Archive for March, 2012

Hidden dangers of STIs

Friday, March 30th, 2012

If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, it is very important that you be tested for sexually transmitted infections.  Each year in the United States, about 19 million individuals contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI). STIs are infections a person can get by having sex (genital, oral or anal) with someone who has one of these infections. Many infected individuals do not know they have an STI because some STIs cause no symptoms.

STIs pose special risks for pregnant women and their babies. These infections can cause:
• Miscarriage
• Ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo implants outside of the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube)
• Preterm delivery (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy)
• Stillbirth
• Birth defects
• Illness in the newborn period (first month of life)
• Death

If STIs are not diagnosed and treated, they can be passed from the mother to the baby.  Most frequently a baby becomes infected during delivery, while passing through an infected birth canal. But a few of these infections can cross the placenta and infect the baby while the baby is still in utero.  And in many cases the signs and symptoms of STIs are so mild that a woman may not even know that she is infected.

During one of your first prenatal visits, your health care provider will test you for some STIs, such as HIV and syphilis.  Some STIs, such as syphilis, can be cured with drug treatment.  But others, such as HIV, cannot be cured. 

However, if a woman does have an STI that cannot be cured, steps usually can be taken to protect her baby.  For instance, a woman with HIV can be started on a group of drugs called antiretrovirals.  The use of these drugs during pregnancy will significantly reduce the chances that her baby will be become infected with HIV. If women take these drugs before and during birth, and their babies are given drugs after birth, HIV transmission is reduced from 25% (with no treatment) to less than 2%. 

Your partner should also be tested and treated and you should not have sex until your treatment is complete and your health care provider has said that it is OK.  Make sure that you are honest with your health care provider about your risk factors for STIs.  This will help to ensure that you get the appropriate testing and therefore treatment to protect you and your baby.

For more information about some common STIs you can go to our website.

To know or not to know

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

its-a-boy-storkits-a-girl-storkA while ago, someone wrote in to the March of Dimes with a wonderful idea. She was pregnant, and was on her way to the doctor’s office for an ultrasound where the sex of her baby would most likely be revealed. However, she and her husband were not yet ready to know if it was going to be a girl or boy.  But, they would want to know sometime before the baby was born…just not that day. Also, they had envisioned that the day they learned the sex of their baby would be somewhat more special, and not something that would occur in a doctor’s office. So, they came up with this novel idea that I thought was worth sharing.

They suggest you have the ultrasound tech or doctor write the gender of the baby on a piece of paper, and seal it in an envelope.  Then, on a special occasion (Christmas morning, Valentine’s Day, anniversary, birthday, etc.), you would open the envelope together or with the family or friends of your choice, and celebrate.  You control when, where and how you learn the momentous news. This gives you the ability to make an occasion out of learning the sex of your baby, but still gives you time to paint the baby’s room pink or blue before the baby’s arrival.

It seems like such a simple, obvious idea, yet I had never heard it before.  Hopefully, it is something worth passing on to anyone who is pregnant and is wondering if they should ask to know the sex at the ultrasound visit.

But, just remember that sometimes the sex is not clearly identifiable from an ultrasound due to the baby’s positioning or the ultrasound technician’s skill.  To be absolutely certain of the sex, you would need a diagnostic test, such as a CVS or amniocentesis.  With these tests you might be able to let your doctor know in advance not to reveal the sex to you at the time he/she receives the test results. 

But, then again, if you are particularly stressed about knowing the baby’s sex, or you simply want to hear the words “it’s a girl!”  or “it’s a boy! “ after your hours of labor and delivery, there is always purple or yellow paint.

Child safety locks recalled

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is recalling nearly 1 million Safety 1st Push ‘N Snap Cabinet Locks with model numbers 48391 and 48442. CPSC found that young children can unlock the cabinet locks, giving children access to unsafe items moms and dads keep in cabinets. This can put your child at risk of getting hurt from these unsafe items.

The child safety locks were sold at Bed Bath & Beyond and other retail stores nationwide as well as at Amazon.com from January 2004 through February 2012 for between $2 and $4.

If you have any of the recalled child safety locks, CPSC urges you to remove the locks from the cabinets right away and store dangerous items out of reach of children. For a free replacement Push ‘N Snap lock, contact Dorel Juvenile Group (DJG), Inc. (the company that imports these child safety locks) at (866) 762-3212 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s website at www.djgusa.com.

For more information on the child safety lock recall, please visit the CPSC website. Learn more about keeping your baby’s environment safe.

Little feet, big steps!

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Concerns about fifth disease

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

We get questions about fifth disease from time to time. It’s a common childhood illness that’s usually pretty mild, but if you get infected during pregnancy, it may hurt your baby. The good news is that about 6 in 10 adults (60 percent) had the infection as children and if you’ve already had fifth disease, you can’t get it again.  Nonetheless, about 1 in 400 women in the United States gets infected with fifth disease during pregnancy.

Fifth disease is caused by a virus called parvovirus B19. (It’s called fifth disease because many years ago, it appeared fifth in a list of common causes of childhood rash and fever.) It usually spreads through the air from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. People with young children and who work with children (such as child care providers and teachers) are most likely to come in contact with fifth disease and get infected. You can read about symptoms in children and adults at this link.

Most unborn babies are not harmed if their mother gets fifth disease. But some babies do become infected. The virus can make it hard for babies to make red blood cells, which can lead to a dangerous form of anemia, heart failure, miscarriage, or stillbirth.

You can protect yourself from getting infected by washing your hands well after being around children. Be sure to carefully throw away tissues used by children, and don’t share drinking glasses, cups, forks or other utensils with anyone who has fifth disease or who is in contact with someone who has fifth disease.

If you’re pregnant and become infected, your health care provider monitors your pregnancy carefully for problems with your baby. He may recommend that you have an ultrasound once a week or every other week for 8 to 12 weeks. If ultrasound doesn’t show any problems, you don’t need any more testing.  If an ultrasound shows that your baby is having problems, your provider may recommend amniocentesis to confirm the infection. If your baby has fifth disease, chances are the infection will go away on its own. Your provider may monitor your baby’s health during routine prenatal care visits.

While there is no treatment for fifth disease, there may be treatment options for problems caused in a developing baby. In rare cases of severe anemia, sometimes a provider can treat it by giving the baby a blood transfusion through the umbilical cord. If hydrops, a build up of fluid in the baby’s body, forms in the third trimester, the baby is sometimes induced and born early to receive treatment.

Again, the majority of pregnant women do not get fifth disease and, if they do, their babies are not harmed. But if you work in a day care center or are around school aged children a lot, it’s good to know about fifth disease and how to protect yourself.

Helen Hayes and Mothers March

Monday, March 26th, 2012
Helen Hayes, 1963

Helen Hayes, 1963

To be touched by our mission is to be cruelly blessed. The “touching” connotes sorrow and loss, sometimes irrevocable loss. Accepting a “mission” usually means being fired by hope and commitment. In the case of Helen Hayes (1900-1993), both of these were true to a maximum degree. Helen Hayes lost her daughter to polio in 1949, and thereafter she did as much as one person might do to fight a killer disease to forestall the suffering of others. Her story is one full of optimism and achievement; in a subtler way it is also one of redemption.

Helen Hayes was a pre-eminent and beloved actress of mid-century America. Her Broadway roles ranged from Shakespearean classics to modern theater, and her engagement with cinema began in the silent screen era to culminate in blockbusters like Airport, for which she won an Academy Award. Her daughter Mary MacArthur was an aspiring actress whose life was cut short at age 19 during the polio epidemic of 1949. So devastating was this epidemic that the March of Dimes, fully at war with polio yet facing depleted funds, called for an emergency campaign to address the catastrophe. Though Hayes had assisted the March of Dimes years before, she accepted a leading role with the Foundation in December 1949 three scant months after her daughter’s death.

Her role as spokesperson in the 1950 March of Dimes brought Helen Hayes again into the spotlight, this time as a volunteer. Women across the nation responded to her personal story as they responded to the opportunity of battling polio. A news editor wrote to Hayes: “According to the … New York Times you’ve agreed to direct the women’s activities for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis… [and] you’ll be urging women to volunteer for the March of Dimes. Well, this is just to say that if you will, you can consider me urged.” Her personal magnetism attracted a host of such admirers, and within one year Helen Hayes became the first national chair of a new fund-raiser called Mothers March, a post she held for ten years.

Eager to leverage the popularity of a world-renown actress into the battle against polio, PR Director Dorothy Ducas penned a speech for Hayes in 1951 titled “Polio of the Heart,” a reference to Hayes’s personal tragedy. But Hayes declined to use the speech, apologizing that the writing was “beautiful – but can’t stand … any reference to my personal grief in print.” She went on to establish the Mary MacArthur Fund to fight polio, to assist the March of Dimes to create respiratory care centers, and to see the Foundation into the next decade by promoting its mission of birth defects prevention. Though we cannot know how her personal sorrow was transformed in the process of this dedicated service, she remained a stalwart friend of the March of Dimes. Today, as we honor the memory of Helen Hayes in celebration of Women’s History Month, we also acknowledge how so many others have been personally touched by our mission.

Your family’s health care

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

You’ve probably seen a lot of news about health care coverage this week.  How does this debate affect you and your loved ones?  Well, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 52% of Americans say they or someone else in their household has what would be considered a “pre-existing condition.”  Insurance companies are now prohibited from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.  Find out more about how the debate affects your family at this link.

National Poison Prevention Week

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

This week is the 50th anniversary of National Poison Prevention Week.  The week was established by the US Congress in 1961 to focus national attention on the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them.  It’s a time for poison centers nationwide to conduct activities to raise awareness about the dangers of poisoning.

Poison Help provides resources for parents, teachers, health professionals, and local businesses.  These resources can be used to help with poison prevention activities and provides information to locate and contact local poison centers. If you’re a parent, you’ll want to know how to contact your local poison control center, so check it out.    

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Up and Away Campaign offers information specific to medicine safety.  And Safe Kids USA has more resources. Learn more about protecting your family by visiting these sites.

Health care and you

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

You may be hearing a lot about health care coverage in the news this week.  What you may not know is how it will affect you and your family.  For example, did you know that most health plans are now prohibited from putting a lifetime dollar limit on benefits received by individuals or families? Annual dollar limits a health plan can place on most health benefits are being eliminated or phased out — and they will be done away with entirely in 2014.  Find out more about how the debate affects your family at this link.

Mom’s voice helps preemies

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

mom-and-preemieA recent study published in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine is showing that a mother’s voice may help improve the condition of her premature baby.
 
Because they are not fully developed at birth, premature babies have more incidents of lung and heart problems (cardiorespiratory events). Researchers in this study found that these tiny babies were less likely to stop breathing or have their heart rate drop dangerously low when listening to a recording of their mother’s voice and heartbeat.

The study was small, only 14 preterm infants and their mothers were observed, but the results were notable. The babies were played recordings of their mother’s voice and heartbeat four times in 24 hours. The babies had fewer cardiorespiratory events when they heard their mother’s sounds as compared to the normal hospital sounds and noises.

More study needs to be done, but these results show promise by indicating that premature babies show at least short-term improvements in physical stability when listening to their mother’s sounds. Parents can feel so helpless when their baby is in the NICU. This study shows that just talking to your baby, letting her hear that you are there, may make a difference.

Click on this link to read more.