Posts Tagged ‘premature birth’

Sensory difficulties in children

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Itchy shirt. Icky foods. Hair brushing is a nightmare. Shoes won’t stay on. Sounds make him cringe.
child dislikes food

Picky child or sensory dysfunction?

Our five senses: taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight help us navigate so much of our world. But for some children (and even adults), their senses are especially heightened and can interfere with daily life in a negative way.

•    Taste and smell
Parents often complain that their child can’t tolerate the taste or smell of many foods. Feeding their child becomes a nightmare. When my daughter was little, she would only eat approximately 10 foods (if that). She did not like the taste or smell of most foods and could not stay in the same room when I was cooking broccoli or another offending food.  She preferred sweets to salty treats, and a vegetable would not pass her lips (she would rather die fighting!).  Even if cajoled or bribed (yes – I bribed her) to eat a new food, she would often gag on it because the taste, smell or texture was too awful for her. As she grew up she would relate that she wanted to eat more foods, and was not happy that she had such a limited range of foods she found acceptable to eat. But, alas, it was not something she could control.

•    Sound
child coveringn earsAnother common sensory complaint is that of a hearing sensitivity. Certain sounds or noises are painful to hear. I am not talking about a rock concert or music being cranked on the highest volume. The bothersome sounds could be the barking of a dog, the crinkling of tin foil, the din of the voices in a cafeteria, the sound of a blender, hair dryer or vacuum cleaner. Typical sounds are abnormally loud to a child with a sound sensitivity and may cause him to cover his ears (at best) or disengage socially (at worst).

•    Touch
Other children are extra sensitive to touch. For example, they hate the feeling of certain clothes against their skin. They dislike getting dressed or undressed, and may have a vast wardrobe but will only wear three outfits! Clothes that are scratchy, have tags or are not soft enough for their skin will be tossed aside.  They may resist going into a bath (or getting out of the bath) due to the uncomfortable sensory changes on their skin. Similarly, applying sunscreen becomes a feat in and of itself.

•    Sight
Lastly, some children are extra sensitive visually. For example, bright lights, flashing lights and the change from indoor light to sunlight can make them close their eyes or head in the opposite direction.

Any one of the above sensory issues can wreak havoc on your child’s life – and yours. Some children have difficulties with more than one sense, too. There is debate as to whether sensory dysfunction is a diagnosis in and of itself, or if it is a symptom of a larger diagnosis (such as ADHD, autism, or another disorder). The important thing to remember is that for whatever reason, and whatever you want to call it, these sensory issues are real challenges in your child’s life.

In many cases, these sensitivities may be reduced through occupational therapy (read this post on OT) and through other kinds of treatments. If your child is extra sensitive, speak with his pediatrician and ask if OT or another kind of treatment may be helpful.

Stay tuned for future blog posts on treatment options and helpful hints for the above sensory issues.

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. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

How preeclampsia affects your baby

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

preemieLast week we reviewed the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. Today we’ll talk about how preeclampsia can affect your baby.

If you have preeclampsia, your health care provider can help you manage most health complications through regular prenatal care.

Treatment for preeclampsia depends on how severe your preeclampsia is and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Even if you have mild preeclampsia, you need treatment to make sure it doesn’t get worse.

Treatment for mild preeclampsia may include seeing your prenatal care provider more frequently for tests to make sure you and your baby are doing well. You may be able to stay at home and just be monitored.

More severe preeclampsia may require you to be admitted to the hospital or for you to be induced before your due date.

The high blood pressure that is a part of preeclampsia can narrow blood vessels in the uterus (womb) and placenta. The placenta supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. If the blood vessels in the placenta are narrow, your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients, causing him to grow slowly. This can lead to a low birthweight baby, a baby who weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces.

In many cases the only treatment for preeclampsia is the birth of your baby. This may result in your baby being born prematurely, or before 37 weeks of pregnancy.  Although the thought of having a premature baby can be frightening, it is important to remember that most babies of moms with severe preeclampsia before 34 weeks of pregnancy do better in a NICU than if they stay in the uterus.

Premature babies and low birthweight babies may have more health problems and need to stay in the NICU longer than babies born full-term. The earlier in pregnancy a baby is born, the more likely he is to have health problems. Some babies may have complications that can affect them their whole lives. But thanks to advances in medical care, even babies born very prematurely are more likely to survive today than ever before.

Anne Geddes supports March of Dimes

Monday, March 24th, 2014

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.

What is dysgraphia?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

chld-in-schoolPremature birth can lead to long-term challenges, such as learning disabilities.  Dysgraphia is a learning disability (LD) in the area of writing. It is a processing disorder, not just a problem with penmanship. It could mean your child has trouble holding a pencil or pen, forming letters and numbers, or spelling correctly. It can also mean your child struggles to organize his thoughts in his head and put those thoughts down on paper. Written work may be unclear and unorganized. In short, dysgraphia includes difficulty in all of the aspects of acquiring and expressing written language. Although dysgraphia may affect many preemies, it is also seen in children who are born full term.

Understanding writing

Writing involves a complex series of steps.  First, a child must learn how to form letters and understand combinations of letters and how they form sounds. Then he must learn how to put them all together in a coherent way using paper and pencil. The paper/pencil part requires eye/hand coordination and a certain amount of muscle strength and dexterity. And then there is another aspect to writing – organizing ideas in his head and being able to transfer his thoughts down on to paper. Whew…that is a lot of stuff going on just to write a few paragraphs on a piece of paper!

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), dysgraphia can be due to visual-spatial processing problems (when the brain has trouble making sense of what the eyes see) or language processing problems (when the brain has trouble making sense of what the ears hear).

Because writing depends so much on interpreting and using language, many children with dysgraphia also have other learning disabilities, such as dyslexia (reading), or other language impairments. Some may have attention problems, too. If your child has more than one challenge, the act of writing can become overwhelming. (And he is surely not going to like doing it.)

What are the warning signs of dysgraphia?

It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of dysgraphia because often children with an LD (or LDs) are mistaken for being lazy or unmotivated. The symptoms of dysgraphia vary widely depending on the age of your child. NCLD provides lists of signs or symptoms by age group, from very young children through adults.

How is dysgraphia treated?

Unfortunately, dysgraphia (like other LDs) is lifelong. But, fortunately, there are different treatments that may help a child overcome obstacles.

  •      A child may benefit from occupational therapy, as it may help increase hand coordination and muscle strength to improve writing stability.
  •      A child may also benefit from specialized instruction in school (through special education). Specialized writing programs can help a child with letter formation. Other programs help with topic and paragraph organization (such as graphic organizers).
  •      There are also ways around the problem – such as learning to type on a computer or boy on computerusing voice activated computer software which types a child’s words. Many children with writing problems find using a laptop or other computer to be the ticket to success for them. (My daughter started learning keyboarding skills in first grade (as part of her IEP), as a result of her dysgraphia. The fluent sentences that emerged from the computer shocked her teacher so much that she thought that I had helped her with her work! We were all amazed at what my daughter was able to do once we shifted all her written work to a computer.)

Where can you find more info?

If you suspect that your child has dysgraphia or any kind of LD, speak with your child’s pediatrician. You can also ask that your child be tested through your local school system. Of course, there are professionals who can test him outside of school, too. Getting a clear diagnosis and help as soon as possible is very important.

NCLD provides a list of helpful writing resources,  including a Resource Locator,  specific to your location and type of help needed.

Bottom line

With any disability, it takes time to find the right treatments to put in place. Then it takes lots of patience and tons of practice. During this time, your child may not want to have anything to do with drawing or writing. I can understand this, can’t you? I don’t like being forced to do things that are particularly hard for me.  But, hopefully, with the right therapy and program, and tons of positive reinforcement, your child will begin to overcome or learn to compensate for his challenges.

The sooner the disability is diagnosed and treatment is targeted and begun, the sooner your child can improve. As with any disability, the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the happier your child will be.

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. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

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.

What are learning disabilities?

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

chld-in-schoolPrematurity can cause problems during infancy, childhood and well into adulthood. The long lasting effects of premature birth can cause delays in understanding, reasoning, speaking and learning. One consequence of preterm birth may be learning disabilities. Learning disabilities (LD) do not only occur in babies born prematurely – they may occur in many babies who are born full term. It is important to learn about LD so that if your child is affected, you will know what to do.

There are different kinds of LD

At some point in your child’s life, he may have trouble with listening, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, reasoning or doing math. But when it becomes more than a temporary or minor struggle, it could be the sign of a learning disability. A learning disability is a problem with acquiring and processing information. It is also called a Specific Learning Disorder. There are different kinds of LD and they can vary from mild to severe.

By definition, an LD child is bright. In fact, he has at least average intelligence, and often well above average, but somehow learning is extra hard for him. An LD child is not lazy or undisciplined – he learns differently. However, without specialized instruction in “learning how to learn,” he can quickly fall behind his peers due to the additional time and effort it requires for him to make strides and stay on track. The amount of effort required to accomplish tasks that his peers can do is off kilter. As a result, your child may become frustrated and exhausted, and if he does not receive intervention, the problem may continue to worsen.

The most common forms are grouped into the following areas:

Dyslexia – difficulty processing language- trouble with reading, spelling and writing
Dysgraphia – difficulty with handwriting
Dyscalculia – difficulty learning math –arithmetic, telling time and word problems

Other forms of LD or related disorders include CAPD (central auditory processing disorder), nonverbal learning disability, visual and motor disabilities, dyspraxia, apraxia and aphasia. A child can have a learning disability in more than one area. Click here to learn more.

A learning disability usually becomes evident when a child is in elementary school, as this is the time when he is required to learn to read, spell, write and do math. In other words, there are suddenly hard expectations put on your child, and his difficulties become much more noticeable. However, the early signs or symptoms of LD may have been present in the preschool years (such as difficulty with counting or rhyming, fine motor skills or listening) so suddenly all those difficult behaviors you noticed back then make sense now.

What should you do?

If you suspect that your child is not learning as he should, speak to your child’s health care provider. Also, check out NICHCY’s discussion on LD to see the possible signs of LD and learn what to do to have your child’s school (or another professional) test him. If your child has a learning disability, beginning intervention (usually through specialized teaching), is critical in helping your child learn how to learn and start catching up. It is also important for self-confidence and overall happiness.

Your child is in good company

Individuals with LD have gone on to become incredibly successful in every walk of life. It is said that the following famous people (along with hundreds of other famous people) suffer from dyslexia or another type of learning disability.

Director Steven Spielberg
Actors Henry Winkler, Whoopie Goldberg, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly and Emma Thompson and Tom Cruise
Comedian Jay Leno
Entertainer Cher
Olympian Bruce Jenner
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy

I urge you to do your own internet search as you will be amazed by how many accomplished individuals have a learning disability. You can start your search here.

On a personal note

My daughter’s journey includes learning disabilities. (She was born at 38.2 weeks.) She will be the first to tell you that without her specialized schooling she would not be the young adult she is today. Even though she had all 3 of the D’s as well as CAPD, she grew up loving to read and write. (OK, so she still hates and struggles with math…you can’t win them all!) She acted in plays in high school and continues to act in Community Theater productions. She is working on writing a collection of stories for “tweens.”  Her day job is in a preschool as an assistant teacher. The kid that hated school (reading, writing and math), overcame much of her disability to become successful. The key was getting her help early.

Bottom line

There is no “cure” for LD. But, if your child is diagnosed with a learning disability, don’t despair. With the right services and supports, your child with LD can learn. In time, the focus will shift from his disabilities to his abilities. Just get help for him as soon as possible.

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. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Prematurity Research Initiative

Friday, January 31st, 2014

In 2005, the March of Dimes began the Prematurity Research Initiative (PRI), which funds research into the causes of prematurity. More than $15 million has been awarded to 43 grantees over the past 6 years. Some PRI grantees are exploring how genetics or a combination of genetic and environmental factors may influence a woman’s chances of going into labor prematurely. Others are examining how infections may trigger early labor. One of every three premature births can be attributed an infection in a woman’s uterus, which may have presented with no symptoms.

Treating preterm labor –
PRI grantees also are exploring new ways to treat preterm labor. Some are studying how the body normally suppresses uterine contractions until a baby reaches full term, so that new drugs can be developed to prevent or stop preterm labor.

Saving preemies’ lives –
In addition to PRI support, the March of Dimes funds prematurity research through its national research program. Grantees are improving the care of premature babies by developing new ways to help prevent or treat common complications of prematurity. For example, researchers helped develop surfactant treatment, which has saved tens of thousands of premature babies with breathing problems.

Transdisciplinary research centers –
A novel approach to address the complex problem of preterm birth and the resulting prematurity is a transdisciplinary effort within which many diverse disciplines work together by integrating research. By working together, they can examine this problem from new perspectives in ways that individual studies do not allow. The March of Dimes has established the first transdisciplinary research center and plans to promote the establishment of several more.

Our new national ambassador

Monday, January 27th, 2014

2014-ambassador-aidan

The March of Dimes is excited to introduce our 2014 National Ambassador, six year old Aidan Lamothe. Born 12 weeks early, Aidan weighed just 3 lbs and spent 7 weeks in a NICU receiving treatments for breathing problems, his low birthweight, and other prematurity related issues.

Each year on his birthday, Aidan visits the NICU and says “thank you” to the doctors and nurses. Even as a young child, he understood how serious it is to be born prematurely and decided he wanted to volunteer to tell his story to help others. As our National Ambassador, he will travel with his parents to help raise funds and awareness for premature birth.

Welcome Aidan!

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.

PREEMIE Act signed into law

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

On Nov. 27th, President Barack Obama signed into law S. 252, the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, a bill to reauthorize federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.

“The PREEMIE Act represents the federal government’s commitment to reducing the devastating toll of preterm birth,” stated Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes.  “By signing this bill into law, President Obama has enabled vital research and education on the prevention of prematurity to continue.  The March of Dimes is deeply grateful to him, as well as the authors of the PREEMIE Act – Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) – for their tireless efforts to ensure that no baby is born too soon.

“Today, one in every nine U.S. infants is born preterm.  Due to concerted efforts by the March of Dimes and our partners, this number has gone down for the past six consecutive years, but it is still too high.  Prematurity can lead to a host of adverse health consequences for these babies and place a terrible strain on their families.  In addition, preterm birth carries a significant cost to businesses and our economy.  The average premature birth costs 12 times as much as a healthy birth.  The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act will sustain the vital federal investment in promoting healthy pregnancies, healthy infants, and healthy families.”

Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman; in many cases, the cause of preterm birth is unknown. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal death, and those babies who survive are more likely to suffer from intellectual and physical disabilities. In addition to its human, emotional, and financial impact on families, preterm birth places a tremendous economic burden on the nation.  A 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine found the cost associated with preterm birth in the United States was $26.2 billion annually, or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Employers, private insurers and individuals bear approximately half of the costs of health care for these infants, and another 40 percent is paid by Medicaid.

S. 252 was endorsed and strongly supported by a wide range of organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the National Association of City and County Health Officers, and more.

The original PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) brought the first-ever national focus to prematurity prevention.  The Surgeon General’s Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth required by the Act generated a public-private agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and support evidence-based interventions to prevent preterm birth. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act reauthorizes critical federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.