Posts Tagged ‘prevention’

Wrapping up birth defects prevention month

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Baby girl smilingWe’ve had a busy month spreading the word about birth defects. If you’ve missed some posts, here is a wrap up of messages. More posts will be coming each week, so stay tuned.

Birth defects are common.

  • Did you know that every 4.5 minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect in the U.S.? That’s 1 in 33 babies or more than 120,000 babies each year.
  • Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.
  • Common birth defects include heart defects, cleft lip and cleft palate, Down syndrome and spina bifida. Some birth defects are on the rise for unknown reasons – like gastroschisis.
  • Birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths in the first year of life in the U.S.
  • Birth defects are critical. They are the leading cause of death and disability in children across the world.

There are thousands of different birth defects, and about 70 % of the causes are unknown.

  • Birth defects are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors including our genes, behaviors and environment.
  • Birth defects are costly. The CDC says, each year, total hospital costs for U.S. children and adults with birth defects exceed $2.6 billion.
  • Many birth defects are discovered after the baby leaves the hospital or within the first year of life.
  • Babies who survive and live with birth defects are at an increased risk for long-term disabilities and lifelong challenges.

Not all birth defects can be prevented, but some can.

  • Women can take steps toward a healthy pregnancy. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid during childbearing years can help to reduce the risk for birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs).
  • Pregnant or trying to conceive? Here are steps you can take to help prevent birth defects and have a healthy pregnancy.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and “street” drugs during pregnancy. Talk to your provider before you start or stop taking any type of medications.
  • Prevent infections during pregnancy – wash your hands often and well.
  • Make sure your vaccinations are up to to date.
  • Get chronic medical conditions under control before pregnancy. Diabetes and obesity may increase the risk for birth defects.
  • Collect your family health history and share it with your healthcare provider.

Share and connect

Birth defects can happen to any family. Share and connect with others on our online community Share Your Story.

Have questions? Email our Health Education Specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Clean hands stop germs

Monday, October 19th, 2015

One of the easiest ways to stay healthy is to…(drumroll please)…wash your hands. It’s quick and easy. Try singing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself while you lather your hands with soap.

Wash your hands before and after activities surrounding food, toilet use, wound or cut treatment, pet care, garbage and diaper handling and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.This week is International Infection Prevention Week. Hand washing can help you avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others.

The March of Dimes is now on Vine – check out our fun videos!

Understanding intellectual and developmental disabilities

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Raising a child with developmental disabilities is a long road filled with challenges. It is best to have information and support to help you along the way.

Since March is National Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, it gives us an opportunity to increase understanding about these disabilities, and to get the word out on support services that exist to help families. Equally important is learning how some disabilities can be prevented.

Developmental disabilities (DDs) include a wide group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. About one in six children in the U.S. has a developmental disability or a developmental delay.

DDs are diagnosed during the developmental period or before a child reaches age 18, are life-long, and can be mild to severe. They impact a person’s ability to function well every day.

Developmental disabilities is the umbrella term that includes intellectual disabilities (formerly referred to as mental retardation), which is an impairment in intellectual and adaptive functioning. For example, individuals with intellectual disability may have problems with everyday life skills, (such as getting dressed or using a knife and fork), thinking, understanding, reasoning, speaking and the overall ability to learn. See this fact sheet to learn more.

DDs also include: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, fragile X syndrome, hearing loss, vision impairment, muscular dystrophy, Tourette syndrome, learning disabilities, among other disorders.

Developmental disabilities may be due to:

• Genetic or chromosomal problems
Premature birth
Exposure to alcohol during pregnancy
• Certain infections during pregnancy

However, in many cases, the cause is unknown.

Some disabilities can be prevented

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, learn how some disabilities and birth defects can be prevented.

Families need support

This blog series offers lots of resources – check out the Table of Contents for a list of what to do if you suspect your child may have a developmental delay or disability.  The series is updated every Wednesday.

You can also join our online community, Share Your Story, where parents of children with developmental delays and disabilities support one another.

In addition, here are a couple more resources:

The Arc: For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – For more than 60 years, and with nearly 700 chapters in the U.S., the ARC provides supports and services for people with disabilities and for affected families.

AIDD – According to their website, the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities works to advance the concerns and interests of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through an array of programs funded under the Developmental Disabilities Act. AIDD is dedicated to ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are able to fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of community life in the United States and its territories.

How can we prevent birth defects?

Friday, January 30th, 2015

speak to your health care providerBirth defects are common, costly, and critical.
Common: Every 4 ½ minutes in the United States, a baby is born with a birth defect.
Costly: Hospital costs for children and adults with birth defects exceeds $2.6 billion. That does not include outpatient expenses.
Critical: Birth defects cause 1 in every 5 deaths during the first year of life. They can result in lifelong challenges and disabilities.

As Birth Defects Prevention Month draws to a close, let’s recap what we know and look at steps that can be taken to prevent them.

Preconception and pregnancy planning
We know that it essential for a woman to take an active role in planning her pregnancy.  If you are thinking of having a baby or if you may want to have children sometime in the future, it is important to make a PACT: plan ahead, avoid harmful substances, choose a healthy lifestyle, and talk to your doctor. You can read more here.

Changing a few behaviors now can make a big difference when you are ready to have a baby. It is best to get any preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, under control before pregnancy. Some medications, such as opioid-based prescription pain medications, are not safe to use when you are pregnant. All of these concerns can be discussed with your doctor during a preconception checkup.

Folic acid fortification
It is well known that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day can help to reduce the risk of neural tube defects or NTDs (disorders of the brain and spine). Since the US mandated folic acid fortification of enriched cereal grain products in 1998, the rates of NTDs have decreased by 35%.  That means that there are 1,300 fewer NTDs each year as a result of fortification. And that translates into an annual cost savings of approximately $508 million.

Surveillance
State surveillance systems record the number of babies born with a birth defect each year. The information gained from these surveillance systems furthers research on the causes of birth defects. The data also helps researchers to better understand which populations are at highest risk for specific birth defects. This information can then be used by public health professionals, policymakers, and health care providers to implement prevention strategies.

Research
The March of Dimes is funding research to understand the causes of birth defects and to develop new ways to prevent and treat them. Some March of Dimes grantees are studying basic biological processes of development. A more advanced look at the process of development will help reveal what can go wrong along the way. Others researchers are conducting clinical studies aimed at finding ways to prevent or treat specific birth defects.

Birth Defects Prevention Month may be coming to an end, but there is still a lot of work to do. Go to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network to learn more.

Tracking birth defects helps states help you

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Birth defects on PeriStats by stateDid you know that many states track and monitor birth defects? It is one way for them to better understand birth defects in order to try and prevent them. Today, I welcome guest blogger Melissa Gambatese, MPH, Research Analyst in the Perinatal Data Center here at the March of Dimes. Melissa will introduce you to the world of birth defects surveillance systems. It may sound a bit high tech or like something from a spy movie, but it is really a way for states to monitor birth defects and to hopefully use the information to help combat them and help families.

 

Every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the US. Birth defects are generally referred to as abnormalities of structure, function or metabolism (body chemistry) present at birth that result in physical or mental disabilities, or death. While some birth defects are caused by genetic conditions passed from the baby’s parents, the causes of most birth defects remain unknown.

The March of Dimes is committed to improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects. One of the ways to prevent birth defects is to better understand which populations are at highest risk for birth defects. This information allows public health professionals, policymakers, and health care providers to implement targeted prevention strategies. It also helps to provide adequate services to people affected by them. States monitor groups of people at risk for birth defects by establishing a surveillance system.

What is a surveillance system?

A surveillance system is a tool used in public health to collect information on a countless number of diseases and conditions. It provides a structure for identifying cases according to a standard definition. It also provides a way to analyze and then communicate surveillance findings to stakeholders, such as health care providers, researchers, and policymakers.

Surveillance systems can be passive, meaning they rely on physicians and medical staff to report cases to the state surveillance team, or active, meaning the state surveillance team reviews vital records, hospital diagnoses, and other data sources to identify cases.

Why do states have birth defects surveillance systems?

States use these systems to monitor trends in birth defects prevalence, or the number of babies born with a birth defect out of all live births born each year. States also use surveillance data to further research on the causes and prevention of birth defects and to link affected families to needed services.

States report surveillance data to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN), an organization of clinical and public health professionals dedicated to maintaining a network of state birth defect surveillance programs. Each year, NBDPN publishes a report containing prevalence data from all states with a birth defects surveillance system.

Do all states have a surveillance system?

The majority of US states (37 states and Puerto Rico) have a type of birth defects surveillance system.

Where can you find your state’s birth defects data?

Prevalence estimates reported by NBDPN for select states and birth defects are now available on PeriStats, the March of Dimes’ free statistical website. It contains the latest maternal and infant health-related data for the US.

Are birth defects preventable?

There is still so much we need to learn about preventing birth defects, but there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chances of having a healthy baby. For example, it is known that maternal smoking causes a range of serious birth defects including heart defects, missing/deformed limbs, clubfoot, gastrointestinal disorders, and facial disorders (such as cleft lip/palate).

It is also known that folic acid taken before and early in pregnancy can help prevent certain defects of the brain and spine. Read this post to learn more ways to help prevent birth defects.

March of Dimes grantees are pursuing a variety of approaches aimed at preventing and improving treatment for many birth defects. Read about our research here.

 

 

Birth Defects: What have we learned?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Birth defects prevention month CDC guest postSpecial thanks to Coleen Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, Director, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for today’s guest post.

Each January, in recognition of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we at CDC strive to increase awareness about birth defects and reflect upon all that we have learned so far.  We know what causes some birth defects, such as Down syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. However, for many birth defects, the causes are unknown.

The good news is that, through research, we’ve learned a lot about what might increase or decrease the risk for birth defects. For example, we know that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Taking certain medications, having uncontrolled diabetes, and smoking cigarettes are all things that can increase the risk for birth defects. We also know that getting enough folic acid, a B vitamin, starting at least one month before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy lowers the risk of having a baby with a major birth defect of the brain or spine.

Each of these research findings represents a building block, a step toward healthy birth outcomes. Understanding the potential causes of birth defects can lead to recommendations and policies to help prevent them. A great example of this is the research on folic acid, which led to the recommendation that all women who can become pregnant should get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This important research also contributed to the evidence needed to add folic acid to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals.

These building blocks start to form our foundation for understanding birth defects and help us identify what we still need to study in the future. While we have a learned a lot, much work remains. We at CDC continue to study the causes of birth defects, look for ways to prevent them, and work to improve the lives of people living with these conditions and their families.

To learn more about birth defects research, we invite you to join us at 1PM EST on January 20, 2015 for CDC’s live webcast titled “Understanding the Causes of Major Birth Defects: Steps to Prevention.” Experts in birth defects research will present an overview of current and historical efforts to understand the causes of major birth defects. They will also discuss the challenges in turning research findings into effective prevention. For more information on the upcoming session, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/cdcgrandrounds/.

This year, we encourage you to become an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention Month.  Post facts about birth defects marked by the hashtag #1in33 on social media or share your story and how birth defects affect you and your family. Join us in a nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes and their impact.

 

 

Avoiding and handling tantrums

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

MeltdownA meltdown, a tantrum…whatever you call it, there is hardly a child who hasn’t had one. The AskUs team recently received a call from a woman who has a special needs child who “lost it” during a church service. Needless to say, the Mom felt embarrassed and the child later felt ashamed and upset. Since her son is older (age 8) than the age of kids who typically have tantrums, the church goers were not as accommodating about the tantrum as they might have been if it were a toddler. But, then again, this kind of behavior is common for this child, as it is related to his medical condition.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a Mom who was not bothered by the whines, cries, screams or inappropriate behavior of her child when he has lost control. Meltdowns in public are even more upsetting – when all the world witnesses your child as he is out of control. And it feels like children with special needs have more than their fair share of meltdowns.

What can you do to prevent a meltdown?

First, be sure that there is no medical reason for the meltdown. Check with your child’s doctor to see if a delay or specific health condition may be the root cause of the tantrum. For example, does your child have a speech or language delay that causes frustration in communication (which then leads to a tantrum for lack of being able to express himself)?  Are there medical or health issues that could trigger a tantrum due to anxiety, frustration or even pain? Speak with your child’s doc to get a better idea of what can set him off.

Know your child’s triggers – here are some common ones:

•    Changes in routine – especially sudden ones, and transitions between activities.

•    Hunger or low blood sugar – Most children need to eat some healthy food, especially protein, every 2 hours to prevent a drop in blood sugar.

•    Going to a place that triggers scary or bad memories – For example, some kids find going to a carnival or circus to be scary. If seeing a clown, balloons, face painting, or other scene provokes anxiety in your child, stay away or be prepared. Other kids with special needs are super sensitive to certain sounds, so noise makers, sirens, or other noises may be overwhelming.

The more you know the triggers for a meltdown, the better you will be at preventing one or minimizing it once it starts.

What else can you do?

•    Know your child’s limits – If one hour out in a public place is about all your child can handle without needing to re-charge his batteries, then try not to push that limit.

•    Act quickly to stop a meltdown before it escalates. Carry your child’s self-soothing items, (food, a blanket, a favorite stuffed animal) to help calm the storm before it starts or gets out of control. Sometimes diverting attention is enough to prevent the approaching storm from raging.

•    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has more info on understanding, preventing and handling tantrums.

What helps your child avoid meltdowns? What do you do to minimize them? Please share your thoughts so parents can learn from each other.

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. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.