Posts Tagged ‘preterm birth’

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.

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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Brain bleeds in premature babies

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

brainThe younger, smaller and sicker a baby is at birth, the more likely he is to have a brain bleed, also called an intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). If you or someone you know has a baby with a brain bleed, it can be a very scary and upsetting experience.

Bleeding in the brain is most common in the smallest of babies born prematurely (weighing less than 3 1/3 pounds). A baby born before 32 weeks of pregnancy is at the highest risk of developing a brain bleed. The tiny blood vessels in a baby’s brain are very fragile and can be injured easily. The bleeds usually occur in the first few days of life.

How are brain bleeds diagnosed?

Bleeding generally occurs near the fluid-filled spaces (ventricles) in the center of the brain. An ultrasound examination can show whether a baby has a brain bleed and how severe it is. According to MedlinePlus.gov, “all babies born before 30 weeks should have an ultrasound of the head to screen for IVH. The test is done once between 7 and 14 days of age. Babies born between 30-34 weeks may also have ultrasound screening if they have symptoms of the problem.”

Are all brain bleeds the same?

Brain bleeds usually are given a number grade (1 to 4) according to their location and size. The right and left sides of the brain are graded separately. Most brain bleeds are mild (grades 1 and 2) and resolve themselves with few lasting problems. More severe bleeds (grade 3 and 4) can cause difficulties for your baby during hospitalization as well as possible problems in the future.

What happens after your baby leaves the hospital?

Every child is unique. How well your baby will do depends on several factors. Many babies will need close monitoring by a pediatric neurologist or other specialist (such as a developmental behavioral pediatrician) during infancy and early childhood. Some children may have seizures or problems with speech, movement or learning.

If your baby is delayed in meeting his developmental milestones, he may benefit from early intervention services (EI). EI services such as speech, occupational and physical therapy may help your child make strides. Read this series to learn how to access services in your state.

Where can parents find support?

Having a baby with a brain bleed can be overwhelming. The March of Dimes online community, Share Your Story, is a place where parents can find comfort and support from other parents who have (or had) a baby in the NICU with a brain bleed. Just log on and post a comment and you will be welcomed.

You can also leave a comment here on our blog, or send a question to AskUs@marchofdimes.org where a health education specialist is ready to assist you.

 

Our fifth prematurity research center has launched!

Monday, June 15th, 2015

AA010686The new collaborative, which launched earlier this month includes the University of Chicago, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Duke University School of Medicine. The researchers will work to identify genes that help to make sure a woman has a full-term pregnancy. They are also looking at how stress, including how a woman’s lifelong exposure to discrimination or poverty, may influence those genes.

The March of Dimes has invested a total of $75 million over 10 years towards five research centers. Each center will focus on different aspects of the causes of preterm birth in the hopes of preventing women from going into labor too early. Babies born too early can face serious long-term health problems.

Our first center opened at Stanford University School of Medicine in California in 2011, followed by the Ohio Collaborative, a partnership of universities in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, which launched in 2013. In November of last year we launched our third and fourth centers at Washington University, St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri and at the University of Pennsylvania respectively.

All five of our prematurity research centers will work together and share findings to determine the cause of preterm birth so that more babies can have a healthy start. Learn more about our newest research collaborative here.

March of Dimes’ researchers hard at work

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

research_birthdefectsresearch_rdax_50Did you know that in 2014, the March of Dimes invested about $25 million in research to defeat premature birth and other health problems? Scientific research has been a main focus of the March of Dimes since it was founded 75 years ago. March of Dimes-funded researchers created the first safe and effective vaccines for epidemic polio, and we haven’t stopped trying to improve the health of all babies since then.

The March of Dimes has pioneered genetic research, promoted the B vitamin folic acid to prevent birth defects, fought for lifesaving newborn screening tests– and so much more. Here are some recent examples of our work:

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) causes birth defects in 8,000 babies each year. Pregnant women can pass the virus on to their baby before or during birth. The March of Dimes is funding research on protecting against CMV in women of childbearing age, thereby protecting babies.
  • Novel gene therapy: Scientists have long been seeking to develop gene therapy. However, they have run into a number of obstacles. A recent March of Dimes grantee is attempting to find a new way around these obstacles. He is using a novel form of gene therapy called “gene editing.” Instead of replacing the faulty gene, this new technology attempts to find and fix the mutation (change) in the gene.

In 2003, the March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Campaign to help families have full-term, healthy babies. We now have two Prematurity Research Centers –Stanford University and the Ohio Collaborative. These transdicsiplinary centers recognize that preterm birth is a complex disorder with many contributing factors. At both centers, scientists are coming together to examine the problem of preterm birth from many angles. Some highlights of ongoing research include:

  • Progesterone signaling in pregnancy maintenance and preterm birth: Progesterone is a key pregnancy hormone. It is thought to play a role in preventing contractions until term, but we don’t know how it does this. Progesterone treatment is one of the few available treatments to help prevent repeat singleton preterm delivery in women who have already had a premature birth. However, we do not know why progesterone treatment works in some women but not others. A better understanding of the exact role progesterone plays in maintaining pregnancy may lead to new ways to prevent or treat preterm labor.
  • Microbiome and preterm birth: The microbiome refers to the bacteria and other microbes that live inside our bodies. Recent genetic technologies (DNA sequencing) have identified many new organisms, most of which don’t harm our health. Scientists are analyzing changes in the microbiome in samples from term and preterm pregnancies. The goal is to find out if specific microbes or changes in the microbiome may contribute to premature birth. This information could lead to better ways to predict and prevent premature birth.

The March of Dimes expects to open two additional Prematurity Research Centers in the near future.  You can read more about our infant health, birth defects, and prematurity research on our website.  The March of Dimes continues to do all it can to give every baby a healthy start in life.

 

Thirdhand smoke is dangerous

Monday, July 7th, 2014

child on floorThirdhand smoke, the residue left behind in a room where someone has smoked, is harmful to your child.

You have heard how smoking can negatively affect your pregnancy by causing birth defects and nearly doubling your risk for preterm birth. You may also know about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke on your health and that of your children.

What is thirdhand smoke?

Thirdhand smoke is the residual chemicals and nicotine left on surfaces by tobacco smoke. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that a few days or weeks after a cigarette is smoked, particles remain on all types of surfaces. Thirdhand smoke can be found anywhere – on the walls, carpets, bedding, seats of a car, your clothing, and even in your child’s skin and hair. Long after someone has stopped smoking, thirdhand smoke is present. Infants and children can inhale, ingest and touch things that result in exposure to these highly toxic particles.

Thirdhand smoke can be just as harmful as secondhand smoke and can lead to significant health risks. The AAP says that children exposed to smoke are at increased risk for multiple serious health effects including asthma, respiratory infections, decreased lung growth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The residue left from smoking builds up over time. Airing out rooms or opening windows will not get rid of the residue. In addition, confining smoking to only one area of the home or outside will not prevent your child from being exposed to thirdhand smoke.

There are ways you can limit or prevent thirdhand smoke. AAP recommends:

• Hire only non-smoking babysitters and caregivers.

• If smokers visit your home, store their belongings out of your child’s reach.

• Never smoke in your child’s presence or in areas where they spend time, including your home and car.

• If you smoke, try to quit. Speak with your child’s pediatrician or your own health care provider to learn about resources and support.

The only way to fully protect against thirdhand smoke is to create a smoke-free environment. For more information on how to quit smoking, visit http://smokefree.gov/.

 

What is dysgraphia?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

chld-in-schoolPremature birth can lead to long-term challenges, such as learning disabilities.  Dysgraphia is a learning disability (LD) in the area of writing. It is a processing disorder, not just a problem with penmanship. It could mean your child has trouble holding a pencil or pen, forming letters and numbers, or spelling correctly. It can also mean your child struggles to organize his thoughts in his head and put those thoughts down on paper. Written work may be unclear and unorganized. In short, dysgraphia includes difficulty in all of the aspects of acquiring and expressing written language. Although dysgraphia may affect many preemies, it is also seen in children who are born full term.

Understanding writing

Writing involves a complex series of steps.  First, a child must learn how to form letters and understand combinations of letters and how they form sounds. Then he must learn how to put them all together in a coherent way using paper and pencil. The paper/pencil part requires eye/hand coordination and a certain amount of muscle strength and dexterity. And then there is another aspect to writing – organizing ideas in his head and being able to transfer his thoughts down on to paper. Whew…that is a lot of stuff going on just to write a few paragraphs on a piece of paper!

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), dysgraphia can be due to visual-spatial processing problems (when the brain has trouble making sense of what the eyes see) or language processing problems (when the brain has trouble making sense of what the ears hear).

Because writing depends so much on interpreting and using language, many children with dysgraphia also have other learning disabilities, such as dyslexia (reading), or other language impairments. Some may have attention problems, too. If your child has more than one challenge, the act of writing can become overwhelming. (And he is surely not going to like doing it.)

What are the warning signs of dysgraphia?

It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of dysgraphia because often children with an LD (or LDs) are mistaken for being lazy or unmotivated. The symptoms of dysgraphia vary widely depending on the age of your child. NCLD provides lists of signs or symptoms by age group, from very young children through adults.

How is dysgraphia treated?

Unfortunately, dysgraphia (like other LDs) is lifelong. But, fortunately, there are different treatments that may help a child overcome obstacles.

  •      A child may benefit from occupational therapy, as it may help increase hand coordination and muscle strength to improve writing stability.
  •      A child may also benefit from specialized instruction in school (through special education). Specialized writing programs can help a child with letter formation. Other programs help with topic and paragraph organization (such as graphic organizers).
  •      There are also ways around the problem – such as learning to type on a computer or boy on computerusing voice activated computer software which types a child’s words. Many children with writing problems find using a laptop or other computer to be the ticket to success for them. (My daughter started learning keyboarding skills in first grade (as part of her IEP), as a result of her dysgraphia. The fluent sentences that emerged from the computer shocked her teacher so much that she thought that I had helped her with her work! We were all amazed at what my daughter was able to do once we shifted all her written work to a computer.)

Where can you find more info?

If you suspect that your child has dysgraphia or any kind of LD, speak with your child’s pediatrician. You can also ask that your child be tested through your local school system. Of course, there are professionals who can test him outside of school, too. Getting a clear diagnosis and help as soon as possible is very important.

NCLD provides a list of helpful writing resources,  including a Resource Locator,  specific to your location and type of help needed.

Bottom line

With any disability, it takes time to find the right treatments to put in place. Then it takes lots of patience and tons of practice. During this time, your child may not want to have anything to do with drawing or writing. I can understand this, can’t you? I don’t like being forced to do things that are particularly hard for me.  But, hopefully, with the right therapy and program, and tons of positive reinforcement, your child will begin to overcome or learn to compensate for his challenges.

The sooner the disability is diagnosed and treatment is targeted and begun, the sooner your child can improve. As with any disability, the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the happier your child will be.

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

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Smoking – a risk for preterm birth

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

cigarette-buttsWe’ve all read the articles, seen the ads, maybe even known someone who has had lung cancer. But many pregnant women still smoke. Did you know that smoking nearly doubles a woman’s risk of having a premature baby? We need everyone’s efforts to help women quit.

Not only is smoking harmful to Mom, it’s also harmful to your baby during 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 and oxygen is very important for helping your baby grow healthy. Smoking can also damage your baby’s lungs.

Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to be born prematurely, with birth defects such as cleft lip or palate, and at low birthweight. Babies born prematurely and at low birthweight are at risk of other serious health problems, including lifelong disabilities (such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and learning problems), and in some cases, death.

Secondhand and thirdhand smoke are proven to be bad for babies’ health. All the more reason for both Moms and Dads to try to quit. With counseling and social support, smoking cessation programs have yielded a significant reduction in preterm birth.

Know someone who is trying to quit? Lend ‘em a hand. Want help quitting? Try http://smokefree.gov/.

PREEMIE Act signed into law

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

On Nov. 27th, President Barack Obama signed into law S. 252, the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, a bill to reauthorize federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.

“The PREEMIE Act represents the federal government’s commitment to reducing the devastating toll of preterm birth,” stated Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes.  “By signing this bill into law, President Obama has enabled vital research and education on the prevention of prematurity to continue.  The March of Dimes is deeply grateful to him, as well as the authors of the PREEMIE Act – Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) – for their tireless efforts to ensure that no baby is born too soon.

“Today, one in every nine U.S. infants is born preterm.  Due to concerted efforts by the March of Dimes and our partners, this number has gone down for the past six consecutive years, but it is still too high.  Prematurity can lead to a host of adverse health consequences for these babies and place a terrible strain on their families.  In addition, preterm birth carries a significant cost to businesses and our economy.  The average premature birth costs 12 times as much as a healthy birth.  The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act will sustain the vital federal investment in promoting healthy pregnancies, healthy infants, and healthy families.”

Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman; in many cases, the cause of preterm birth is unknown. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal death, and those babies who survive are more likely to suffer from intellectual and physical disabilities. In addition to its human, emotional, and financial impact on families, preterm birth places a tremendous economic burden on the nation.  A 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine found the cost associated with preterm birth in the United States was $26.2 billion annually, or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Employers, private insurers and individuals bear approximately half of the costs of health care for these infants, and another 40 percent is paid by Medicaid.

S. 252 was endorsed and strongly supported by a wide range of organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the National Association of City and County Health Officers, and more.

The original PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) brought the first-ever national focus to prematurity prevention.  The Surgeon General’s Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth required by the Act generated a public-private agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and support evidence-based interventions to prevent preterm birth. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act reauthorizes critical federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.

Reflections on Jacqueline Kennedy

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

With the awareness and news coverage this week of the Kennedy assassination, I fell to thinking about the strength of Jacqueline Kennedy.   Not only had she lost her husband but a few months before she had also lost her infant son as a result of premature birth.

Mrs. Kennedy had a history of difficult pregnancies.  She had a miscarriage in 1955, followed by a stillbirth in 1956.  While Caroline was full term, John Jr. was a preemie and of course, her final child, Patrick died after only living 40 hours from what we now call Respiratory Distress Syndrome.   Sadly, this occurred 27 years before the March of Dimes grantees helped develop surfactant therapy, which was introduced in 1990.

Mrs. Kennedy was a heavy smoker and smoked throughout her pregnancies.  This was before the US Surgeon General’s warning was known to the public. Although smoking was more common in those years, no one was aware of the repercussions of smoking during pregnancy. Today, it is still a risk factor for stillbirth, low birth weight babies and prematurity. The Great American Smokeout was yesterday; if you do smoke, please consider quitting.  Smokefree.gov has tips.

I also want to highlight the possible effects of stress in pregnancy. There are several types of stress that can cause problems during pregnancy.  Negative life events, like death in the family, long-lasting stress such as depression and being the wife of the President, could have also played a role.

The loss of any child is difficult; I cannot image the pain she went through.  Premature birth can and does happen to any woman.