preemies

Mamas on Bedrest: Going Home Without Your Baby

December 8th, 2014
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Me and my daughter the day after her birth. Kangaroo (skin to skin) care is very beneficial to preemies helping them learn to regulate their body temperatures, soothing and comforting them and helping mamas and babies to bond.

Hello Mamas,

We all know bedrest is a beast, but we endure it with the ever pressing hope that at the end of the journey, we’ll end up with a healthy baby. Sometimes the journey ends up not quite how we expected. We deliver and our baby has to be taken into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for special care. Even though all proceeds positively, it’s a tough pill to swallow that after the many weeks on bed rest, you actually have to leave the hospital without your baby. While most mamas on bedrest know that they have a higher than normal risk of delivering a premature infant, few are prepared for the feelings that ensue when they are discharged home from the hospital and their babies must remain. Many mamas describe a feeling of grief, a void and feeling like they didn’t really succeed in having a successful birth outcome. All of these are very valid feelings.

As a mama who had to leave the hospital without her baby, it was really hard to be wheeled down to the pick up circle in front of the hospital, all my personal items and flowers beside me, and no baby in my arms. And I was lucky. My daughter (a late phase preemie born at 36 w, 6d) only remained in the NICU for 5 days beyond my discharge. But it was still hard to walk into my house and to see her room all ready and to see the cradle and changing table in my room and for her not to be there. During those 5 days, I made the most of my time, created a routine with my husband and the order, quite frankly that feeling of control is what got me through.

Structure your days: Every day I got up, dressed and prepared a bag for the day full of snacks and supplies (breast pump tubing, bottles, breast pads, maxi pads and other personal items) and my husband would drive me to the hospital so I could be there by about 9 am. Once I arrived, I assumed most of my daughter’s care. I would weigh her, feed her, change her and weigh her again. Then I’d hold her and rock her, talking to her. My mother had come down to help out, so she would come to the hospital with me and we would take turns holding my daughter. While my mom held my daughter, I’d pump. I pumped every few hours and by the time she came home, we had enough stored breastmilk to take up nearly one quarter of our freezer. Occasionally during the day I’d take a nap in the rocker, but generally I hung out with my baby, holding her and caring for her as much as the nursing staff allowed. My husband would typically pick up my mom and I at about 7pm and he’d bring us home. I’d eat and pump and rest, my mom taking care of me, while my husband would go back to the hospital and hang out with my daughter until about midnight. We repeated this schedule daily until we brought my daughter home.

Now I am sure that many of you are thinking,

“Well that’s just fine for you. Your baby was only in the NICU 5 days beyond your discharge (10 days total). And you didn’t have any other children at home.” 

To this I say, “You are absolutely right!” But the point I want to make is that when your child is in the NICU, it’s stressful. Many mamas feel as if the nurses are bonding more with their babies than they are! Personally, I was kinda pissed at the nurses at first. They held my daughter before I did. Although they had whisked her by me when she was first born, the NICU nurses were the first people my daughter really  “saw”. I knew intellectually that they were doing the best possible for her, but frankly I was jealous. I wanted to be doing everything for her. I WAS HER MAMA!!! And as the days went on, and I was able to do more and more for her myself, those feelings of jealousy gave way to gratitude as I realized those nurses really were doing the best things for her at that time.

Get support: I live in Texas and my family lives in Massachusetts. My mom came down to visit and take care of me. It was a HUGE help. While she really didn’t do much (a few loads of laundry, made sure I ate, helped me move about comfortably), her presence meant more than I can say. She was there when we learned about a lot of my daughter’s lab tests. While most of them were negative and my daugther was progressing nicely, the anxiety that arose each time the neonatologist arrived was stiffling and each day that he said my daughter could not go home, mom was there to comfort me. Also, although I didn’t have other children at home, having my mother present would have enabled me to be with my daughter without having to worry about the care of my older children at home. Do what you can to have folks present to support you. Its invaluable!!!

Take Advantage of Available Services: Many hospitals offer a wide range of services to families with infants in the NICU (Social service consultations, assistance at home, getting medical devices and equipment for home if they are needed, counseling for parents if needed and so much more!). While I didn’t need many of the services offered, I did take advantage of the lactation consultations. My daughter had trouble breathing and that is why she was in the NICU in the first place. But she had difficulty breathing while nursing. The lactation consultant gave me tips on good positions in which to hold her comfortably, how to make sure enough of my breast was in her mouth to stimulate the milk let down reflex, and how to best help my daughter to be able to breathe while nursing.

Be present for all tests and ask questions about the results: There are a million and one tests done to make sure that your preemie is progressing and developing. As much as possible, BE PRESENT WHILE ALL OF THEM ARE ADMINISTERED!! There were a couple that they tried to tell me that I had to leave the room to have done. I refused. You have the right to refuse and be with your baby provided it poses no health risk to her or compromises the test. Speak up! And be sure to get full reports on all the tests and ask questions of the neonatologists when they do their rounds and present the test results to you.

Be patient: All babies go home. Some, like my daughter only spend a few days in the NICU. Other babies spend weeks to months. Whatever the duration of your baby’s hospital stay, know that they are getting the best possible care. And know that each day that they stay in the NICU is further preparing them to be home with you. One of the worst things that can happen is to get your baby home and for them to have some sort of complication that causes you to rush them back to the hospital. Be patient, allow the NICU staff to do what they do, and with time and grace, your little one will be home to stay!

Mamas on Bedrest: Texas earned a “C”. What’s your state’s premature birth grade?

November 18th, 2014

World Prematurity DayHello Mamas,

November 17th is World Prematurity Awareness Day. All over the globe there will be educational events, initiatives, presentations and activities all designed to raise awareness about the very serious problem of prematurity. Premature birth is the leading cause of neonatal death in infants under one year old and each year, 15 million babies die as a result of being born too soon-and are too young and too sick to survive.

Now we are all likely sitting here and thinking, that’s a shame. Those poor babies in developing countries have such a tough road to hoe. Well fasten your seat belts! Despite spending more than most other countries on the planet for health care, The United States has one of the worst rate of premature births of the developed nations. Each year nearly 500,000 infants are born too soon in the US-that’s 1 out of 9 infants!! These numbers are sobering. What’s more, where you are born has a lot to do with your chances of being born prematurely.

Taking a look at the US as a whole, there has been a reduction in the overall rates of preterm labor and premature births. As of this month, the March of Dimes reports rates of premature births (2013 data) has fallen for the 7th straight year to 11.4% and as such, the nation has reached its goal (9.6%) set for Healthy People 2020 7 years early. But when we look at individual states, there is a much different picture. While some states are doing well reducing the number of premature infants born, others are not faring so well. Texas, where I live, currently has a grade of “C”, while my home state of Massachusetts is graded a “B” and only Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Oregon and California earned “A” Grades. Sadly, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Puerto Rico earned “F’s”.

The March of Dimes is working aggressively with state, national and international health representatives to determine what factors are the major reasons babies are born prematurely, and what interventions can be put in place to ameliorate them so that babies won’t be born too soon. The solutions are really pretty simple. It’s not more technology. It’s not more complicated political laws. It’s education. Women need to know that as soon as they become pregnant, they must begin prenatal care. It’s access. Women globally need access to comprehensive, affordable prenatal care. In developing nations as well as in many areas of the United States, women don’t have easy access to health care services. If the nearest health care center is 3 hours away by car and they don’t have a care and no access to any sort of public transportation, they won’t get regular prenatal care! It’s resources. In many rural or economically depressed areas, women simply don’t have the money for food, shelter and prenatal care.  Health care resources may be limited. Access to the midwifery model of care; Attendant care with midwives and doulas which have been shown to reduce the rates of complications and poor birth outcomes, makes these women vulnerable to poor birth outcomes. Breastfeeding Education. Many women still are uneducated about the benefits of breastfeeding, don’t receive breastfeeding education/suppport and don’t have access to pumps.

So how does your state rate? What’s its grade? How is your prenatal care? Let us know in the comments section below. If you need assistance or information, feel free to include that in your comment or write privately to info@mamasobedrest.com

Mamas on Bedrest: Do You Know The Signs and Symptoms of Preterm Labor?

November 10th, 2014

March of Dimes Promo ImageMarch of Dimes Promo ImageHello Mamas!

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Spearheaded by the March of Dimes, perinatal organizations nationally and globally are sponsoring educational events and presentations to raise awareness of the issue of preterm labor and premature birth. As an industrialized nation, the United States fares poorly on the global scene when it comes to preterm births, earning a C grade on the global stage. This is one of  the worst grades amongst industrialized nations. According to the March of Dimes, there are 450,000 babies born too soon annually in the United States. That is 1 out of every 9 babies!

There is much being done to reduce the number of babies being born too soon. American obstetricians and hospitals have revised their protocols so that there are fewer preterm labor inductions and fewer unnecessary cesarean sections. However, the large number of infants born prior to 39 weeks persists.

African American women have the highest rates of preterm labor and premature births in the US, ranging anywhere from 2-4 times the rate of preterm labor and preamature birth in white women. Researchers and public health officials are implementing some very targeted perinatal health care programs to address the disparities in access to care, affordability of care and the quality of care provided, especially as it pertains to lower income women who are on government subsidized health care plans . Two non-government organizations with whom  Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond is partnered with are The Birthing Project USA and The National Perinatal Task Force. The Birthing Project pairs African American support volunteers “Sister Friends” with pregnant mamas to help them navigate the health care system, gain access to resources and to be a support and birth attendant if necessary. The success of this program comes from the fact that the less experienced mama has a direct resource to ask questions,  seek assistance and who is often (but not required to be) present when mama delivers her baby. The National Perinatal Task Force is a group of perinatal health care workers who are dedicated to improving birth outcomes in African American Women and babies by being a very visible presence in the African American Community and providing information, resource referrals and support to mamas in need. Both programs provide African American women culturally sensitive care and support that has translated to improved birth outcomes.

The important key to reducing the rates of preterm labor and premature births is education. If you ask a cross section of pregnant women what are the signs and symptoms of preterm labor, many don’t know. This alone may account for many premature births. A woman experiencing intermittent contractions that are not particularly strong, or if she has an above average pain threshold, she may not recognize that she is in preterm labor. Other non specific symptoms such as diarrhea or back pain may be misconstrued as gastrointestinal upset or simply a normal ache from pregnancy respectively. Since it is imperative to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of preterm labor and to seek medical attention immediately (as preterm labor immediately addressed can often be stopped!), here are the most common signs and symptoms of preterm labor. Please make a note of these symptoms and contact your health care provider IMMEDIATELY if you are or have recently experienced any of these symptoms.

  • 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

Again, the March of Dimes has educational events taking place all this month throughout the United States. Check the March of Dimes Website for state chapter information as well as the calendar of events in your area.

Have other questions? Schedule a Complimentary 30 Minute Bedrest Breakthrough Session to find the solution! Schedule yours today!