Archive for the ‘Planning for Baby’ Category

Scleroderma and pregnancy

Friday, June 27th, 2014

June is National Scleroderma Awareness Month. Scleroderma is a group of diseases that result in the abnormal growth of connective tissue. Connective tissue is tissue that supports your skin and internal organs, like your kidneys, lungs and heart. Scleroderma is a chronic condition meaning that it lasts for a long time and can affect many aspects of your life.

If you have scleroderma, your body makes too much of a connective tissue protein called collagen. When too much collagen builds up in your body, it causes your skin and connective tissues to get hard or thick. Scleroderma can lead to pain and swelling in your muscles and joints. There are two main kinds of scleroderma: localized and systemic. Both can be mild to severe, with periods of remission (wellness) and flares (illness).

Localized scleroderma only affects certain parts of your body, like your skin, skin tissues and sometimes muscles. Localized scleroderma doesn’t harm major organs and often gets better or goes away over time without treatment. But sometimes it can be severe and cause lasting skin changes.

Systemic scleroderma can affect the whole body, including your skin, tissues, blood vessels and major organs, like your heart, lungs and kidneys.

If you have scleroderma and you’re thinking about getting pregnant,  you should schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. If you have localized scleroderma, it may not affect your pregnancy at all. But systemic scleroderma can cause problems with your heart, lungs or kidneys. These complications are most likely to appear during the first three years of scleroderma symptoms, and can cause health difficulties for you and your baby during pregnancy. For this reason, it’s best not to get pregnant during the first three years of symptoms.

If you have systemic scleroderma, you may be more likely than other pregnant women to have:

• Preeclampsia and other kinds of high blood pressure,

• Poor growth in your baby,

• Premature birth,

• Cesarean birth (C-section).

Right now, there is no specific treatment that stops the body from making too much collagen. However, doctors use several types of medication to control the symptoms. But not all of these are safe to use during pregnancy. Some can cause birth defects if a woman takes them while she is pregnant. That is why it is so important to discuss your condition with your doctor before pregnancy.

During pregnancy a woman with scleroderma may be treated by multiple doctors, including a rheumatologist as well as a high-risk obstetrician. Depending on her individual symptoms, a pregnant woman may need to see a few other providers to treat specific complications. Fortunately though, with today’s medical care, many women with scleroderma can have successful pregnancies.

What you need to know about CMV

Friday, June 13th, 2014

washing handsJune is National Congenital CMV Awareness Month. It is important that all women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant know about CMV.

What is CMV?

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common viral infection that most of us get at some point in our lives, frequently during childhood. It is usually harmless and does not cause any symptoms. But if a woman becomes infected with CMV for the first time, while she is pregnant, she can pass the virus to her baby. This can lead to serious illness, lasting disabilities or even death.

Why is CMV a concern during pregnancy?

CMV is the most common congenital (present at birth) infection in the United States. Fortunately, most babies born with CMV never have symptoms or problems caused by the infection.

However, some babies born with CMV develop one or more conditions during the first few years of life, such as hearing loss, vision loss, learning disabilities, and intellectual disabilities.

A woman who contracts CMV for the first time during pregnancy has about a 1-in-3 chance of passing the virus on to her fetus. She can pass CMV on to her baby at any stage of pregnancy. However, studies suggest that babies are more likely to develop serious complications when their mother is infected in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

How do you get CMV?

You can get CMV by coming into contact with bodily fluid from a person who carries the virus. You may be more likely than other people to get CMV if you have young children at home, work with young children, or work in health care. Most people with CMV have no signs or symptoms, so if you’re a health care or child care worker talk to your doctor about getting tested for CMV before pregnancy to see if you’ve already been exposed to the virus.

How can you prevent CMV?

You can help prevent CMV infection by doing the following:

• Wash your hands well, especially after being in contact with children and body fluids. Wash your hands after changing diapers, wiping noses and picking up toys.

• Carefully throw away used diapers and tissues.

• Don’t kiss young children on the mouth or cheek.

• Don’t share food, glasses, cups, forks or other utensils with young children or with anyone who may have CMV.

Is the March of Dimes conducting research on CMV?

Yes! March of Dimes grantees and other researchers are developing and testing vaccines that may help protect babies against CMV. Recent March of Dimes grantees have been studying how this virus multiplies and spreads in the unborn baby, in order to develop effective drugs that can help prevent disabilities in infected babies.

National Women’s Health Week

Friday, May 16th, 2014

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Join the March of Dimes and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health as we celebrate National Women’s Health Week (NWHW) 2014! Each year, Women’s Health Week kicks off on Mother’s Day and runs through the following Saturday.

The goal is to empower women to make their health a priority. National Women’s Health Week also serves as a time to help women understand what it means to be well.

Being a well woman is not just one action—it is a state of mind. It’s being as healthy as you can be. And, most importantly, it’s about taking steps to improve your physical and mental health:

• Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.
• Get active.
• Eat healthy.
• Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
• Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, texting while driving, and not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.

You can also celebrate by scheduling your annual well-woman visit. This is a checkup and a time to see your health care provider to:

• Discuss your family health history, family planning, and personal habits, such as alcohol and tobacco use.
• Schedule necessary tests, such as screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol.
• Set health goals, such as maintaining a healthy weight.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the well-woman visit is considered a preventive service and is covered by most health plans with no cost to you. Talk about good news! Take advantage of this benefit and pledge to schedule your well-woman visit today.

Your Mother’s Day gift to you

Monday, May 12th, 2014

beautiful-skin2Did you know that, even though open enrollment season for health insurance has closed, enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is open all-year round?

Good news for pregnant moms

This is good news for expectant moms who cannot afford coverage, since it means that they can still get the prenatal care needed for a healthy pregnancy. While the details of the benefits vary by state, coverage includes, at minimum, all health care related to pregnancy, labor, and delivery and any complications that may occur during pregnancy. Eligibility levels also vary slightly by state. Generally, a total family income of $44,122 for a family of four will qualify pregnant moms for low-cost or free health coverage through Medicaid or CHIP. (But check with your state for details.)

Good news for children

This is also good news for children or teens up to age 19. Through Medicaid or CHIP, children can get regular check-ups, immunizations, doctor and dentist visits, hospital care, mental health services, prescription drugs, and more.  Qualifications are based on total family income. Check with your state to see if your children qualify.

Good news for women who are not pregnant

But this news is especially welcome for uninsured women who are not pregnant. As a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states now have the choice to expand their Medicaid coverage to low-income adults, an option known as “Medicaid expansion.” States who have taken up the Medicaid expansion option will now provide comprehensive, affordable coverage to eligible adults. In these states, low-income women of childbearing age are now able to obtain coverage before and between pregnancies, offering them access to services to improve their overall and reproductive health. These essential services include screening for high blood pressure and chronic conditions, tobacco cessation, weight loss programs to reduce the risk of diabetes, substance abuse counseling and other preventive and therapeutic care.

So, this Mother’s Day, to learn more about Medicaid and CHIP and how to enroll, visit HealthCare.gov or your state’s Medicaid agency. Or call 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669). For the sake of a healthy pregnancy, your kids’ health, and the health of your future children, give yourself the gift of health insurance.  Even though there is no deadline, why wait?

This post is courtesy of Michelle Sternthal, Ph.D., Deputy Director, Federal Affairs, Office of Government Affairs at the March of Dimes.

Planning to become a mom

Friday, May 9th, 2014

pregnant womanHopefully we all remember that Mother’s Day is this Sunday. If you aren’t a mom yet, but are thinking of starting a family soon, there are a number of things that you can do to start getting ready. One of the best things you and your partner can do for your baby is to plan ahead. Having a healthy baby begins well before you get pregnant.

More than half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. This means that a lot of women get pregnant without really being ready for it. Babies who are planned are more likely to be born healthy than babies who are unplanned. This is because women who plan their pregnancies are more likely to get healthy before pregnancy. And they’re more likely to get early and regular prenatal care during pregnancy. Doing these things can help you have a healthy baby.

One of the most important things that every woman of childbearing age can do is to take a daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid. Folic acid is B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for normal growth and development. If all women take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy, it may help reduce the number of pregnancies affected by neural tube defects by up to 70 percent. All women, even if they’re not trying to get pregnant, should take folic acid.

When thinking about future pregnancies you may want to make a reproductive life plan. This means thinking about if and when you want to have a baby. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many children do I want?
  • How far apart do I want them to be?
  • How can I get healthy before pregnancy?

Talk about your reproductive life plan with your partner. There are no right or wrong answers and your answers may change during different times in your life. The important thing is to really think about your plan and your family before you get pregnant. On our website we give you some things to think about to help you decide whether you are ready to be a parent, both emotionally and financially.

So to all the moms out there, have a Happy Mother’s Day! And for the moms-to-be, remember, it is never too early to start planning!

Vaccines save lives

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

immunizationsThis week is National Infant Immunization Week (April 26 – May 3, 2014).   This annual observance highlights the importance of protecting babies from vaccine-preventable diseases and celebrates the achievements of immunization programs.

In 1994 Vaccines for Children (VFC) was launched. This program provides vaccines for children whose parents may not be able to afford them. VFC was developed in response to a measles outbreak that ultimately caused over 100 deaths—even though the measles vaccine had been available since 1963.

In the 20 years since the VCF program was started, the CDC estimates “that vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years.”

According to the CDC: “Several important milestones already have been reached in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases among infants worldwide. Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases in the United States. In addition:
• Through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age two.
• In the 1950s, nearly every child developed measles, and unfortunately, some even died from this serious disease. Today, few physicians just out of medical school will ever see a case of measles during their careers.
• Routine childhood immunization in one birth cohort prevents about 20 million cases of disease and about 42,000 deaths. It also saves about $13.5 billion in direct costs.
• The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.”

As great as this news is, this year parts of the US are facing yet another measles outbreak. According to the CDC, as of April 18th, there have been 129 cases of measles. Most of these were contracted when individuals were out of the country. The people who have been infected were either not vaccinated, or did not know their vaccination status.

“Thanks to the VFC program,  children in our country are no longer at significant risk from diseases that once killed thousands each year,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “Current outbreaks of measles in the U.S. serve as a reminder that these diseases are only a plane ride away. Borders can’t stop measles, but vaccination can.”

You can learn more about the VFC program here.

It is important that your vaccinations are up to date before you get pregnant and during pregnancy. You can find a vaccination schedule from birth through age 6 here.

Chat on alcohol and pregnancy

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Alcohol chat

Join us for a #pregnancychat next Tuesday at 1 PM ET on alcohol and pregnancy. How much is really OK? What does your health care professional say? What does research show us? Get the real story.

IVF, triplets and more

Monday, April 21st, 2014

In this video, Dr. Siobhan Dolan talks with a woman about fertility treatment and how to lower one’s chances of getting pregnant with twins, triplets or more.

Latina health chat

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Join us this Wednesday!

Be sure to use #WellnesWed to fully participate in the conversation.

WellnessWed Twitter Graphic

Could Aspirin help prevent preeclampsia in some women?

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Could Aspirin help prevent preeclampsia in some women? That’s what a panel of experts from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is suggesting in this month’s Annals of Internal Medicine. The panel reviewed research and evidence and found that low doses of Aspirin may help prevent preeclampsia in women who are at risk of developing the condition.

Preeclampsia is condition that happens when a pregnant woman has both high blood pressure and protein in her urine. With early and regular prenatal care, most women with preeclampsia can have healthy babies, but it can cause severe problems for moms. Without treatment, preeclampsia can cause kidney, liver and brain damage. It also may affect how the blood clots and cause serious bleeding problems.

No one knows what causes preeclampsia. But some women may be more likely than others to have preeclampsia. Some risks include:
• Having your first baby
• Having preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
• Having a family history of preeclampsia
• Being pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets or more)
• Being older than 35
• Being overweight or obese

If you’re pregnant and at risk for preeclampsia, talk to your health provider. While the research may be promising, more needs to be done. In the meantime, don’t take any medicine during pregnancy without checking with your health provider first. Learn more about preeclampsia.