Posts Tagged ‘Pregnancy’

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.

Birth defects

Friday, January 17th, 2014

In recognition of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, here are 10 things you need to know about birth defects from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC.
 
1. Birth defects are common.
Birth defects affect 1 in 33 babies in the United States every year. For many babies born with a birth defect, there is no family history of the condition.

2. Birth defects are costly and can greatly affect the finances not only of the families involved, but of everyone.
In the United States, birth defects have accounted for over 139,000 hospital stays during a single year, resulting in $2.6 billion in hospital costs. Families and the government share the burden of these costs. Additional costs due to lost wages or occupational limitations can affect families as well.

3. Birth defects are critical conditions.
Birth defects can be very serious, even life-threatening.  About 1 in every 5 deaths of babies before their first birthday is caused by birth defects in the United States. Babies with birth defects who survive their first year of life can have lifelong challenges, such as problems with infections, physical movement, learning, and speech.

4. Women should take folic acid during their teens and throughout their lives to help prevent birth defects.
Because half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned, all women who can become pregnant should get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, either by taking a vitamin each day or eating a healthy diet. Folic acid helps a baby’s brain and spine develop very early in the first month of pregnancy when a woman might not know she is pregnant.

5. Many birth defects are diagnosed after a baby leaves the hospital.
Many birth defects are not found immediately at birth, but most are found within the first year of life. A birth defect can affect how the body looks, how it works, or both. Some birth defects like cleft lip or spina bifida are easy to see. Others, like heart defects, are found using special tests, such as x-rays or echocardiography.

6. Birth defects can be diagnosed before birth.
Tests like an ultrasound and amniocentesis can detect some birth defects such as spina bifida, heart defects, or Down syndrome before a baby is born. Prenatal care and screening are important because early diagnosis allows families to make decisions and plan for the future.

7. Birth defects can be caused by many different things, not just genetics.
Most birth defects are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors. These factors include our genes, our behaviors, and things in the environment. For some birth defects, we know the cause. But for most, we don’t. Use of cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs; taking certain medicines; and exposure to chemicals and infectious diseases during pregnancy have been linked to birth defects. Researchers are studying the role of these factors, as well as genetics, as causes of birth defects.

8. Some birth defects can be prevented.
A woman can take some important steps before and during pregnancy to help prevent birth defects. She can take folic acid; have regular medical checkups; make sure medical conditions, such as diabetes, are under control; have tests for infectious diseases and get necessary vaccinations; and not use cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs.

9. There is no guaranteed safe amount of alcohol or safe time to drink during pregnancy.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are a group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can include physical problems and problems with behavior and learning which can last a lifetime. There is no known safe amount, no safe time, and no safe type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. FASDs are 100% preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol while pregnant.

10. An unborn child is not always protected from the outside world.
The placenta, which attaches a baby to the mother, is not a strong barrier. When a mother uses cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs, or is exposed to infectious diseases, her baby is exposed also. Healthy habits like taking folic acid daily and eating nutritious foods can help ensure that a child has the best chance to be born healthy.
For more information: www.cdc.gov/birthdefects.

Written By: Cynthia A. Moore, M.D., Ph.D. Director
Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

You don’t know what you don’t know

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

woman-on-laptopYes. That makes sense. No, I’m not being funny. You don’t know what you don’t know.

This is why we have updated our website to include article libraries for each subject category or topic. We have hundreds of articles on our website, on topics such as pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, birth and after birth, health problems, caring for your baby, your baby’s health, complications, loss and grief, research, advocacy, and much more.

When you search our website and read an article, a box appears to the right of the text titled “In this topic” where you will find other articles related to your topic. At the bottom of the box you can click on “See all in library” where you will then see additional articles, common questions and special features, on your topic.

Once you see all of the titles in the library, you may realize that you need to know more about a topic. Simply click on it to read all about it. For example, here is our article library for Getting ready for pregnancy. Until you see all of the other topics in the article library, you may not know what you don’t know!

We hope this info helps you in your knowledge search and that you find it easy to navigate. We’d love to hear your comments!

Happy reading.

Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects

Monday, January 6th, 2014

January 5-11 is National Folic Acid Awareness Week. Are you getting enough folic acid each day?

Today’s guest post is from the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

Folic acid is a B vitamin. If a woman consumes the recommended amount of folic acid before and during early pregnancy, it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain (known as anencephaly) and spine (known as spina bifida). Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which parts of a baby’s brain and skull do not form correctly. Babies born with anencephaly cannot survive. Spina bifida is a serious birth defect in which a baby’s spine does not develop correctly, and can result in some severe physical disabilities. All women, but especially those who want to become pregnant, need 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.

Do I need folic acid?

Yes! Every woman needs to get enough folic acid each day, even if she does not plan to become pregnant. This is because our bodies make new cells every day—blood, skin, hair, nails and others. Folic acid is needed to make these new cells. Start a healthy habit today and get 400 mcg of folic acid every day.

Why can’t I wait until I’m pregnant to start taking folic acid?

Birth defects of the brain and spine (anencephaly and spina bifida) happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman finds out she’s pregnant. Also, half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. These are two reasons why it is important for all women who can get pregnant to be sure to get 400 mcg of folic acid every day, even if they aren’t planning a pregnancy any time soon. By the time a woman realizes she’s pregnant, it might be too late to prevent these birth defects. Starting today is the best option!

How do I get folic acid?

An easy way to be sure you’re getting enough folic acid is to take a daily multivitamin with folic acid in it. Most multivitamins have all the folic acid you need. If you get an upset stomach from taking a multivitamin, try taking it with meals or just before bed. If you have trouble taking pills, you can try a multivitamin that is gummy or chewable. Also be sure to take it with a full glass of water.

Folic acid has been added to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals. Check the Nutrition Facts label on the food packaging. A serving of some cereals has 100% of the folic acid that you need each day.

In addition to getting 400 mcg of folic acid from supplements and fortified foods, you can eat a diet rich in folate. You can get food folate from beans, peas and lentils, oranges and orange juice, asparagus and broccoli, and dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, and mustard greens.
For More Information
CDC’s Folic Acid Homepage
Birth Defects COUNT
Spina Bifida Overview

Fundal height

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

pregnant womanFundal height is defined as the distance from the top of the uterus to the pubic bone. It is measured in centimeters. As your baby grows, the top of the uterus (the fundus) grows up and out of the pelvic cavity.  At about 12 weeks of pregnancy it can be felt just above the pubic bone.  At 20 weeks, it reaches the navel. At about this time, your health care provider will start to measure your fundal height at each prenatal care visit. He or she will measure from the top of your pubic bone to the top of your uterus.  The measurement allows your provider to see how well your baby is growing.

Your fundal height measurement should roughly equal the number of weeks you’ve been pregnant. For example, if you’re 20 weeks pregnant, your health care provider would expect your fundal height to be somewhere between 18-22 centimeters. It isn’t unusual, however, to measure somewhat smaller or larger than expected.  Individual body types and factors such as a full bladder or carrying multiples, can affect fundal height measurements.  Some medical reasons fundal heights may be greater or smaller than expected include:
   • Fetal growth that is too slow or too rapid
   • Too much or too little amniotic fluid
   • Uterine fibroids
   • A baby prematurely descending into the pelvis or settling into a breech or other unusual position

It is important to remember that fundal height is only a tool for evaluating fetal growth.  It is not an exact science. Typically, fundal height measurements reassure you and your provider about your baby’s steady development. However, there are individual variations and no two babies are exactly the same.  So if your measurements are a bit more or less than what you might expect, don’t worry. However, if you are concerned about your fundal height measurements, make sure you talk to your health care provider.  There are other prenatal tests that can be done to assure you that your baby is doing well and growing as he or she should be.

On bedrest? Here are ways to combat boredom

Monday, December 30th, 2013

bedrestIf you’re pregnant and on bedrest, for all or much of your day, you are not alone.  What can you do to still feel productive and connected to the world during this time?Here are some suggestions:

Let things that don’t matter… go! (or get some pixie dust)

It is next to impossible to have your house run as well as if you were not on bedrest… unless of course you have a Fairy Godmother.  But, in the absence of a magic wand or pixie dust, lower your expectations on how clean or orderly your home will be at the moment. Then you won’t stress about what is not done. In other words, cut yourself a break when it comes to how you usually get things done.  You are giving yourself time off. Think of it as “forced relaxation.”  Once your baby is here, these moments will be few and far between.

Misery loves company and virtual hugs

Log on to Share Your Story, the March of Dimes’ online community. There is a thread specifically for pregnant ladies on bedrest. Just “talking” with other women in the same situation will be supportive and comforting. Get your virtual hugs on a daily basis here!

Hello out there!…Stay in touch

A laptop can be a lifesaver. Now is a great time to try and stay in touch with friends whose friendships often fade due to lack of correspondence. Contact every friend that you have who lives out of state or out of the country. Once the baby arrives, keeping up with friends will be harder to do, so getting a jump on it now could be helpful. Then take the next step and put your address book on your computer to create labels for when you mail invitations, baby announcements or holiday cards.

Learn mini moves

Muscles become weak and atrophy (break down) when your body doesn’t move around. It happens very quickly. Ask your doctor if you can have a physical therapist visit you at home and give you some light exercises to do while you are in bed.  No double leg lifts, sit-ups or crunches please. Isometric exercises (where you tighten and release your muscles) may be just what you need. These minimal movements will help to keep some of your muscles from losing strength. Also, soft, gentle stretches and ankle rolls (moving your toes around in circles) will help with leg circulation and swelling. But, don’t take on any movements or exercises without your doc’s nod of approval first. And, remember, once your baby is here, you can gradually get back to your pre-pregnancy strength and body (after your doc gives you the go-ahead).

Work on your recipe collection

If you cut and clip recipes from magazines and have them stuffed into a drawer to organize “one day,” this may be just the right time. You can create a file on your computer and then have someone scan the recipes for you to upload. Then, organize your computer file by food group so you can easily find a recipe when you want it.

Update the baby book

If you have other children and still have not organized their baby books, this could provide you with the disciplined time to get it done. Keep markers, scissors, glue, tape and stapler on your night table and chip away at updating the book a little at a time. You’ll be so glad to have this keepsake to remember every precious milestone and moment.

Although research has not proved that bedrest is effective, it is still a common method of treatment for cervical insufficiency or other pregnancy problems. Many doctors recommend bedrest for conditions like high blood pressure, bleeding or carrying multiples that increase their risk of going into preterm labor. Whatever the reason for your bedrest, hopefully, your bed will become your new command central and your projects will help the time to fly by quickly.

What has worked for you?  We’d love to have you share your survival strategies.

Sleep during pregnancy

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

sleep2Almost all pregnant women have sleep problems at some point. Nausea, difficulty finding a comfortable position, having to get up umpteen times to pee, etc. all contribute to problems in Slumberland. Here are a few positioning tips:
Avoid sleeping flat on your back.
   • This position puts the full weight of your uterus on your back and on the major vein that carries blood between your lower body and heart.
   • Sleeping on your back can increase your chances of getting backaches. It can also aggravate digestive problems, heartburn and hemorrhoids.
   • Try to get used to sleeping on your side, particularly on your left side. This position can improve your circulation and help reduce swelling in your feet.
Use pillows.
   • Tuck one pillow between your legs.
   • Use more pillows to support your back and abdomen.
   • If you suffer from shortness of breath or heartburn, use pillows to lift up your upper body.

For more tips on getting through the night, or nap, read our information on sleeping problems.

Thinking about another baby?

Friday, December 20th, 2013

sibs

After giving birth, there are some women who want to have another baby right away.  Others need a bit more time in between children.  Although there is no right or wrong time to have another child there are certain health considerations that point to optimum birth spacing.

Timing pregnancies less than 18 months or more than five years apart could raise the odds of the second baby being born prematurely, at low birth weight, or small for gestational age.  With too short an interval, researchers theorize, the problem may be that a mother’s body needs more time to recover from the stress and depleted nutrients of the first pregnancy.  With longer spacing, the problem could be that fertility gradually declines after a woman delivers.

Some research (although limited) suggests that a pregnancy within 12 months of giving birth is associated with an increased risk of placental abruption or placenta previa in women who previously had a C-section.

While waiting may be ideal, we understand that not all women can wait 18 months before trying for another child.  If you are thinking about having another baby, make sure you schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider.  The two of you can discuss any health concerns.  Also, if you have had a premature baby, make sure you discuss ways to reduce your risk of having another premature birth.    Together you and your health care provider can choose the best time for you to add to your family.