Posts Tagged ‘prematurity awareness month’

Premature birth and the NICU: a personal experience

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Every day I read and answer lots of questions on topics like pre-conception care, prenatal care, and how to have a healthy pregnancy. I also answer many questions about complications in pregnancy, like premature birth. So when I found out I was pregnant last year, I felt pretty well-prepared and knowledgeable. However, like many first time moms, I had a little anxiety those first few weeks.

The first half of my pregnancy was completely healthy and free of problems. However, at 23 weeks during my prenatal check-up, my doctor told me that there was a problem with my cervix. She told me that the ultrasound was showing I had a short cervix and explained I would need to go on bed rest and be treated with progesterone in order to help me stay pregnant longer. Unfortunately, having a short cervix is ​​a risk factor for preterm labor.

I had been on bed rest for 11 weeks, when during a routine prenatal check-up, the doctors told me that they would need to induce labor. My amniotic fluid was very low and they suspected that I had preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) I was 34 weeks and 1 day. My son, Theodore (Theo), was born the next day, November 22nd, weighing 4 pounds and 14 ounces.

Although I was able to hold him in my arms for about 10 minutes after delivery, while in the recovery room, he was quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for testing and put in the incubator. Theo was born with very high levels of bilirubin (jaundice) and had problems controlling his body temperature. Despite knowing that he was in good hands and receiving the necessary treatment, it was such a hard moment.

When I saw my son in the NICU for the first time I felt so many emotions. He was in the incubator, with the special blue lights for jaundice, and a small IV that was supplying his first nutrients. A few days after, they inserted a tube through his nose to feed him my breast milk because he didn’t have enough strength to suck and swallow on his own properly. The good news is that he had no breathing problems.

Despite these challenges, I was determined to practice kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) and feed him breastmilk. Since Theo was still learning to suck and swallow, he couldn’t latch, so I pumped my breast milk for his feedings. Kangaroo care is especially good for preemies because it helps them stay warm, helps them sleep better, and helps with bonding.

Having to leave our son in the hospital was a very difficult experience for my husband and me. Every day we headed out to the NICU early and came back home to eat dinner and sleep. I pumped every 2 to 3 hours and stored the milk to bring to the NICU for the next day. Theo stayed in the NICU a total of 10 days from birth until being discharged. The day we took him home was one of the happiest days of our lives.

The month of November will always be special month for me. In exactly 9 days, we will be celebrating Theo’s first birthday. He is a healthy, curious, independent, and sweet boy who can make anyone’s heart melt with his sweet smiles and giggles. It’s amazing how time flies.

November is also Prematurity Awareness Month. As overwhelming as the experience of having a premature delivery and birth was, I feel even more connected to March of Dimes’ mission, to all the women and families who share their story with us, and to all those who fight to give babies a happy and healthy tomorrow.

Premature birth rate in U.S. increases for second year

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

For the second year in a row, the rate of preterm birth in the United States has increased. The premature birth rate went up from 9.6 percent of births in 2015 to 9.8 percent in 2016, giving the U.S. a “C” on the March of Dimes 2017 Premature Birth Report Card. The report card also shows that across the U.S., black women are 49 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women. American Indian/Alaska Native women are 18 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women.

More than 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. each year. An additional 8,000 babies were born prematurely in 2016 due to the increase in the preterm birth rate. Premature babies may have more health problems or need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born on time. Some of these babies also face long-term health effects, like problems that affect the brain, lungs, hearing or vision.

The Premature Birth Report Card provides rates and grades for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Preterm birth rates worsened in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The rates stayed the same in three states (AL, AZ, WA), and improved in only four states (NE, NH, PA, WY).

  • Four states earned an “A” on the 2017 Premature Birth Report Card;
  • 13 states received a “B”;
  • 18 states got a “C”;
  • 11 states and the District of Columbia got a “D”;
  • 4 states and Puerto Rico received an “F.”

Among the 100 cities in the U.S. with the greatest number of births (latest data is for 2015), Irvine, California had the lowest rate of preterm birth (5.8 percent), and Cleveland, Ohio had the highest preterm birth rate (14.9 percent).

This year’s Report Card also includes a preterm birth disparity ratio. This measures the disparities in preterm birth rates across racial/ethnic groups in a geographic area. The disparity ratio shows that the differences in preterm birth rates among racial/ethnic groups are getting worse nationally and no state has shown improvement since the measurements started being recorded in 2010-2012.

There is no single cause of premature birth and therefore there is no simple solution. However, things like expanding research, increasing education, strengthening advocacy, and improving clinical care and community programs can all help. The March of Dimes continues to work towards giving every mom the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy and every baby the chance to survive and thrive.

If you want to learn how you can help increase awareness of the serious problem of premature birth throughout November, check out our blog post.

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

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.

Helping your baby thrive in the NICU

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

This video clip contains great information on nurturing your baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). In the video, real NICU parents describe different ways to bond with your baby while in the hospital, including skin-to-skin or kangaroo care.

 

 

For more helpful information about caring for your baby in the NICU, please visit our website. Learn about resources and support that can help you and your family while your baby’s in the NICU. Also, you can go to Share Your Story, the March of Dimes online community for families to share experiences with prematurity, birth defects or loss.

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

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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Recognizing families who care for preemies

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Preemie on oxygen_smIn addition to November being Prematurity Awareness Month, it’s National Family Caregivers Month. These two themes go together well. Caring for a premature baby can take a huge toll on parents and families. The focus is on the baby (naturally) which can be a round-the-clock roller coaster ride. But, who cares for the parents and other children?

Recently I attended a meeting for parents of special needs children. The common theme that day was coping. Parent after parent talked about the impact that one child can have on an entire family. When medical issues are present, as they are with a preemie, it is understood that everything else stops while you care for and make serious decisions related to your baby. If you have other children, they take a temporary back seat to your sick baby. Everyone pitches in to do what they must do to survive the crisis of a NICU stay.

Once the baby is home, the crisis may seem like it is over, but often it is only the start of a new journey – one with visits to more specialists than you knew existed, appointments for speech, physical,  occupational and/or respiratory therapy, a schedule of home exercises, and navigating the early intervention system. Thankfully, these interventions exist to help your baby, but it is clear that this new schedule can resemble a second full-time job.

If a parent is alone in this process (without a partner), it can be all the more daunting. Without a second set of eyes to read insurance forms, or a second set of hands to change a diaper when you are desperate for a shower, it can feel overwhelming.

What can you do?

This month is a good time to remember to reach out and ask for help. Friends often want to take a bit of the burden off of you, but simply don’t know how they can be helpful. Be specific with them. If you need grocery shopping done, send out a group text to your buddies and ask if anyone could swing by the grocery store to pick up a few items for you.

Try to set aside a couple of hours each week, on a regular basis, when you know you will have a respite. It could mean that your spouse takes care of the baby while you go take a walk or join a friend for coffee. Or, your parent or grandparent could take over for a bit so you and your spouse could watch a movie together. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time – but just knowing it is scheduled gives you something tangible to look forward to, which helps to keep you going and lift your spirits.

In other blog posts, I share ways parents can take the stress off. See this post for a list of survival tips, and this post for how to care for the brothers and sisters of your special needs child. They need special TLC!

Be sure to check out the Caregivers Action Network’s helpful tips for families as well as their useful caregiver toolkit.

If you are like me and have trouble relaxing, see “Stop. Rest. Relax…Repeat.” It may just inspire you to break the go-go-go-all-the-time pace and find ways to relax. Believe me – once you grab those precious moments to refuel, you will be glad you did. Your body and mind will thank you, and so will your family.

Do you have tips for coping? Please share.

View other posts in our Delays and Disabilities series, and send your questions to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

 

Prematurity 101

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Passing the time while your baby is in the NICUNovember is Prematurity Awareness Month. There are many facts that you probably already know about prematurity, but some that you may not. Here is quick cheat sheet on Prematurity 101. See if you can find the one statement that is false. (Answer is at the bottom – no peeking!)

Premature birth is the #1 cause of newborn death (1st 28 days of life).

Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and more than a million die as a result.

Babies who survive a premature birth often have lifelong health problems.

Preemies can suffer from cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, intellectual disabilities and learning problems.

Birth defects is the #1 cause of infant death (1st year of life).

We only understand about half of all the causes of premature birth.

Each year in the U.S., about 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely.

A baby’s life-long health problems can have a devastating financial effect on a family.

Babies born at 36 – 38 weeks of pregnancy may struggle with learning in school.

If your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks to give your baby’s brain and other organs the time they need to develop before birth.

If a baby is born prematurely and seems fine, he won’t have any problems as he gets older.

Which is the false statement?

They are all true except for the last statement. Just because a premature baby seems fine when he leaves the hospital doesn’t mean he won’t struggle with learning, experience developmental delays, or have disabilities as he gets older. About 1 in 3 children born prematurely need special school services at some point during their school years.

Learn more about the impact of premature birth on a family and society and how the Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates the cost of premature birth in the United States to be $26.2 billion each year.

See our article to understand the emotional toll of prematurity on a family, especially as they face days, weeks or even months watching their baby fight for his life in the hospital.

What can YOU do?

Everyone can participate in Prematurity Awareness Month and World Prematurity Day on November 17th by visiting https://www.facebook.com/worldprematurityday. Help us light the world purple to spread awareness!

Join the conversations on Twitter – see our upcoming chats about prematurity here.

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

 

It’s Prematurity Awareness Month – Come chat with us!

Monday, October 31st, 2016

parents in the NICU

We have several Twitter chats scheduled in November, in honor of Prematurity Awareness Month.

Please join us:

Wednesday, November 2 at 1pm ET with neonatologist Dr. Suresh of Texas Children’s Hospital. Use #preemiechat

Topic:  Prematurity – causes, complications, and coping in the NICU

 

Wednesday, November 9 at 2pm ET with Mom’s Rising. Use #WellnessWed

Topic: Can your preconception health reduce your chances of giving birth early?

 

Tuesday, November 15th at 2pm ET with Genetic Alliance and Baby’s First Test. Use #preemiechat

Topic: Is prematurity caused by genetics? Can it run in families?

 

We hope to see you on Twitter!

For questions or more information about these chats, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

birth announcement

Crazy luck – one mom’s story

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
CharlieNICU (2)Today, in recognition of World Prematurity Day, we are honored to share this post written by a mom of a preemie about what Prematurity Awareness Month means to her.

Lots of people don’t know what it means to have a premature baby. I didn’t know either, before I had my baby. Charlie was born  at 25 weeks, weighing 1 pound 15 ounces.

If you had told me that I, a healthy person with not a single complication in my first 25 weeks of pregnancy, would have a baby before I even reached my third trimester – I’m not sure I would have believed it. And yet, it happens, WAY more than it should. Yes, it sometimes happens to moms who don’t have access to good prenatal care. But it also happens to moms who do take care of themselves, who get prenatal care… moms like me.

In this day and age, where doctors can predict, know, and treat so much, the miracles of fertility, pregnancy and prematurity are still mysteries in a lot of ways. In our case, we still don’t know for sure why Charlie came early – and why there were no advance signs that gave the doctors any chance to prepare him for an untimely arrival.

My “incompetent cervix” (worst medical term ever, by the way) was part of the problem, but the fact that my body was contracting and ready to birth a baby at just 25 weeks was another, totally unexplained, part of the problem. And between the time I walked to the hospital that morning and he was born that afternoon, there just wasn’t enough time for them to do anything to keep him inside a few more precious days. Those days really are precious, too. That early in gestation, every week increases the chances of survival a lot, and likely reduces the number of complications the baby is going to face. Unfortunately for us, by the time they knew I was in labor, there was no stopping it or even slowing it down.

Our story has a happy ending – at least at this point! Our boy is happy, a total handful, and most importantly, healthy – for the most part, although the hacking cough he has right now might indicate otherwise. Today I picked him up from school, and he and his best buddy (another Charlie) wanted to run wild on the playground a bit before heading home – all that time sitting in a classroom is hard on a first grade wild man!  So they ran – and then they both planted themselves on a bench and coughed and coughed, like little old men. The common thread? Both are preemies. Coincidence that they’re the ones hacking when the other kids are running non-stop?  I think not. I think these former preemie lungs seem to be more impacted by this unusually warm, moist fall we’re having – and by pollen-heavy springs, and pollution, etc. Though our boy grows and grows, his premature past still rears its ugly face here and there.

I recognize that we are CRAZY lucky to have such a vibrant, busy, healthy boy. I think most moms probably reflect all the time on their kids’ successes and strengths and feel pride and joy. But for me, there’s the added reminder of what could have been. I can guarantee you, I take none of these skills and accomplishments for granted. I think ALL THE TIME about the tears I shed over that tiny, struggling baby in the isolette, and how the life I’m living now was the stuff of daydreams back then. And I will never forget where we started, and just how far he’s come.Charlie2015

So that’s it, that’s why this month is important to me. Prematurity awareness is important because it helps people realize that it really matters to support the March of Dimes, which works constantly to reduce the numbers of premature babies born every day. And it’s important because it reminds me to be oh so grateful for how far we’ve come, and how many doctors and nurses and therapists and scientists and family and friends have helped us get here.

Marie lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband and Charlie. Charlie was born at 25 weeks and weighed 1 pound 15 ounces at birth. He spent 85 days in the NICU at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC.