Posts Tagged ‘prenatal care’

Why is prenatal care so important?

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Doctor with pregnant woman during check-upGetting early and regular prenatal care can help you have a healthy and full-term pregnancy. However, a recent report shows that the preterm birth rate in the US has increased for the second year in a row. This is an alarming indication that the health of pregnant women and babies in our country is getting worse. As Stacey D. Stewart, president of the March of Dimes states, “Every mother needs healthcare throughout her pregnancy to help avoid preterm birth and birth complications, with the goal of every baby being born healthy.”

So, what can you do to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby? You should call your health care provider to schedule your first appointment as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Make sure you’re ready to talk to your provider about:

  • The first day of your last menstrual period (also called LMP). Your provider can use this to help find out your baby’s due date.
  • Health conditions. Such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and not being at a healthy weight. Conditions like these can cause problems during pregnancy. Tell your provider about your family health history.
  • Medicines. This includes prescription medicine, over-the-counter medicine, supplements and herbal products. Some medicines can hurt your baby if you take them during pregnancy, so you may need to stop taking it or switch to another medicine. Don’t stop or start taking any medicine without talking to your provider first. And tell your provider if you’re allergic to any medicine.
  • Your pregnancy history. Tell your provider if you’ve been pregnant before or if you’ve had trouble getting pregnant. Tell her if you’ve had any pregnancy complications or if you’ve had a premature baby (a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), a miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs and abusing prescription drugs. All of these can hurt your baby.
  • Stress. Stress is worry, strain or pressure that you feel in response to things that happen in your life. Talk to your provide about ways to deal with and reduce your stress. High levels of stress can cause complications during pregnancy.
  • Your safety at home and work. Tell your provider about chemicals you use at home or work and about what kind of job you have.

Make sure you go to all of your prenatal care appointments, even if you feel fine. Going to all of your checkups gives your provider the chance to make sure you and your baby are healthy and allows you to ask any questions you may have (write them down before your appointment so you don’t forget).

The March of Dimes work to give every baby a healthy start is more vital than ever. We urge everyone concerned about the health of babies to make their voices heard by going to marchofdimes.org.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

What are cleft lip and cleft palate?

Friday, July 7th, 2017

cleft lipCleft lip and cleft palate occur when a baby’s lip or mouth do not form completely during pregnancy. A cleft lip is an opening in a baby’s upper lip. Cleft palate occurs when a baby’s palate (the roof of the mouth) has an opening in it. About 2,650 babies are born with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate each year in the United States.

What causes cleft lip and cleft palate?

Cleft lip and palate happen very early in pregnancy. Your baby’s lips form between 4 and 7 weeks of pregnancy, and the palate forms between 6 and 9 weeks of pregnancy. Oral clefts don’t have to happen together—a baby can have one without the other.

We’re not sure what causes cleft lip and cleft palate. They may be caused by a combination of factors, like genes and things in your environment, such as medicines you may take. Some risk factors include:

  • Smoking.
  • Diabetes. If you have diabetes before pregnancy, you have an increased risk of having a baby with a cleft lip with or without cleft palate, compared to women who do not have diabetes.
  • Taking certain medicines. If you have epilepsy and take anti-seizure medicines (like topiramate or valproic acid) during the first trimester, you’re more likely to have a baby with cleft lip (with or without cleft palate) than women who don’t take these medicines.

How are cleft lip and cleft palate treated?

In most cases, surgery is needed. Each baby is unique, but surgery to repair cleft lip usually is done at 10 to 12 weeks of age. Surgery for cleft palate is done between 9 and 18 months of age. Children who have a cleft lip or palate may need services such as speech therapy and special dental care as they get older.

Can cleft lip and cleft palate be prevented?

These conditions cannot always be prevented. But here are some things you can do to reduce the chance of your baby having a cleft:

  • Take folic acid. Before pregnancy, take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. During pregnancy, take a prenatal vitamin with 600 micrograms of folic acid in it every day.
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Get a preconception checkup.
  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and talk to your provider about gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your provider to make sure any medicine you take is safe during pregnancy. Don’t stop taking any medicine without talking to your provider first.
  • Get early and regular prenatal care.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Make sure all your vaccinations are up to date, especially for rubella. Wash your hands often.

You can learn more about cleft lip and cleft palate on our website.

Have questions? Send them AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

What you need to know about GBS

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

pregnant woman with doctorDuring your last trimester of pregnancy, you will get a test for group B strep (also called GBS). GBS is a common type of bacteria that can cause infection. Usually GBS is not serious for adults, but it can hurt newborns. It is important to get this test and know the results, so that you can protect your baby.

Who is at risk for GBS?

Many people carry GBS—in fact about 1 in 4 (25%) of pregnant women are carriers.  GBS bacteria naturally live in the intestines and the urinary and genital tracts. As an adult, you can’t get it from food, water or things you touch. You can’t catch it from another person, and you can’t get it from having sex. GBS in adults usually doesn’t have any symptoms. But sometimes it can cause minor infections, like a bladder or urinary tract infection (UTI).

However, when you are pregnant, if you have a GBS infection, it can be passed to your newborn during labor and delivery and it can make your baby very sick.

Testing and treatment for GBS

You prenatal care provider will test you for GBS at 35 to 37 weeks. The test is a simple swab of your vagina and rectum. If the results are positive, then you have GBS. Antibiotics can treat GBS but you must get them during labor and delivery. Your provider will give you the antibiotic through an IV. Treatment with antibiotics helps prevent your baby from getting the infection.

Penicillin is the best antibiotic for most women, but if you’re allergic to penicillin, your can get a different medicine.

It is not helpful to get treatment for GBS earlier in your pregnancy. The bacteria can return quickly, so you could have it again by the time you go into labor.

If you have GBS, remind your providers at the hospital when you go to have your baby. This way, you can be treated quickly. Treatment works best when it begins at least 4 hours before childbirth.

If you have GBS and you’re having a scheduled c-section before labor starts and before your water breaks, you probably don’t need antibiotics.

What are the chances I can pass GBS to my baby?

If you have GBS during childbirth and it’s not treated, there is a 1 to 2 in 100 chance (1 to 2 percent) that your baby will get the infection. The chances are higher if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Your baby is premature. This means your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Your water breaks (also called ruptured membranes) 18 hours or more before you have your baby.
  • You have a fever (100.4 F or higher) during labor.
  • You’ve already had a baby with a GBS infection.
  • You had a UTI during your pregnancy that was caused by GBS.

You can read more about GBS on our website.

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

More babies being born too soon

Friday, June 30th, 2017

pregnant woman blood pressureFor the second year in a row, the preterm birth rate in the United States has gone up. Preterm birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. According to a preliminary report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the preterm birth rate rose to 9.84% in 2016, up 2% from 9.63% in 2015.

 After seven years of a steady decline in the preterm birth rate, this increase is alarming.

Reduce your risk

We don’t know why this is happening. But we do know that there are some things a woman can do to help reduce her chance of giving birth too soon. Here are some of them:

  • See your prenatal care provider as soon as you think you’re pregnant. And go to all of your prenatal care appointments. Go even if you’re feeling fine. Prenatal care helps your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, use street drugs or abuse prescription drugs. Ask your provider about programs in your area that can help you quit.
  • Talk to your provider about your weight. Ask how much weight you should gain during pregnancy. Try to get to a healthy weight before your next pregnancy.
  • Get treated for chronic health conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes and thyroid problems.
  • Protect yourself from infections. Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, caring for small children, or blowing your nose. Don’t eat raw meat or fish. Have safe sex. Don’t touch cat poop.
  • Reduce your stress. Exercise and eat healthy foods. Ask for help from family and friends. Get help if your partner abuses you. Talk to your boss about how to lower your stress at work.
  • Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. See your provider for a preconception checkup before your next pregnancy.

 

Know the signs

If you have any of these signs or symptoms before 37 weeks of pregnancy, you may be having preterm labor. Call your health care provider right away if you have even one of these signs or symptoms:

  • 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 think you’re having preterm labor, call your provider. Call even if you have just one sign or symptom. There are several treatments that may help slow or stop preterm labor. And there are treatments, like antenatal corticosteroids (also called ACS), that can help reduce your baby’s chances for having health problems (like lung problems) in case he’s born early.

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

What’s one often forgotten, but very important, “must do” during pregnancy?

Monday, June 19th, 2017

teethThere are so many “do’s and don’ts” during pregnancy that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of them all. But one important “do” that sometimes gets overlooked is the need to keep up with oral care.

Somehow, brushing your teeth and going for regular dental cleanings seem to fall down on the list. But did you know that at-home and professional dental care are also important parts of a healthy pregnancy?

Pregnancy can affect dental health

During pregnancy, your changing hormones may affect the way your body reacts to plaque that builds up on your teeth. The result can be redness, swelling and bleeding gums called “pregnancy gingivitis.” In fact, nearly 70% of women experience gingivitis during pregnancy.

You also have more blood flowing through your body and more acid in your mouth when you are pregnant. All these changes mean you are more likely to have dental problems, such as loose teeth, gum disease, non-cancerous “pregnancy tumors” which form on your gums, tooth decay and even tooth loss. (See our article for more details on any of these dental issues.)

What’s the answer?

Consider oral care a “must do” on your healthy pregnancy list. Regular professional dental care as well as a good daily oral routine (brushing, flossing) are very important parts of your pregnancy.

Brushing your teeth is something that you’ve done since childhood. Even going to the dentist is something that (hopefully) you are doing regularly. Dental exams help to prevent tooth decay and gingivitis (gum inflammation), and let’s face it – your teeth look sparkly clean afterwards!

Bottom line

Take your prenatal vitamins, get plenty of rest, eat well, stay active, keep up with brushing your teeth, AND go to your prenatal and dental appointments.

Your smile and baby will thank you.

 

Have questions? Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org

U.S. study shows fewer babies are dying in their first year of life

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. A new report released by the CDC shows that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. dropped 15% from 2005 to 2014. In kangaroo-care-242005 the rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2014, the rate dropped to 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births.

While the study did not look at the underlying causes of the decline, it did report valuable information:

  • Infant mortality rates declined in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The other 17 states saw no significant changes.
  • Declines were seen in some of the leading causes of infant death including birth defects (11% decline), preterm birth and low birthweight (8% decline), and maternal complications (7% decline).
  • The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) declined by 29%.
  • Infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives.
  • Infants born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

“On the surface, this seems like good news. But it is far from time to celebrate,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes. “What is concerning, though, is that the inequities between non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians and the Caucasian population have persisted.” Dr. Jarris adds, “This report highlights the need to strengthen programs that serve low income and at-risk communities, especially those with the highest infant mortality rates.”

The infant mortality rate is one of the indicators that is often used to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants.

What can you do?

Having a healthy pregnancy may increase the chance of having a healthy baby. Here are some things you can do before and during pregnancy:

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

Infant mortality. These two words should never go together.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

emotional couple sittingInfancy should mark the beginning of life, not the end. Even though the rates of infant deaths are at an all-time low, far too many babies still die before their first birthday. For this reason, September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month – a time for us to share the sad fact that babies still die in infancy, and to help spread the word about how to fix this problem.

In 2013, in the United States, 23,446 infants died before reaching their first birthday, which is an infant mortality rate of 6.0 per 1,000 live births. Or, put another way, on an average day in the U.S., 64 babies die before reaching their first birthday.

What causes infant death? Can it be prevented?

“Preterm birth, or being born too early (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), is the biggest contributor to infant death,” according to the CDC. In 2013, about one third (36%) of infant deaths were due to preterm-related causes. Among non-Hispanic black infants, the rate of preterm-related death is three times higher than those of non-Hispanic white infants.

Other causes of infant mortality include low birth weight, birth defects, pregnancy complications for the mother, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), and unintentional injuries (accidents). Although the rate of infant deaths in the U.S. has declined by almost 12% since 2003, the death of any infant is still one too many.

Having a healthy pregnancy may increase the chance of having a healthy baby.

A woman can help reduce her risk of giving birth early by getting a preconception checkup, staying at a healthy weight, and avoiding alcohol and street drugs during pregnancy. Spacing pregnancies at least 18 months apart and getting early and regular prenatal care during pregnancy are also key parts of a healthy pregnancy.

It’s part of our mission

The March of Dimes is committed to preventing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality. It is our hope that through continued research, we will have a positive impact on the lives of all babies so that fewer families will ever know the pain of losing a child.

If you or someone you know has lost a baby, we hope that our online community, Share Your Story, will be a place of comfort and support to you. There, you will find other parents who have walked in your shoes and can relate to you in ways that other people cannot. Log on to “talk” with other parents who will understand.

Even in the year 2016, “the U.S. has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the industrialized world,” according to NICHQ, the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality.

The March of Dimes is working hard to make this fact history.

Have questions? Send them to our Health Education Specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Your developing baby

Friday, March 18th, 2016

There are specific times during a baby’s development when a certain body part is especially vulnerable to damage from harmful substances and exposures. These substances can include alcohol, medications, and cigarette smoking. The chart below shows these critical periods. If something interferes or disrupts development during these times, the result may be a birth defect.

developing baby

*Image courtesy of NOFAS.

Birth defects

The dark blue segments on the picture above show when certain body parts are most at risk for major birth defects. Major birth defects cause significant medical problems and may require surgery or other treatment. Some examples of major birth defects include heart defects and spina bifida.

The light blue sections of the chart show periods when fetal development is susceptible to minor birth defects and functional defects. Minor birth defects do not cause significant problems and usually do not require medical intervention, such as treatment or surgery. Minor birth defects include things like the shape of the ears or certain facial features. Functional defects affect how a part of the body works. For example, hearing loss can be a functional defect.

Timing of exposures

According to MotherToBaby, “Harmful exposures during the first trimester have the greatest risk of causing major birth defects. This is because of the many, important developmental changes that take place during this time. The major structures of the body form in the first trimester. These include the spine, head, arms and legs.  The baby’s organs also begin to develop. Some examples of these organs are the heart, intestines and lungs.”

While exposures during the first trimester do pose the greatest risk of birth defects, exposures during the second and third trimester can cause problems with growth as well as minor birth defects. Factors that affect growth can put babies at risk for other health problems.

The brain continues to develop throughout pregnancy, after the baby is born, and into young adulthood. Harmful substances and exposures during the second and third trimester can cause developmental delays and learning disabilities.

Planning for pregnancy is important

Looking at the chart above, it is easy to see why preconception care is so important. Crucial fetal development happens very early in pregnancy– in many cases, before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. Seeing your health care provider BEFORE pregnancy and discussing any medications you are taking and underlying medical conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure, can help you be better prepared for pregnancy and to reduce your risk of birth defects.

*We would like to thank the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) for allowing us to use their fetal development chart. Please visit their website for more important information about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

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

 

What you need to know about birth defects

Monday, January 18th, 2016

snugglingEvery 4 ½ minutes in the US, a baby is born with a birth defect. That means that nearly 120,000 (or 1 in every 33) babies are affected by birth defects each year. They are a leading cause of death in the first year of life, causing one in every five infant deaths and they lead to $2.6 billion per year in hospital costs alone in the United States.

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body and can affect any part of the body (such as the heart, brain, foot, etc). They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.

There are thousands of different birth defects and they can be very mild or very severe. Some do not require any treatment, while others may require surgery or lifelong medical interventions.

What causes birth defects?

We know what causes certain birth defects. For instance, drinking alcohol while you are pregnant can cause your baby to be born with  physical birth defects and mental impairment. And genetic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease, are the result of inheriting a mutation (change) in a single gene. However, we do not know what causes the majority of birth defects. In most cases, it is a number of complex factors. The interaction of multiple genes, personal behaviors, and our environment all may all play a role.

Can we prevent birth defects?

Most birth defects cannot be prevented. But there are some things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chance of having a healthy baby:

  • See your healthcare provider before pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as you think you’re pregnant.
  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid reduces the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and “street” drugs.
  • Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications and any dietary or herbal supplements. Talk to your provider before you start or stop taking any type of medications.
  • Prevent infections during pregnancy. Wash your hands and make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
  • Make sure chronic medical conditions are under control, before pregnancy. Some conditions, like diabetes and obesity, may increase the risk for birth defects.
  • Learn about your family health history.

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

Epilepsy and pregnancy

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

speak to your health care providerEvery year in the US, approximately 20,000 women with a seizure disorder give birth. Most of these pregnancies are healthy. But there are a few additional concerns that women who have epilepsy must consider when thinking about getting pregnant.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time. Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain activity that cause changes in attention or behavior. Epilepsy is a specific type of seizure disorder.

People with epilepsy are usually prescribed medication to help to control seizures. These are known as antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). There are a number of different types of AEDs and they are prescribed depending on age, the type of seizure, and the side effects of the medications. Some individuals with epilepsy may need more than one AED to control their seizures.

Can epilepsy cause problems during pregnancy?

If you have epilepsy and are thinking about getting pregnant, there are a few important things that you need to consider.

  • Women who have epilepsy have an increased chance to have a baby with a birth defect compared to women who do not have epilepsy. This may be the result of the epilepsy or the AEDs used to control seizures. Some AEDs have been associated with an increased risk of cleft lip and palate, neural tube defects, and heart defects.
  • Pregnancy can cause a change in the number of seizures. Most women with epilepsy will have no change in the number of seizures they experience or they will have fewer seizures during pregnancy. A few women will experience more seizures.

Controlling seizures during pregnancy is very important. Having a seizure during pregnancy can cause problems for you and your baby. Seizures during pregnancy can cause:

  • Decreased oxygen to the baby and fetal heart rate deceleration during the seizure.
  • Injury to the baby as a result of any falls or trauma experienced during the seizure. This can include premature separation of the placenta from the uterus (placental abruption) or miscarriage.
  • Preterm labor
  • Premature birth

Should you continue to take anti-seizure medications during pregnancy?

Many women with epilepsy are concerned about taking their AEDs during pregnancy. But according to ACOG, “Because there are serious risks associated with having a seizure during pregnancy and because the potential risk of harm to your baby from taking AEDs is small, experts recommend that seizures be controlled with AEDs, if necessary, during pregnancy. However, the type, amount, or number of AEDs that you take may need to change.”

Will you need any special care during your pregnancy?

One of the most important things that any woman can do to have a healthy pregnancy is to schedule a preconception checkup. If you have epilepsy, it is important to talk to your prenatal care provider as well as your neurologist prior to getting pregnant. Here are some other things to consider:

Before pregnancy:

  •  Review your seizure medications with both your prenatal provider and your neurologist. If changes need to be made, it is better to do this prior to getting pregnant.
  • Take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. Talk to your health care team about how much folic acid is right for you.
  • Eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and avoid cigarettes, alcohol.

During pregnancy:

  • Plan for additional visits to your health care providers. Medication levels will need to be monitored to make sure they stay consistent.
  • Talk to a genetic counselor about prenatal testing.
  • Most women with a seizure disorder can have a vaginal birth.
  • Women with epilepsy are encouraged to breastfeed. Talk to your health care team.

If you have epilepsy, planning and working with your health care team can help to ensure that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.