Family Team News

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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.

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