Family Team News

Register for March for Babies at marchforbabies.org

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Why I Walk Wednesday: Arlo & Shay

When two moms were placed on bedrest at Novant Health Prince William Medical Center, they had no idea what bonding and friendship would form because of their situations. Deena was diagnosed with Placenta Previa, a condition where the placenta lies low in the uterus and covers the cervix causing heavy bleeding. She was placed on hospital bedrest for five weeks. The staff promised her "This will be over before you know it." They were right!

Arlo was born via an emergency cesarean section at 32 weeks. He spent 35 days in the NICU. Through all the alarms and feeding tubes he never gave up. From his little NICU bed, Arlo was alert and curious about the world outside. He was always looking beyond the door to his future. Today, he’s a thriving one-year-old. His amazing smile lights up the room.

Audrey’s three weeks on hospital bedrest was due to a rupture in her amniotic sac. It was anything but “Rest” as staff came in around the clock to monitor her and the baby. The staff at PW Novant was incredible and made big sis (age 1) feel like a rockstar when she visited her mommy each day. Shay was born via an emergency c-section at 30 weeks (3 months sooner than big sister, Reese). She was unable to breathe on her own for several weeks. Shay spent 43 days in the NICU slowly gaining weight and growing strong. Now, this one-year-old is meeting and exceeding her milestones. Shay will continue to have issues with breathing as her lungs were not fully developed at birth, but with her fighting spirit, she will continue to thrive.

Deena and Audrey constantly checked on one another's infant while they were in the NICU and continue to message one another daily. They can't imagine this past year without the support from each other. Their bond is incredible. They rode the NICU roller coaster together and that is a ride many people cannot understand.

While Arlo and Shay were in the NICU during March for Babies last year, both families are looking forward to walking with their miracle babies this year. 

Neither Deena or Audrey imagined this experience would happen to them. That's why they encourage you to participate in March for Babies – to help the March of Dimes fight prematurity so more babies can get the strongest start possible.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Why I Walk Wednesday: Kami


When she was 30 weeks pregnant, Shauna went into premature labor and was put on strict bedrest. Five days later, she gave birth to Kamryn via emergency C-section. Born 10 weeks early, "Kami" was soon diagnosed with periventricular leukomalacia, which is a brain injury found in infants -- particularly in premature babies. 

After being in the NICU at UMMC (almost two hours from their home) for the longest two months ever, Kami was able to come home. 

Kami had her first seizure when she was nine-months-old. She was diagnosed with epilepsy. A short time later, she was further diagnosed with spastic quad cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment, torticollis and asthma. Kami is now four-years-old and has a contagious smile. She is full of life and teaches everyone what life is really all about!

Kami and her family are this year's March for Babies Ambassadors for Suburban Maryland. You can meet Team Grimes at the Southern Maryland March for Babies at Regency Furniture Stadium, which is the home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs baseball team. They invite everyone to join March for Babies so that moms can have healthy, full-term pregnancies. Register for a walk near you at marchforbabies.org. A few of them are at baseball parks!  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why I Walk Wednesday: Lucy

At their initial prenatal visit, Lucy’s parents found out they were having monochorionic diamniotic twins, identical twins who share a placenta but have separate amniotic sacs. From early on, one twin was measuring much smaller and they were diagnosed with early onset twin to twin transfusion syndrome, a dangerous and potentially fatal complication. Furthermore, at the first trimester screening, the smaller baby was diagnosed with holoprosencephaly, a severe brain abnormality. The doctors thought it was likely that both of the twins had a severe chromosomal abnormality; however, the bigger twin had appeared normal on all ultrasounds. Due to the TTTS and the very sick twin, the difficult decision was made to have a selective cord coagulation laser procedure by the fetal therapy team at Johns Hopkins in hopes to save the other twin. After much testing (two amniocentesis and one CVS procedure), it was determined that the remaining baby was a healthy girl and did not share her sister’s chromosomal deletion. Then, just shy of 28 weeks, at a routine prenatal visit, Lucy’s mother was diagnosed with preeclampsia and admitted after presenting with high blood pressure and proteinuria. She spent the next 22 out of 27 days in the hospital being closely monitored until on Feb 17th, Lucy was born at 31 weeks, weighing just 2lbs, 8.6 ounces. She was born via C-section after a failed induction attempt. She spent the next 45 days in the NICU and was able to go home two weeks shy of her due date. She is now a healthy, happy one-year-old. Lucy's mom is a nurse practitioner at The Pediatric Center who participates in March for Babies because she knows that March of Dimes is hope for the future and improved pregnancy and birth outcomes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why I Walk Wednesday: Jaxon

At 33 weeks, Jaxon’s mother discovered that she was leaking amniotic fluid. She was admitted to the hospital and put on an IV antibiotic to prevent an infection to Jaxon. The hope was to delay Jaxon’s arrival until 35 weeks. However, he was delivered by emergency C-section within 4 hours. Jaxon’s dad was able to see him briefly before he was taken to the NICU for unstable oxygen levels. He was put on a C-PAP because he could not breathe on his own, and he was in an incubator to help control his temperature. His liver was also not functioning correctly. Jaxon’s parents spent as many hours as possible by his side. Thanks to the wonderful care in the NICU, along with the kangaroo care and breast milk he received, Jaxon was able to come home after only 16 days. Jaxon may only measure in the 5th percentile for his age, but he is now a happy, healthy, and inquisitive little boy. Jaxon and his family look forward to seeing you and your teammates at March for Babies this year.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Updated recommendations for newborn screening

Recently, two conditions were added to the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP) for newborn screening:  Mucopolysaccharidosis type 1 (MPS1) and X-linked Adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD).

Newborn screening recommendations

All babies in the United States get newborn screening before they leave the hospital. Newborn screening looks for rare but serious and mostly treatable health disorders. Babies with these disorders often look healthy. But if the condition is not diagnosed and treated early, a baby can develop lasting physical problems or intellectual disabilities, or may even die. The RUSP is a recommendation from the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children (SACHDNC) and is not enforced by law. Each state decides what conditions they test for on their newborn screening panel. Find out what conditions your state tests for here.

MPS1

Children with MPS1 cannot break down certain types of complex sugars. The build-up of these sugars interferes with the function of other proteins and causes problems in many tissues and organs. Children with MPS1 often have no signs or symptoms at birth. The age of onset of the condition, the symptoms, and the long-term outcome are variable. However, for those who are severely affected, the use of umbilical cord blood or bone marrow transplants may be beneficial.  Enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) is also approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for children with MPS1 who do not have central nervous system involvement, and it appears that the age at which ERT is initiated influences the outcome.  Newborn screening for MPS1 will permit earlier initiation of ERT.

X-ALD

X-ALD is a genetic disorder that occurs mostly in boys. In this disorder, the fatty covering (myelin) that insulates nerves in the brain and spinal cord is broken down. This reduces the ability of the nerves to relay information to the brain. X-ALD can cause serious and permanent disability or death.  The only effective treatment is early identification by newborn screening, and stem cell therapy (bone marrow or cord blood transplantation), sometimes along with other life-saving treatments.

“For both of these conditions, the critical importance of early diagnosis and intervention means that newborn screening is a critical tool for saving lives,” said Dr. Jennifer Howse, President of the March of Dimes. “The March of Dimes will be advocating across the nation for the addition of these two conditions to newborn screening panels in every state.  We urge states to take up this vitally important issue as quickly as possible to ensure that all newborns can benefit from these potentially life-saving tests.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Why I Walk Wednesday: Tristan


Premature delivery was anticipated for Tristan, so his mother was given a round of drugs to develop his lungs and she had blood drawn three days a week. Tristan had a high heart rate, and the doctors were attempting to treat him in utero by administering drugs to his mother. After visiting the specialist for a weekly blood draw on July 3, Tristan’s mother was told to go to the hospital immediately. Tristan's heart was no longer responding to the drugs and fluid was beginning to build up around his heart. On July 4, Tristan was delivered by C-section at 30 weeks gestation. The delivery was uneventful, and after showing Tristan to his mother, he was whisked away to the NICU.

The first few days were vital because no regiment of medicine was helping Tristan get better, causing a code blue to be called multiple times. About three days later, they were able to stabilize him. Tristan required surgery to correct a patent ductus arteriosus 
(PDA), and eleven days after his birth, he had his first surgery. The next few weeks were challenging as Tristan went through tests, which revealed that his blood was abnormal and there was concern of no audible function in his right ear. Tristan developed jaundice, was sedated, and had to have four blood transfusions. As the weeks passed, even though the test results were not always favorable, he started to eat better and gain weight.

Despite the adversity he faced within the first few years of his life, Tristan has grown into an intelligent, perceptive, and loving boy. Tristan participates in March for Babies each year with his team Tristan’s Trotters. Join your local March for Babies at marchforbabies.org. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Getting guilt-free time off

Few parents can afford the kind of support or home care that would truly provide the respite you need to recharge your batteries. Therefore, you need to be creative in trying to build in snippets of time off.

Parenting a preemie, a child with a birth defect, developmental delay or disability is all-consuming. The physical and emotional toll it takes on a parent can be so heavy that you may wonder how you will go on if you don’t get a break.

Here is what used to work for me:

I decided that every Wednesday was my day off. On that day, I would not make a bed, empty the dishwasher, do laundry (unless absolutely necessary), book doctor or therapy appointments, or otherwise do anything that I usually did on the other six days of the week. Returning non-emergency, non-important emails or phone calls could wait until the next day. After all, I was “off duty” – the usual daily chores could wait. I did not feel guilty that beds were unkempt, because after all, I was off duty. I did not care that if someone rang my doorbell, the house was not tidy because (you guessed it) I was off duty. Dinner was simple – leftovers or take out, on paper plates please! It was my day off so I didn’t have to cook or do dishes. All I had to do that day was take care of my children and myself, which was enough. Wednesday was the day I gave myself a free pass.

It may sound silly or overly simple, but it worked for me. I looked forward to that day in the middle of the week when I didn’t have to do all the things that I usually did on the other days of the week. It was a little way for me to give myself a reprieve without feeling guilty. After all, with most jobs, you get time off to recharge your batteries and become refreshed. Parents raising kids with special healthcare needs must have “time off,” too, even if they can’t physically get away.

Here is another approach I used when my kids got a bit older. I would tell them that at 9 pm I “turn into a pumpkin” (a la Cinderella). That meant they had to have homework done, backpacks packed, and questions asked because I was about to go into my room to unwind (usually by watching a TV show). I can still hear them telling each other “We better show mom this (whatever it was) fast because it is almost pumpkin time!” It was a way for me to know that my day had an end (sort of), and a way for them to respect that Mom needed time to relax. It was amazing how quickly everyone got used to the routine. I even got a night shirt with the words “OFF DUTY” on the front! (A little extra emphasis can be a good thing…haha!) The bottom line is that this method worked well for my family, and especially for me.

Let’s face it, your kids need you, and they need you to be fully functional. If you can’t get someone to help give you a break, maybe my little day-off scenario and “pumpkin” deadline will work for you.

If you have a method of how you get re-charged, please share.

 

Note: The mini-series on Delays and Disabilities has lots of info to help you if you have a child with special needs. Please feel free to comment and make suggestions. If you have questions, send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Why I Walk Wednesday: Amelia Keppel

Amelia Keppel was born two months too soon and weighed just 2 pounds, 3 ounces. During her two month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), she received multiple blood transfusions and faced persistent breathing issues. Because the NICU was closed to siblings, her sisters, Maddie and Tess, did not get to meet Amelia face to face until she came home 63 days later. It was also her original due date. 

Amelia began receiving early intervention services when she was 6 months old, and she has always needed intensive learning support in school due to severe processing and archiving issues. 

Today, Amelia is 12 years old and enjoys horseback riding, swimming and acting. She will be joined by her spirited team "La Famiglia di Amelia" at March for Babies in Baltimore. You can find a walk near you and sign up at marchforbabies.org.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Is it possible to stop preterm labor?

This is a question we received recently through the March of Dimes website. Preterm labor is labor that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. If you have preterm labor, your health care provider may recommend some treatments that may help stop your contractions and prevent health problems in you and your baby.

There are three kinds of medicines your provider may give you if you’re having preterm labor:

Antenatal corticosteroids (also called ACS). These speed up your baby’s lung development. They also help reduce your baby’s chances of having certain health problems after birth, such as:

  • respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), a condition that affects a baby’s breathing
  • intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH), bleeding in the brain, and
  • necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a condition that affects a baby’s intestines.

Antibiotics. These kill infections caused by bacteria. You may need antibiotics to help prevent infections in you and your baby if you have Group B strep infection or if you have preterm premature rupture of membranes (also called PPROM). PPROM is when the sac around your baby breaks before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Tocolytics. These slow or stop labor contractions. Tocolytics may delay labor, often for just a few days. There are many different types of tocolytics and not all of them are appropriate for everyone. If you have a health condition, like a heart problem or severe preeclampsia, some tocolytics may not be safe for you.

These treatments are not a guarantee to stop preterm labor. But if you’re having preterm labor, they may help you stay pregnant longer. Staying pregnant just a few days longer can be beneficial for your baby.

Make sure you know the signs of preterm labor:

  • Contractions (your belly tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes or more often
  • Change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or bleeding from your vagina)
  • Pelvic pressure—the feeling that your baby is pushing down
  • Low, dull backache
  • Cramps that feel like your period
  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea

Call your health care provider or go to the hospital right away if you think you’re having preterm labor, or if you have any of the warning signs. Call even if you have only one sign. Early treatment may help stop preterm labor or delay it long enough so that you can get treatment with ACS or to get to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Learn more about preterm labor on our website.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Why I Walk Wednesday: Danielle Matragrano

Every Wednesday during March for Babies season, we'll feature a local NICU to Now story. This week, we're featuring Danielle's story as recalled by her mom Jennifer.

It was the day of my 25 week checkup and the doctor said I needed to go to the Fair Oaks hospital because there was protein in my urine and my blood pressure was off the chart. We went straight to the hospital where I was told I was suffering from preeclampsia and they would have to perform an emergency C-section. We were transferred via ambulance to Fairfax Hospital where Danielle Grace Matragrano was born weighing only 1 pound, 2 ounces and was 10 inches long.  

We stayed in the NICU for 118 days and experienced a roller coaster of emotions. Danielle is now a healthy, active 4-year-old. She is involved in karate, dance, gymnastics and loves going to Disney World.

Make a difference for babies like Danielle by joining your local March for Babies! Register today at marchforbabies.org.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

World Birth Defects Day 2016

More than 8 million babies worldwide are born each year with a serious birth defect. Birth defects are a leading cause of death in the first year of life, and babies who survive may be physically or mentally disabled, taking a costly toll on their families, communities and nations.

The March of Dimes and over 50 other international organizations working for birth defects are joining World Birth Defects Day, observed every year on March 3 to raise awareness of this serious global problem and advocate for more surveillance, prevention, care and research to help babies and children. We are urging the public, governments, non-governmental organizations, policymakers, researchers and health care providers around the world to help us work together toward a healthier future for children.

Birth defects affect all races and ethnicities. Everyone can get involved in raising awareness. Please observe World Birth Defects Day by participating in social media activities and share a story or picture about the impact of birth defects on you and your family.

What can you do?
  1. Post an announcement on your blog, Facebook, Twitter or other social media platform.
  2. Register to be a part of the Thunderclap — a message will be sent out at 9:00 a.m. EST on March 3 to help raise awareness
  3. Join the Buzzday on Twitter on March 3. Plan to send one or more messages using the #WorldBDDay tag at some point during the day. Retweet both promotional and day-of messages to build our buzz for the day.

We look forward to having you join the conversation. Together, we can make strides to improve knowledge and raise awareness.

If you have questions, send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Preconception health for dads

We talk a lot about getting a woman’s body ready for pregnancy. But what about men? Dad’s health before pregnancy is important too. Here are a few things men can do if they are thinking about having a baby in the future.

Avoid toxic substances in your workplace and at home

If you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, it may be more difficult if you are exposed to the following substances:

  • Metals (like mercury or lead)
  • Products that contain lots of chemicals (like certain cleaning solutions, pesticides or gases)
  • Radioactive waste, radiation or other dangerous substances (like drugs to treat cancer or X-rays)

Read more about how to protect yourself at work and at home here.

Get to a healthy weight

Obesity is associated with male infertility. And people who are overweight have a higher risk for conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and possibly some cancers.

Prevent STDs

A sexually transmitted disease (also called STD) is an infection that you can get from having sex with someone who is infected. You can get an STD from vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Many people with STDs don’t know they’re infected because some STDs have no symptoms. About 19 million people get an STD each year in the United States.

It is important to continue to protect yourself and your partner from STDs during pregnancy. STDs can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies and cause problems, such as premature birth, birth defects, miscarriage, and stillbirth.

Stop smoking, using street drugs, and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol

All of these behaviors are harmful to your health. Being around people who smoke is dangerous for pregnant women and babies. Being exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy can cause your baby to be born with low birthweight.

Secondhand smoke is dangerous to your baby after birth. Babies who are around secondhand smoke are more likely than babies who aren’t to have health problems, like pneumonia, ear infections, asthma, and bronchitis. They’re also more likely to die of SIDS.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and using street drugs can negatively affect a man’s fertility.

Know your family’s health history

Your family health history is a record of any health conditions and treatments that you, your partner and everyone in both of your families have had. It can help you find out about medical problems that run in your family that may affect your baby. Taking your family health history can help you make important health decisions. Knowing about health conditions before or early in pregnancy can help you and your health care provider decide on treatments and care for your baby.

Be supportive of your partner

Help your partner. If she is trying to quit smoking, make sure you support her efforts—and join her if you need to quit too! If she has a medical condition, encourage her to see her doctor.

Even before pregnancy, dads play an important role in their baby’s lives, so make sure you are planning for the future too.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Understanding lead exposure


You have probably heard reports about lead being found in drinking water over the past few weeks. Lead is a metal. You can’t see, smell or taste lead, but it can be harmful to everyone, especially pregnant women and young children. You and your child can come in contact with lead by breathing it in from dust in the air, swallowing it in dust or dirt, or drinking it in water from pipes that are made of lead.

Here is some important information about lead:

High lead levels in the blood of pregnant women is associated with increased rates of preterm birth and other problems in their babies. Exposure to lead is more dangerous to children than to adults. About half a million to 1 million children in the United States have high levels of lead in their blood.

If you think your child has been exposed to lead from the water at home, tell your child’s health care provider. She can check your child’s blood for lead.

If you’re renting a home and are concerned about lead, talk to your landlord. He’s responsible for making repairs safely. If you need help talking to your landlord about lead, contact your local health department.

If you have lead pipes in your house or if you have well water, lead may get into your drinking water. Boiling water does not get rid of lead. If you think you have lead in your water:

  • Use bottled or filtered water for cooking, drinking and mixing baby formula.
  • If you’re using tap water, use cold water from your faucet for drinking and cooking. Water from the cold-water pipe has less lead and other harmful substances than water from the hot-water pipes.
  • Run water from each tap before drinking it or using it for cooking, especially if you haven’t run the water for a few hours. If the faucet hasn’t been used for 6 hours, run the water until you feel its temperature change.
  • Contact your local health department or water department to find out how to get pipes tested for lead. If you use well water, contact the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 for information on testing your well water and household for lead and other substances that can harm your health.

Our website has a lot more information about possible sources of lead and how you can minimize contact. If you have any concerns about lead exposure to lead, make sure you talk to your health care provider.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Tags: drinking water, lead, lead exposure, lead pipes, Protecting Your Baby from Lead

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Webinar for Zika Information

Zika virus and pregnancy: What Moms and Families Need to Know

March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Edward R.B. McCabe, will be conducting a webinar about what women and families need to know about the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

As the leading non-profit for mom and baby health the March of Dimes is concerned for the health of pregnant women and potential birth defects in their babies due to the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Although only a few cases have been reported among travelers returning to our borders, we want to raise awareness about the precautions women and families can take to help lower their risk of contracting the virus.
 

Please join Dr. McCabe for this staff webinar on Thursday, February 18th at 4:00 p.m. EST by registering using the below link:

 
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7204744927223962883 (If you are at the National Office please join the webinar live in the West Conference room.)

 

Dr. McCabe will conduct another webinar for reporters on Friday, February 19th at 11 a.m. EST. Feel free to share the attached media invitation, that includes Dr. McCabe’s biography, with your media contacts.

Monday, February 15, 2016

CHDs and our babies


When the month of February arrives, many people think of Valentine’s Day hearts and red flowers. February is also a time to raise awareness about another heart topic – congenital heart defects (CHDs).

Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Congenital heart defects are heart conditions that are present at birth. We’re not sure what causes most CHDs, but these defects can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works.

CHDs are the most common types of birth defects. Nearly 1 in 100 babies (about 1 percent or 40,000 babies) is born with a heart defect in the United States each year. They may be diagnosed before your baby is born, or soon after birth. Some CHDs are diagnosed much later in life.

There are different kinds of CHDs and their symptoms can be mild to severe. Treatment for each type of CHD depends on the heart defect. The seven most severe forms of CHD are called Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). Babies with CCHD need treatment within the first few hours, days or months of life.

Although the causes of most CHDs are not yet fully understood, certain medical conditions may play a role, such as diabetes, lupus, rubella, phenyletonuria (PKU) if not following the special diet, and being very overweight during pregnancy.

To become familiar with the different kinds of CHDs, possible causes, screenings and treatments, see our article.

As you send out a Valentine card or share in the spirit of love this week, consider learning and raising awareness about congenital heart defects. This condition affects the hearts of our smallest Valentines.

For information on where to find support and resources for your baby, please email or text us at AskUs@Marchofdimes.org

 

Tags: birth defects, CCHD, CHD, CHDs, congenital heart defects, critical congenital heart disease, heart defects

Monday, February 8, 2016

An update on the Zika virus – how to protect yourself

It’s all over the news. The possible link between the Zika virus and birth defects is being investigated. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and your family.

Understand Zika
If you become infected with Zika during pregnancy, it may cause serious problems for your baby.
  • You can catch the Zika virus by being bitten by an infected Aedes mosquito. Mosquitos carrying the Zika virus are found in tropical areas, such as the Americas, Southern Asia, Africa and Western pacific. See this map for an up-to-date view of Zika affected areas.
  • You may also get the Zika virus through sexual contact with someone who has the virus, or through a blood transfusion.
According to the CDC:
  • A mother already infected with Zika virus near the time of delivery can pass on the virus to her newborn around the time of birth, but this is rare.
  • It is possible that Zika virus could be passed from mother to fetus during pregnancy. This mode of transmission is being investigated.
  • To date, there are no reports of infants getting Zika virus through breastfeeding. Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed even in areas where Zika virus is found.
Symptoms
Most people who have the Zika virus may not have any signs or symptoms. Others may have many symptoms including headache, fever, joint or muscle pain, pink eye, pain behind the eyes, rash and vomiting. If you have traveled to a Zika-affected area and have signs and symptoms, contact your health care provider.
What can you do?
Protect yourself.
  • If you are pregnant, think about postponing travel to Zika-affected areas.
  • If you are trying to become pregnant, talk to your health care provider before traveling to an affected area, and be sure to take steps to avoid mosquito bites during the trip.
  • If you have plans to travel to an affected area, be sure to check the CDC’s website for advisories or contact the country’s local travel authorities.
Take steps to avoid mosquito bites. Use an insect repellent (bug spray) that contains DEET. Here’s how to stay safe when you use bug spray:
  • Choose one that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (also called EPA). All EPA-registered insect repellents are checked to make sure they’re safe and work well.
  • Follow the instructions on the product label.
  • If you use sunscreen, put sunscreen on first and then the bug spray.
  • Don’t put insect repellent on your skin under clothes.
If you have been exposed to Zika
Contact your health care provider if you have been exposed to Zika. He may test your blood for signs of the virus.
If you have lived in or traveled to a Zika-affected area and have given birth, or if your baby has symptoms of the Zika virus, seek medical attention. Your baby’s provider will follow guidelines for testing and management.
Bottom line
Researchers are trying to understand exactly what is causing the increase in birth defects in Brazil. They are not sure if the Aedes mosquito and the Zika virus are to blame. They note that the rise in microcephaly is occurring at the same time as the increase in the Zika virus. This investigation will take some time before it is completed. In the meantime, taking precautions and following the guidelines as noted above are your safest bet.
Read our article about the Zika virus for more information. Pregnant? Trying to conceive? See the CDC’s Q/A page on Zika and pregnant women.
Have more questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What you need to know about birth defects

Every 4 ½ minutes in the US, a baby is born with a birth defect. That means that nearly 120,000 (or 1 in every 33) babies are affected by birth defects each year. They are a leading cause of death in the first year of life, causing one in every five infant deaths and they lead to $2.6 billion per year in hospital costs alone in the United States.

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body and can affect any part of the body (such as the heart, brain, foot, etc). They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.

There are thousands of different birth defects and they can be very mild or very severe. Some do not require any treatment, while others may require surgery or lifelong medical interventions.

What causes birth defects?

We know what causes certain birth defects. For instance, drinking alcohol while you are pregnant can cause your baby to be born with  physical birth defects and mental impairment. And genetic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease, are the result of inheriting a mutation (change) in a single gene. However, we do not know what causes the majority of birth defects. In most cases, it is a number of complex factors. The interaction of multiple genes, personal behaviors, and our environment all may all play a role.

Can we prevent birth defects?

Most birth defects cannot be prevented. But there are some things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chance of having a healthy baby:

  • See your healthcare provider before pregnancy and start prenatal care as soon as you think you’re pregnant.
  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day. Folic acid reduces the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and “street” drugs.
  • Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications and any dietary or herbal supplements. Talk to your provider before you start or stop taking any type of medications.
  • Prevent infections during pregnancy. Wash your hands and make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
  • Make sure chronic medical conditions are under control, before pregnancy. Some conditions, like diabetes and obesity, may increase the risk for birth defects.
  • Learn about your family health history.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Antidepressant use and the risk of ASD

A new study suggests that the use of antidepressants during pregnancy, specifically in the second and third trimesters, may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children.

While these findings help to add to our understanding of autism, it is important to recognize that this study does not prove that antidepressant use causes autism. It is difficult to determine whether the increased risk of ASD is the result of antidepressants or the result of the underlying depression.

Researchers looked at data from more than 145,000 births between 1998-2009. They found that when mothers took antidepressants during the second and third trimesters, the chance that the child would develop ASD was higher when compared to children whose mothers did not take antidepressants. Keep in mind that the overall risk of having a child with autism is 1%. This study suggests that the risk increases to 1.87% if a woman is taking certain antidepressants.

The increase was seen with a specific type of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medicines and include medications like citalopram (Celexa®), escitalopram (Lexapro®), fluoxetine (Prozac®), paroxetine (Paxil®) and sertraline (Zoloft®).

There are a number of causes of ASD but we don’t know all of them. More research is needed. However, there are some factors that we know increase the chance of ASD:

  • Having pregnancy complications. Some research shows that there may be a link between ASD and pregnancy complications that lead to low birthweight, premature birth or cesarean birth.
  • Taking certain prescription medicines, like valproic acid or thalidomide, during pregnancy. Taking these medicines during pregnancy has been linked with a higher risk of having a child with ASD.
  • Having an older parent. Babies born to older parents are more likely to have ASD.
  • Having genes linked to ASD. Researchers are studying a number of genes that may be linked to ASD. Children who have a brother or sister with ASD are more likely to have ASD themselves.
  • Having a genetic or chromosomal condition. ASD happens more often in children who also have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, like fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis.

Important:  If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant and are taking antidepressants, you should not stop taking them until you talk to your health care provider. Together you can look at the possible risks of these drugs on your baby as well as the risk of having your depression come back if you stop taking your medicine. Learn as much as you can about the medicines so you can make the best choice for you and your baby.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.