Pregnancy, Maternity and Health Tips for Expecting Parents

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Should You Immunize Your Baby Against RSV and Other Respiratory Illnesses

As a parent, one of the most important decisions you will make for your child is whether or not to immunize them against various diseases and illnesses. This decision can be particularly difficult when it comes to respiratory illnesses, such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and coronavirus. On one hand, immunizations can provide vital protection against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases. On the other hand, some people have concerns about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, and may be hesitant to expose their newborn babies to them. In this blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of immunizing newborn babies against RSV and other respiratory illnesses, to help you make an informed decision for your own family.

What is RSV and why is it important to immunize against it?

RSV is a highly contagious respiratory virus that is common in children, but can also affect adults. It causes symptoms similar to the common cold, such as runny nose, cough, and fever, but can also lead to more serious complications, particularly in young children and babies. These complications can include bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lungs) and pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs).

Babies are at particularly high risk for RSV, as their immune systems are not fully developed and they are more prone to respiratory infections. In severe cases, RSV can lead to hospitalization and even death, although this is rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RSV is the leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under the age of 1.

There is no cure for RSV, so the best way to protect your newborn baby against the virus is through immunization. There is a vaccine available to prevent RSV, called the palivizumab vaccine. It is typically given as a monthly injection to high-risk babies during the RSV season (typically November to April in the United States). The vaccine is not recommended for all babies, but rather for those who are at particularly high risk for severe RSV disease, such as premature infants, babies with underlying health conditions, and those with a history of RSV in the family.

What are the potential benefits of immunizing newborn babies against RSV?

There are several potential benefits to immunizing newborn babies against RSV:

  1. Protection against serious illness: As mentioned above, RSV can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications in young children and babies. By immunizing your newborn baby against RSV, you can help protect them from these complications and reduce their risk of hospitalization.

  2. Prevention of RSV outbreaks: In addition to protecting individual children, immunizing against RSV can also help prevent outbreaks of the virus within a community. When a large percentage of the population is immunized against a disease, it becomes much more difficult for the disease to spread, as there are fewer people who are susceptible to infection. This is known as herd immunity, and it can help protect those who are unable to receive vaccines due to underlying health conditions.

  3. Cost savings: While the cost of the palivizumab vaccine may seem high, it is generally much less expensive than the cost of treating RSV complications. Hospitalizations and other medical interventions can add up quickly, and immunizing your newborn baby against RSV can help reduce these costs.

What are the potential risks of immunizing newborn babies against RSV?

Like any vaccine, there are potential risks and side effects associated with immunizing newborn babies against RSV. These include:

  1. Injection site including soreness, redness or swelling.
  2. Allergic reaction and/or a rash.

As with any vaccination, you should always consult a physician before vaccinating your child against any respiratory illnesses, including RSV, Covid 19 and bronchitis.

 

Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Study Suggests Long Terms Health of Babies Affected by Covid 19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on many people in a variety of ways, even babies. For babies born during the Covid19  pandemic, a JAMA study suggests, the log-term health problems has the potential to be lifelong.

The first three years of life are crucial for brain development in humans. But it’s not just the health of babies that it affected, but the interactions between babies, parents and other would be caregivers. Babies need to be touched, spoken to, swaddled, smiled at, played with, stimulated and loved. As they respond to those interactions, neural connections are constructed in the brain. Without those interactions, an infant's brain doesn’t develop and grow as it should.

A stressed out or depressed parent or caregiver may find it hard to find the time and energy required to give the child's brain the love, stimulation and attention it needs to develop. There are many studies showing that poverty, maternal depression and other factors can change the development of a child's brain forever.

 

Methodology

As part of an ongoing study of babies and their mothers, researchers from Columbia University studied the development of three groups of 6-month-old infants. Two of the groups were born during the COVID-19 pandemic; the mothers of one group had COVID-19, while the mothers of the other did not. The third group was a historical cohort (a group of babies who were born before the pandemic).

Mothers participating in the study used an Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3) to record their babies’ development and evolution. The researchers noted no difference in the development of the two groups of babies born during the pandemic, suggesting that prenatal exposure to COVID-19 doesn’t affect development, which is good news. But babies born during the pandemic scored lower in gross motor, fine motor, and social-emotional development than the babies born before the pandemic. Examples of developmental tasks for babies in this age group are rolling from back to tummy (gross motor), reaching for or grasping a toy with both hands (fine motor), and acting differently to strangers than to parents or familiar people (social-emotional development).

 

Infant Development during COVID

It’s just one study, and we need to do more research to better understand this, but the findings are not really surprising given what we know about infant development. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of stress — emotional, financial, and otherwise — for so many families. It has also markedly affected the number and kind of interactions we have with other people. Babies are on average interacting with fewer people (and seeing fewer faces because of masking) than they did before the pandemic.

Even though we need to do more research, this study should serve as a warning for us as a society. The children of this pandemic will carry scars forever if we don’t intervene now. We’ve already seen the emotional and educational effects on children, and we need to be aware of the developmental effects on babies too. The stakes are too high to ignore the research.

 

What Can be Done?

We need to find ways to financially and emotionally support families with young children. We need to be diligent, energetic and creative, and work every angle available. And even if our government can't help out enough and play a role, our communities and individuals must take up the slack.

And parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers need to know about this research — and ask for help. It’s understandable and natural for parents to think that babies are too small and unaware to be affected by the pandemic. But they are affected, in ways that could be long-lasting. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to help yourself, your family, and your baby’s future.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Pregnancy Tips for Easing Backaches

Back pain, alas, is one of the most common complaints of expectant new moms. So what’s going on to cause the aches? First, your center of gravity changes as your uterus expands with your new baby, which can affect posture and wreak havoc on your back. A burgeoning belly causes similar problems, stretching out the ab muscles that normally help support your spine. On top of this, a new mom’s body releases hormones to relax the ligaments in the pelvic joints, making them more flexible for labor but causing back pain if these joints get too supple. Luckily, in addition to ice and heating pads, there are a few simple steps you can take to prevent or lessen the backaches of having a baby. 

Back relief pregnancy tip #1: Mind your posture. If you're an expectant mom, standing up straight isn’t just good manners: It also protects your back muscles. You may be tempted to slouch or lean back to compensate for the weight of your growing bump, but doing so may strain your lower back muscles. Instead, adhere to the principles of good posture and stand up straight with shoulders relaxed, holding your chest high. To help support the new baby in your belly, keep your feet wide apart and avoid standing upright for too long.

Back relief pregnancy tip #2: Sleep smart. While it’s important for expectant moms to get plenty of rest, it’s equally important to protect the back during sleep. Especially in the later months, avoid sleeping on your back -- those muscles need their rest, too! Instead, snooze on your side, bending one or both knees. For extra comfort, place a pillow or two between your legs for support.

A firm mattress may also help you avoid sore backs. But you don’t have to replace the bedroom set just because you’re having a baby: To add support to a softer bed, simply place a strong wood plank between your box spring and mattress.

Back relief pregnancy tip #3: Get active. Back-friendly exercises like swimming and walking provide a bevy of benefits for expectant moms. Strengthening and stretching both the back muscles and back-supporting muscles (such as your hips, abs, and legs) eases back pain and helps prepare you for labor. Simple stretches can also help release back tension, so consider signing up for a yoga class for feel-good back benefits. Be sure to check with your doctor before deciding which exercise regimen will work best for you.

If you back is causing you a considerable amount of pain or preventing you from going about your daily activities, talk to your doctor. Pregnancy may not always comfortable, but remember that you won’t be carrying the extra weight for much longer.

The Reality of Being a New Dad

To say I was excited when my wife was pregnant with our first child, Morgan, would be a gross understatement. While this overwhelming sense of joy continued to grow along with her belly, I could never have prepared myself for the days and months ahead as a new dad. I imagined fatherhood as one thing, and turns out, my thoughts and emotions were pretty spot on -- times 100.

Expectations: What I Thought I Felt

During my wife’s pregnancy, I wasn’t nervous; just extremely excited. I looked forward to knowing there was someone who would come to understand they could turn to me for anything in life. The only nerves I had as a dad-to-be, were tied to ensuring my baby was a healthy one, and knowing how to respond in different situations. Now I like to think of myself as a smart guy and efficient problem solver, making unplanned decisions every minute of my workday. I constantly get thrown curveballs, and am able to use knowledge and reasoning to figure out the best solution. Why should a baby be much different?

I felt like I did everything new dads are told to do to prepare: read The Expectant Father, talked to other parents. They helped me understand my wife’s experience, -- physically and emotionally -- my own experience, and what was in store once the baby made her first appearance. I looked forward to all the firsts, and to share my favorite things with our child.

What didn’t make me jump for joy was the actual birth part, as I knew I had to be strong for my wife, but having a sensitive stomach, I felt queasy at the thought of watching this oozy miracle happen before my eyes.

 

Reality: What I Feel Now

When my wife was pushing out our child, all queasiness left the room. I couldn’t believe my eyes: I was witnessing our creation come into this world. The minute my wife held our child, I was pleasantly surprised at what a natural she is. All of her nerves went out the room and her maternal instincts kicked into high gear. From day one, my wife showed confidence, love, knowledge, and connection as a mother.

I, on the other hand, began questioning everything. I had difficulty advising my wife on decisions, solutions and actions. I simply didn’t know the answers (maybe Google would?) I was surprised by how much more cautious and nervous I felt, when in my head I thought I would always be a cool and collected new dad. Did she eat enough? She’s hungry again? Why is she crying? Why isn’t she crying!

Despite the worry, the overwhelming joy I thought I felt during my wife’s pregnancy was put to shame each time I looked at my baby. I felt extreme pride at Morgan’s firsts -- lifting her head during tummy time, smiling, playing with toys on her own. I couldn’t believe I felt excited and relieved at each poop, each burp, knowing everything was functioning properly. I felt happy when Morgan slept, knowing she was getting the rest she needed, and happy when she woke, knowing she wanted to eat (and was still breathing!)

Watching a baby experience and learn something new every day is fascinating. Hearing ‘dada’ for the first time and watching Morgan take her first steps as she walked into my arms created incomparable pride. I knew being a dad would be great. Yet there is no way your expectations of greatness are in line with how truly remarkable the experience is watching a helpless thing grow into an independent mover and shaker.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash