Posts Tagged ‘Pregnancy’

Latina health chat

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Join us this Wednesday!

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

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Nacersano.org, our Spanish-language site

Monday, March 31st, 2014

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.

Heartburn during pregnancy

Friday, March 21st, 2014

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

Join our chat on morning sickness

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Join us Thursday March 13th at 1 PM ET.

Morning Sickness Tweet Chat

Got the munchies?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

sweet treatsYou’re pregnant and can’t stop nibbling. But that’s OK because you’re eating for two, right? No, not really. You only need 300 extra calories per day to support your baby’s growth and development. But you don’t have to give up all the foods you love when you’re pregnant. You just need to eat smart and make sure that most of your choices are healthy ones.   You may find that your interest in food changes, perhaps a lot, during pregnancy. The old joke about pickles and ice cream came about for a good reason. You may not be very hungry during the first months. But you may want to eat everything in the house during the later months! Every woman is different, so if you don’t crave anything, that’s OK, too.

Watch your portions—you may be eating more than you think – and if you’re a grazer who eats “just a little” but all day long, keep an eye on your end-of-day total consumption. Those little doses of calories can add up to a lot! It will help you if you avoid lots of sugar and fat in your diet, too, so nosh on berries or bananas instead of bread pudding or sticky buns.  fruit

The important thing is to eat healthy foods that you like, handle them safely, and avoid foods that might be harmful throughout your pregnancy.

Congratulations CVS Caremark

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

stop smokingThe March of Dimes congratulates CVS Caremark for its historic decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its pharmacies and stores nationwide. By becoming the first U.S. pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco, CVS Caremark has become a pioneer in improving the health of American women and children today and in the future. Tobacco is poisonous to women who smoke and to their unborn babies. Smoking during pregnancy contributes to miscarriage and premature birth, and we learned just last month from the U.S. Surgeon General that smoking is a proven cause of disfiguring oral clefts. We’re grateful to CVS Caremark for working to improve the health and the lives of mothers and babies.

Fluid retention

Friday, February 7th, 2014

feetYou’re in your last trimester, you feel great in the morning but like a squishy beach ball at night. By evening you may find your legs, feet and ankles are swollen due to fluid retention. And rings may become too tight to wear on swollen fingers. Unpleasant as this may be, slight swelling, especially in the evening, is pretty common and nothing to worry about. But call your health care provider if you have severe or sudden swelling, particularly in your hands or in your face around the eyes. This could be a sign of a serious condition called preeclampsia.

Here are some ways to prevent and relieve swelling:

  • Get up, stretch and move around periodically. No long-term couch potatoes!
  • Exercise, like walking or swimming, improves circulation and lessens swelling.
  • Cooling off can help. If it’s hot outside, take a cool shower, float in a pool in the shade, use cool compresses to make yourself comfortable.
  • Put your feet up. Elevated tootsies help keep fluids from pooling in your feet. And don’t cross your legs when you sit.
  • Avoid tight clothes and jewelry. Many women remove rings or even their wristwatch in the last month or so.
  • Salty foods can make you retain water, so avoid excess salt. But some salt in your diet is good for you. 
  • Do drink fluids, especially water. Odd as it may sound, you don’t want to risk dehydration.

Call your health care provider right away if one leg swells larger than another, if swelling comes on quickly (especially in the hands and face) or if it is accompanied by a nasty headache, changes in your vision, dizziness or belly pain. These are all signs of preeclampsia.

Considering fertility treatment

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

coupleIf you’ve been trying to get pregnant for three or four months, keep trying. It may just take more time, even longer than you think it could. But, you may want to think about fertility treatment if you’re younger than 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for at least a year, or you’re 35 or older and have been trying to get pregnant for at least six months.

Here are some things you and your partner can do to find out if you need treatment:
   • Talk to your health care provider about whether or not you need treatment.
   • Learn about how things like smoking and weight affect fertility. It’s possible that you may be able to make changes in your life that will help you get pregnant without fertility treatment. Talk to your health care provider about what you can do on your own, without fertility treatment.
   • Tell your health care provider about diseases and other health problems in your family.
   • Keep a monthly diary of your periods. Write down the date you start and end your period each month. This will help you figure out when you ovulate.  
   • Have your partner get his sperm tested to make sure it’s healthy.
   • Have a test to make sure your fallopian tubes are open and your uterus is a normal shape. (When your ovary releases an egg, it travels down the fallopian tube to your uterus.)

If you’ve tried various options and think it’s time to speak to a fertility specialist, read our information on when and how to find a fertility specialist and center. You’ll find information on risks and benefits, who pays for it, and more.

Are artificial sweeteners safe during pregnancy?

Friday, January 24th, 2014

artificial-sweetener1Dr. Siobhan Dolan discusses the safety of artificial sweeteners in the new March of Dimes book healthy mom, healthy baby.

Sugar substitutes such as acesulfame potassium, aspartame, saccharin, neotame, and sucralose are thought to be safe to eat in moderate amounts during pregnancy.

Saccharine may cause bladder cancer in rats when ingested in high doses, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says humans are not in danger. Saccharine does cross the placenta and can accumulate in your baby’s body, so its consumption during pregnancy is controversial. The most cautious choice is to avoid it.

Note:  Women with a metabolic disorder known as phenylketonuria (PKU) should not have aspartame (sold as NutraSweet or Equal) because it contains an ingredient (phenylalanine) that their bodies cannot process.

You can read more about Dr. Dolan’s book, and even order a copy, at this link.

Smoking causes birth defects

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

stop-smokingTo dispel any uncertainty about the serious harm caused to babies and pregnant women by smoking, the first-ever comprehensive systematic review of all studies over the past 50 years has established clearly that maternal smoking causes a range of serious birth defects including heart defects, missing/deformed limbs, clubfoot, gastrointestinal disorders, and facial disorders (for example, of the eyes and cleft lip/palate).  

Smoking during pregnancy is also a risk factor for premature birth, says Dr. Michael Katz, senior Vice President for Research and Global Programs of the March of Dimes. He says the March of Dimes urges all women planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant to quit smoking now to reduce their chance of having a baby born prematurely or with a serious birth defect. Babies who survive being born prematurely and at low birthweight are at risk of other serious health problems, Dr. Katz notes, including lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and learning problems. Smoking also can make it harder to get pregnant, and increases the risk of stillbirth.

About 20 percent of women in the United States reported smoking in 2009. Around the world, about 250 million women use tobacco every day and this number is increasing rapidly, according to data presented at the 2009 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Mumbai.

The new study, “Maternal smoking in pregnancy and birth defects: a systematic review based on 173,687 malformed cases and 11.7 million controls,” by a team led by Allan Hackshaw, Cancer Research UK & UCL Cancer Trials Centre, University College London, was published online January 17th in Human Reproduction Update from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.  

When women smoke during pregnancy, the unborn baby is exposed to dangerous chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar, Dr. Katz says. These chemicals can deprive the baby of oxygen needed for healthy growth and development.

During pregnancy, smoking can cause problems for a woman’s own health, including:

  • Ectopic pregnancy

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Placental abruption, in which the placenta peels away, partially or almost completely, from the uterine wall before delivery

  • Placenta previa, a low-lying placenta that covers part or all of the opening of the uterus

Smoking is also known to cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, gum disease and eye diseases that can lead to blindness. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, there has never been a better time to quit.

You can read the Surgeon General’s report: The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress at this link.