C-sections, scheduling births and why healthy babies are worth the wait

04
Apr
Posted by Ivette

We’ve written a lot of posts about labor and, that if your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to wait for labor to begin on its own. We’re glad that more moms know that having a healthy baby is worth the wait. But sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder – not just for moms-to-be, but for everyone.

Both of my babies were late, especially my son. (He’s a true mama’s boy and I sometimes get the feeling that he would climb back in if he could!) I remember all of the frustration and discomfort I felt as I reached and went past my due date. But as uncomfortable as those last weeks were, it was a small sacrifice to make for my baby’s health.

If there are no medical reasons for either you or your baby to have a c-section or schedule your baby’s birth, then it’s best to wait for labor to begin on its own. And unless you have a medical reason for having a c-section, it’s best to have your baby through vaginal birth.

A c-section is major surgery that takes longer to recover from than a vaginal birth. And you’re more likely to have complications from a c-section than from a vaginal birth. A c-section can cause problems for your baby, too. Babies born by c-section may have more breathing and other medical problems than babies born by vaginal birth.

All this is to say that if your pregnancy is healthy and you’re thinking about scheduling your baby’s birth, consider the risks. And even though those last weeks can be very uncomfortable, your baby’s health is worth the wait.

Don’t delay with delays

02
Apr
Posted by Barbara

learning to walkEvery 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect. Many other babies experience delays or disabilities as they grow up. In fact, “as many as one in four children through the age of five are at risk for a developmental delay or disability,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.  The sooner a child is identified as having a condition that requires treatment, the sooner he may start receiving appropriate interventions and begin improving.  This sounds logical, right? Yet, many children with developmental challenges somehow don’t receive the help they need until much later.

When my daughter’s speech delay was evident, I asked her pediatrician “Should we wait a year and see if she grows out of it?” Thankfully, he said “Why would you wait?” His attitude was that if we started right away, there would be a chance that this small problem would not become a bigger problem later.  He was right.

If your child has a broken leg, would you wait to have it set? Of course not. If you did not intervene with the cast and crutches, your child would continue to suffer and perhaps get worse. The same is true with other types of disabilities or delays – early treatment is essential for improvement.

Good news: more help is here

The Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!  initiative was launched last week. It is a federal effort to encourage developmental and behavioral screening and support for children, families, and the providers who care for them. Yes, screening and intervention processes have been in place for years in the U.S. However, this initiative features a toolkit with an array of “research-based screening tools” to help pediatricians, parents, social workers, case workers, early care and education providers find help at the local level. The toolkit has resources to raise awareness about healthy development, recommended screening and follow-up practices. The Families page has info on developmental milestones, how to find services in your local area, tips and resources on positive parenting, and other helpful topics.

This initiative comes on the heels of the newly announced increase in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) rates. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data that indicate ASD rates have risen to 1 in 68 children aged 8 years (which is up from 1 in 88). The CDC says that most children with ASD are diagnosed after age 4, even though ASD can be diagnosed as early as age 2.

What’s a solution?

Early diagnosis and early treatment.

As parents, you know your child best. If you have a suspicion that something is not right, don’t wait. Speak up and tell your child’s pediatrician. Learn about developmental milestones and see if your child is on track. If not, say something.

The Early Intervention program in the U.S. is here for babies and toddlers up to their third birthday. The Special Education program takes over for children ages 3 and older. The key is getting babies, toddlers and children identified as early as possible, and starting intervention. Find your local program for children up to their third birthday and request that your baby/child be screened for developmental delays or disabilities without a referral from a provider. And it is free to you. If your child is age 3 or older, request a screening from your child’s school.

Throughout my daughter’s childhood, I heard “Don’t wait” so many times – from doctors and specialists to special educators and therapists. As a result, we jumped on the therapy/intervention path right away, as each issue surfaced, and tackled each problem one by one (or often two by two). I am glad that I had the influence of professionals to prod and guide me along the way. The efforts certainly paid off for my child.

Bottom line

If you need to get help for your child, you now have more than enough resources to get going. The Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! initiative is there to set young children off on the right foot, and the Special Education program is there to continue to help kids up to age 21.  Hopefully, your child’s first steps will soon become leaps as you see him thrive. So, don’t delay with delays.

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 (just keep scrolling down). As always, we welcome your comments and input – send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Nacersano.org, our Spanish-language site

31
Mar
Posted by Lindsay

nacersano homepage

Hispanic women have babies at a greater rate each year than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, making this population the fastest growing group. And now, Spanish-speaking women and families can easily find much-needed information on how to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby online at nacersano.org.

Nacersano.org, the March of Dimes Spanish-language site, offers valuable information on the specific health needs of the Hispanic community, including on the importance of folic acid, a B vitamin that helps prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs).

Babies born to Hispanic women are about 20 percent more likely to have a neural tube defect than non-Hispanic white women. While this disparity is not well understood, one reason may be that Hispanic women have a lower intake of folic acid. In the United States, wheat flour is fortified with folic acid, but corn masa flour is not.

The March of Dimes, through its educational print and online initiatives, is working to raise awareness about the need for folic acid among Hispanic women. All women of childbearing age, whether or not they’re planning to get pregnant, should take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, beginning before pregnancy and continuing into the early months of pregnancy. This is the best way to get the recommended amount of folic acid to prevent NTDs. Eating foods rich in folate (the natural form of folic acid) or fortified with folic acid is another way to consume this essential vitamin.

Visitors to nacersano.org can find dozens of recipes from various Latin America cultures that provide at least 10 percent of the recommended daily amount of folic acid. Users can also submit their own folic acid rich recipes to the site.

“It’s such an easy thing to make folic acid a part of your daily routine, and it can provide a major benefit to your future family,” says José F. Cordero, MD, MPH, dean of the School of Public Health University of Puerto Rico and a member of the March of Dimes national Board of Trustees. “About half of pregnancies are unplanned, so women should take folic acid daily to give your babies the healthiest start in life.”

Nacersano.org also features hundreds of health articles, ovulation and due date calculators, and educational videos to help Hispanic women and families be healthy before, during and after pregnancy.

Visitors can also ask questions about folic acid and nutrition, preconception, pregnancy and baby health. March of Dimes health experts provide personalized answers by email within 48 hours in Spanish and English. Visitors can also sign up to receive monthly free newsletters on preconception and pregnancy health, read and comment on the blog, and stay connected through various social media channels.

So, if you’re more comfortable with the Spanish language, “like” us on Facebook.com/nacersano and follow us on @nacersano and @nacersanobaby on Twitter.

E-cigarettes, liquid nicotine and poisoning

28
Mar
Posted by Ivette

E-cigarettes from CDCMany things in this day and age have gone digital – even smoking. The latest trend is the fast-growing use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. They look like regular cigarettes, but can be used more than once because they use rechargeable batteries. E-cigarettes have nicotine that comes as a liquid and can be refilled. Nicotine is a harmful drug that is found in cigarettes.

There’s been many reports of people, especially children, being poisoned from being in contact with liquid nicotine, either by accidentally drinking it or by spilling it and absorbing it through the skin. Liquid nicotine has powerful toxins and a small amount may be very harmful, even deadly. Liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes is sold in small vials that may be bright and colorful. Sometimes, liquid nicotine may have added flavors, like cherry or bubble gum. All of these things can make it appealing to children and may lead to accidental poisoning.

There isn’t enough research to know if e-cigarettes are safe. If you use e-cigarettes, be sure to keep them and any items used with e-cigarettes, like liquid nicotine, away from children. Store them in a secure place to keep everyone safe.

Health insurance registration deadline running out

27
Mar
Posted by Lindsay

Open enrollment for health care coverage in 2014 through the Health Insurance Marketplace ends this Monday, March 31st. Affordable plans are still available. Across the country, 6 out of 10 uninsured Americans can get covered for $100 per month or even less – some for a lot less.

If you haven’t registered for a plan yet, start by gathering important information – like birthdates and Social Security or document numbers – for everyone who will be on the application.

You can sign up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at HealthCare.gov (which is working smoothly now). You can also sign up in Spanish at CuidadoDeSalud.gov. Confused? Need help? You can call 1-800-318-2596, any time, any hour, and a trained representative will help you enroll.

Moms and babies need health coverage, so be sure to choose a plan now. If you choose a plan by March 31, you’ll avoid tax penalties for 2014.

Kids with challenges zoom on souped up kiddie cars

26
Mar
Posted by Barbara

tot in carThere are times when I see someone doing something wonderful to help toddlers and young kids with special needs and I just HAVE to speak up and tell others. Today, I experienced such a moment.

There are all kinds of delays and disabilities: gross motor, fine motor, speech, non-verbal, social, hearing, processing, learning, and the list goes on. Here is something new for tots with gross motor disabilities (problems using large muscles of the body such as the legs to walk, crawl, sit up, etc.).

At the University of Delaware, Dr. Cole Galloway, a professor of physical therapy and a scientist, teamed up with his colleague, Dr. Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering, with the goal of increasing exploration in children with special needs. They take basic ride-on cars available at toy stores, and adapt them to suit the particular needs of a child with motor disabilities. The result is a specially powered kiddie car that a child is able to ride.

Why is this so wonderful?

The efforts of Drs. Galloway and Agrawal have enabled children with gross motor disabilities to zoom around on these powered cars and play with classmates the same as any non-disabled child. In other words, for part of his day, a child with motor limitations can now play and compete with peers on equal footing.  The result is a child who suddenly sees himself on a par with the kids in his class or his neighborhood. He is not “different” when he is in his car. The self-esteem and social connections that develop as a result of his new experiences are profound. Of course, the added fun to his life doesn’t hurt either!

This idea is changing the lives of these kids. Literally. The video (below) describes how these adapted cars enable children to increase their mobility as well as their socialization.

PT on the car

Another cool benefit of this kind of mobile car is that it can augment a child’s specific physical therapy (PT) needs. For example, if a child has trouble keeping his head up due to his disability, powering the car by pushing a button with his head can be a fun way to work on this physical therapy goal. Talk about a motivator!

Do it yourself

The best news yet is that parents can change ordinary ride-on cars into personalized motor cars themselves, by following the instructions Drs. Galloway and Agrawal have created.  They are freely sharing this information and have made it as easy as possible to “do it yourself.”

So, watch this video (with some tissues ready), and then, pass it on (with a pair of pliers) to parents you know with little ones who struggle with motor issues. Thanks to the genius of these professors and their open hearts, kids with special needs can be just “kids.” At least for a little while.

 

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 (just keep scrolling down). As always, we welcome your comments and input - send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Anne Geddes supports March of Dimes

24
Mar
Posted by Lindsay

Jack Holding Maneesha

World-renowned photographer Anne Geddes is lending her talent to support the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign and World Prematurity Day 2014. She will be taking an exclusive image this week that will be released specifically for the campaign in November. We couldn’t be more thrilled!

Ms. Geddes is a longtime advocate for children and babies, and says the issue of preterm birth is close to her heart. One of her earliest and most iconic images is this one called “Jack Holding Maneesha,” a photograph of a baby born prematurely at 28 weeks. This year, Maneesha celebrates her 21st birthday.

If you want to know more about this exciting collaboration, read our news release.

Heartburn during pregnancy

21
Mar
Posted by Sara

unhappy pregnant womanMany women have heartburn for the first time during pregnancy, particularly during the second and third trimesters. For some women, it just occurs every so often. But for others, it can be a relentless annoyance that gets worse as the pregnancy progresses.

Heartburn occurs when stomach acid is pushed up into the esophagus, the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach. Pregnancy hormones can relax the flap that separates your esophagus from your stomach and this can allow acids and food to move back up into your esophagus. This creates the burning sensation known as heartburn.

Pregnancy hormones also slow down the muscles that push food from your esophagus into your stomach and the muscles that contract to digest food in your stomach. This means that digestion actually takes longer during pregnancy. These changes can lead to indigestion, which can make you feel very full, bloated or gassy.

As your pregnancy progresses, your growing baby can also put pressure on your stomach and contribute to reflux. This is why many women experience more heartburn during the second and third trimesters.

Several things can cause heartburn and indigestion, such as:

• Greasy or fatty foods

• Chocolate, coffee and other drinks containing caffeine

• Onions, garlic or spicy foods

• Certain medications

• Eating a very large meal

• Eating too quickly

• Lying down after eating

There are a few things that you can do during pregnancy to try to help prevent heartburn:

Graze. Eating five or six small meals a day can help your body digest food better.

Grab a spoon. A few bites of plain, nonfat yogurt can sometimes help relieve the burning sensation.

Eat smart. Avoid spicy, greasy or fatty foods, chocolate and caffeine that can trigger heartburn

Loosen up. Wear loose clothing. Clothes that are tight can increase the pressure on your stomach.

Sit up after eating. Remaining upright allows gravity to help keep stomach contents out of your esophagus. If you can, wait at least 3 hours after a meal to lie down or go to bed.

Prop up your bed. Use pillows to prop up your mattress so that you raise your head a few inches higher than your stomach as you sleep.

Talk to your provider. If you need an antacid to relieve symptoms, talk to your health care provider to choose the right one for you. Over-the-counter antacids are usually considered safe during pregnancy, but do not take them unless you’ve talked to your doctor.

For most people, heartburn is temporary and mild. But severe heartburn can be the sign of a more serious problem. Talk to your health care provider if you have any of the following:

• Heartburn that returns as soon as your antacid wears off

• Heartburn that often wakes you up at night

• Difficulty swallowing

• Spitting up blood

• Black stools

• Weight loss

What is dyscalculia?

19
Mar
Posted by Barbara

math bead boardPrior blog posts have focused on the different kinds of learning disabilities (LDs) that often affect preemies (as well as children born full term). Today’s post focuses on a learning disability in math, also known as dyscalculia. Although it is not noticeable in babies or toddlers, your preemie may still be affected by this kind of LD, so it is good to know about it and keep an eye out for warning signs.

Every child has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning. But some have more intense problems (learning disabilities) in a particular area such as reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia) or math. For my daughter, her most difficult struggle was in math. “I hate math! Why do I have to do this?!”  I can’t tell you how many times I heard these words from my daughter. I can’t say I ever loved math, but I just didn’t understand the intensity of her dislike. But once she was diagnosed (through testing) with a math LD, it all became clear to me.

What is a math disability?

The experts at NCLD (National Center for Learning Disabilities) explain it best: “Individuals with dyscalculia have significant problems with numbers: learning about them and understanding how they work. Like other types of LD, the term dyscalculia does not capture the specific kinds of struggle experienced in such areas as math calculations, telling time, left/right orientation, understanding rules in games and much more.”

Dyscalculia is not a one-size-fits-all disability. There are varying degrees (mild to severe) and various kinds of math difficulties that may be present. No two kids with dyscalculia are exactly alike.

Similar to the other kinds of LDs, dyscalculia does not go away. Your child will not “outgrow it.” It is a lifelong disability; however, it CAN be managed. With the right kind of teaching methods, supports and/or accommodations, your child with dyscalculia CAN learn math.

Early warning signs of a math learning disability include difficulty…

• recognizing numbers or symbols

• remembering your phone number

• counting

• sorting items

• recognizing patterns of numbers

Later warning signs include difficulty…

• telling time

• knowing left from right

• estimating

• visualizing a number line

• counting by 2’s, 3’s, etc.

• reading a map

• memorizing multiplication facts

• counting change

• keeping score in a game

• experiencing intense anxiety when doing any kind of math work in school or at home

• retaining information (learning a concept one day but not recalling it the next)

• understanding word problems

• understanding formulas

See NCLD’s warning signs by age (from young children through adults).

Is a math LD common?

Although you may never have heard of dyscalculia, the NCLD reports that it is the next most common form of learning disability after dyslexia. As many as one in every seven kids may have a math learning disability.  That’s a lot of kids!

What can help your child?

Knowing what kind of learner your child is can make a huge difference. For instance, if your child learns best through visual and kinesthetic teaching, then seeing and touching/feeling or manipulating math items will be the best way for her to learn a concept. If a child learns best through auditory modes, then be sure that the teaching method includes verbal instructions. Many kids with LD (like mine) learn best through a combination approach – visual, kinesthetic and auditory. Attack the senses from all angles to help her understand and internalize the information presented.  The good news is that once she learns the concept the way her particular brain learns, she is unlikely to forget the information. (Yay!) Here are other strategies that may help:

• Getting extra time on tests or eliminating timed tests

• Using manipulatives (such as a bead counting board, magnets in the shape of numbers, or any other kind of object that your child can touch, hold, feel and work with.)

• Drawing pictures of word problems

• Using assistive technology (such as a calculator or a specialized math computer program)

As with other LDs, getting a clear diagnosis is key in knowing how to help your child. You can either ask the school district to test your child, or have her see a specialist for private testing. Once you have the results you will know where to focus treatment. NCLD has a full page of resources that may help.

Keep in mind that a child with a math learning disability may also have dyslexia or dysgraphia or other disorders that complicate learning. When this occurs, it becomes even more challenging for your child to learn. For instance, how can a child do a math word problem when she struggles with reading and understanding language? For this reason, getting help as early as possible and monitoring progress is very important.

Bottom line

Usually, a learning disability in math can be managed successfully. It takes getting the proper diagnosis as early as possible, getting the right program in place, continually advocating for your child, and providing plenty of positive reinforcement.

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

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 (just keep scrolling down). As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Laundry pods can be dangerous

17
Mar
Posted by Lindsay
Tide Pod

Tide Pod

Laundry pods are those prefilled pillows of super-concentrated laundry detergent designed to make your life nice and easy. (Pods are made for dishwashing, too.) They have become quite popular since 2012. But, since early 2012, poison-control centers nationwide have received reports of nearly 7,700 pod-related exposures to children age 5 years and younger. Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is now warning the public of this health hazard.

These pods are sometimes pretty, looking a bit like candy, and are enticing to little folk. Some toddlers have swallowed the pods and gotten seriously ill (excessive vomiting, trouble breathing) requiring hospitalization. Others have gotten the concentrated detergent in their eyes causing severe irritation.

Parents and caregivers, it is extremely important to keep this detergent well out of reach of children. Make sure the container they are in has a safety latch and that it is stored on an upper shelf outside the reach of curious tots.

If a child does chew on a pod, call the poison-control helpline immediately (800-222-1222).