in mind. But you also need to schedule your regular dental checkups both before and during pregnancy.

Why is dental care important during pregnancy?

Some studies show a link between periodontitis (a gum disease) and premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and low birthweight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces). Taking good care of your gums and teeth during pregnancy can help you and your baby be healthy.

If you haven’t been to the dentist recently, see your dentist early in pregnancy. At your checkup, tell your dentist that you’re pregnant and about any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you take. If you’re not pregnant yet, tell your dentist you’re planning to get pregnant.

How are dental issues treated?

The kind of dental treatment you get depends on the problem that you have, and how far along you are in your pregnancy.

You may just need a really good teeth cleaning from your dentist. Or you may need surgery in your mouth. Your dentist can safely treat many problems during pregnancy. But he may tell you it’s better to wait until after birth for some treatments.

What about x-rays? Are they safe during pregnancy?

An X-ray is a medical test that uses radiation to make a picture of your body on film and your dentist may recommend one if you have a dental problem. Dental X-rays can show things like cavities, signs of plaque under your gums or bone loss in your mouth. Dental X-rays use very small amounts of radiation, but you should still make sure your provider knows you’re pregnant and protects you with a lead apron and collar that wraps around your neck. This helps keep your body and your baby safe.

What if there’s tooth pain?

If you have any pain now is the time to reach out to your dentist to schedule an appointment. Your dentist may avoid treating some problems in the first trimester of pregnancy because this is an important time in your baby’s growth and development. Your dentist also may suggest postponing some dental treatments during pregnancy if you’ve had a miscarriage in the past, or if you’re at higher risk of miscarriage than other women. But it’s still important to get any pain checked out before it becomes a bigger issue.

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.