Organic is Not the Whole Story

April 23, 2014

Although nutritional supplements or eating certain foods won’t cause or prevent preeclampsia, the best available research supports women reducing their risk by going into their pregnancies as healthy as possible. Guest blogger and registered dietician Amy Marlow of Happy Family Organic Superfoods suggests one way you can help accomplish that goal.

Nutrients for pregnancy and beyond by Amy Marlow, MPH, RD, CDN

Amy Marlow with her family.

Dietician Amy Marlow with her family.

Pregnancy is a great time to choose organic foods, grown and produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, and artificial hormones. Developing babies are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the exposures to chemicals like pesticides given how small their bodies are and their rapid rate of growth. That’s why experts believe that the benefits of organic food are greatest for pregnant women and babies.

Eating organic is not the whole story, though, because the fact that a food is organic doesn’t automatically make it healthy. Plenty of organic foods lack essential nutrients that you and your baby need.   And, foods made from organic ingredients may still be highly processed and full of too much sugar or saturated fat.

So yes, choose organic, but also choose foods that give you even more. Look for foods that contain the following key nutrients needed during pregnancy and lactation:

  • Choline – Needed in higher amounts during pregnancy and breastfeeding; an essential vitamin that plays a key role in baby’s brain development. Found in eggs, meats, and fortified foods.
  • DHA and other Omega-3 fats – Essential healthy fats are the building block of baby’s brain and eyes. DHA is found in algae, fish (e.g., wild salmon), and may be found in fortified foods. Other sources of omega-3s include flaxseed oil, chia seed, and walnuts.
  • Vitamin D – Crucial for your bone health and your baby’s bone development. Unfortunately, nature’s best source is the ultraviolet rays of the sun, which most of us try to limit. Found in eggs, fortified dairy, and other fortified foods.
  • Folic Acid – Prevents neural tube defects like spina bifida. The body doesn’t store folic acid so you need to get it every day. Found in fortified grains and cereals, leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, oranges, beans, peas, peanuts.
  • Iron – Produces hemoglobin for healthy oxygenation of the blood. A deficiency causes anemia (you should be tested during your second trimester). You need at least 15-30 mg per day, and this may be hard to get through food alone. Eat iron-rich foods like whole grains, beef, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables. Take an iron-fortified prenatal supplement, if recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Superfoods: Ancient Grains and Seeds – Go beyond whole wheat and try quinoa, amaranth, chia seed, and millet. These provide healthy complex carbohydrates, essential amino acids, fiber, B vitamins, iron, and in some cases omega-3 fats and protein.

HFamily_High_Res_LogoA registered dietitian (RD), Amy Marlow also has a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Maryland. She worked as a pediatric dietitian at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC, where she provided nutrition care in the pediatric oncology unit, high-risk obstetrics ward, and the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units. In addition to her work with Promise Walk partner Happy Family Organic Superfoods, she manages the wellness program for a Fortune 500 company. Amy is the proud mother of Noah, Alana and Jonah.


Mission Monday: Wisconsin Family Turns Tragedy to Hope

April 21, 2014
Jenny, Brian and Ken at the 2013 Richland Center Promise Walk.

Jenny, Brian and Ken at the 2013 Richland Center Promise Walk.

Mission Family Monday is when we take the opportunity to spotlight the real stories of families affected by preeclampsia, who have chosen to share that story in their local community to raise awareness of this cause. These individuals shine a spotlight on the work that the Preeclampsia Foundation supporters do through the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. Please feel free to share this story in your own community!

Wisconsin native Jenny Johnsrud had been having a fairly normal pregnancy up through 38 weeks. Even her doctor confirmed that everything looked normal for an at-term delivery.

But on March 31, 2012, everything changed. Jenny could barely stand up straight at work; her head ached; she was nauseated and had a terrible pain in her stomach. Her husband Ken realized that something was not right. Bags in hand, they went to the doctor’s office at 11 pm that night.

Her blood pressure was extremely high, but worse, her blood work came back and confirmed the doctor’s suspicion: her blood platelet count was at 30,000. She had stage 3 HELLP syndrome.

Because the baby was so near term, they worked to induce labor naturally and try to avoid a C-section, since Jenny was at severe risk of hemorrhage. Happily after a few hours of laboring, Brian Johnsrud was born weighing a healthy 6 lbs., 6 oz.

Happily, Jenny’s vitals returned to near normal and Brian had only a short stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. Still, the Johnsrud family couldn’t believe how quick their pregnancy had gone from normal to life-threatening in a few short days.

“The Preeclampsia Foundation was such a big help for me during this experience,” said Jenny. She added that she was very well-informed and well read, but “I was taken aback when my Dr. said I had HELLP syndrome. I read and had an understanding ofthe PE part of it, but I had no idea what I was going through. It wasn’t until I was home after the birth of my son, that I researched HELLP. The Preeclampsia Foundation was the most informative site out there.”

Ken, Jenny, Brian and their new baby daughter Michelle will be leading the Richland Center, Wisconsin Promise Walk on May 10, 2014 at Krouskop Park with their team “McWalkers.” They are eager to help women know to take their symptoms seriously and immediately get to care.

“I don’t want to think about the outcome if I didn’t trust my gut that something wasn’t right,” said Jenny. “Bottom line: awareness saves lives.”

Join the Richland Center Promise Walk at www.promisewalk.org/richlandcenter.


New T-Shirt Design Officially Announced!

April 10, 2014

The 2014 t-shirt design is here! This year’s design incorporates our theme of making strides to end preeclampsia, eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Every step that we take is one step closer to save the lives of moms and babies. Simple, fun and trendy!

Register today at www.promisewalk.org to ensure that you have one of these hip shirts on walk day!


2014 participant t-shirt and button design

This year’s Promise Buttons, provided by national partner Affordable Buttons, will have the same design element.

And for a bit of Throwback Thursday, check out the 2013 buttons below!

2013 Promise Buttons

2013 Promise Buttons


Mission Monday: Team “Bennett Strong” Strides Toward Philadelphia Goal

April 7, 2014

Mission Family Monday is when we take the opportunity to spotlight the real stories of families affected by preeclampsia, who have chosen to share that story in their local community to raise awareness of this cause. These individuals shine a spotlight on the work that the Preeclampsia Foundation supporters do through the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. Please feel free to share this story in your own community!

Gary, Mary and Bennett Pellegrino

Greg, Bennett and Mary Pellegrino

Mary Pellegrino was no stranger to the term “preeclampsia”: her own mother was a HELLP syndrome survivor. But even knowing the symptoms of the condition, she admits that her own symptoms were hard to identify. She was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome at 25 weeks with the birth of her first child, son Bennett.

“My symptoms began and progressed quickly,” said Mary. “When I discovered my chest pains, realized that my blood pressure was high, and that I had gained 20 pounds in three weeks, I pulled up the Foundation’s website while I waited for a return call from my Ob/Gyn. I knew what was going on and I was prepared to focus on getting myself safely to my doctor to learn what could be done to keep myself and Bennett safe. “

Bennett was born weighing only 1 lb, 2 oz due to interuterine growth restriction (IUGR). Mary and her husband Greg spent 220 agonizing days watching their son struggle and grow in the neonatal intensive care unit. It took Mary herself a week to be released from the hospital, and would be another six months before her blood pressure began to stabilize.

The Pellegrinos were incredibly excited to discover a Promise Walk location near their hometown of Warrenton, Penn., and to celebrate their story as the 2014 Philadelphia Promise Walk Mission Family. They see the Promise Walk as an opportunity for families to come together and celebrate their common journeys, while raising awareness and funds for an organization that works to save lives.

“We have an awesome opportunity to educate our moms, empower our moms, and find cures for preeclampsia and HELLP,” said Mary. “I think that with information and preparation comes the hope and the greatest promise for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. The Preeclampsia Foundation provides the greatest vehicle for this hope and promise.”

The Philadelphia-metro Promise Walk, located at Challenge Grove Park in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, will also include children’s activities, snacks, coffee and several raffle and silent auction items. Teams and individuals can join “Team Bennett Strong” register at: www.promisewalk.org/philadelphia


“New Walk” Wednesday: San Jose Coordinator Puts Fresh Spin on Returning Walk

April 2, 2014

Barnetts Quinn Six Months-178Elizabeth and Tyler Barnett came to the Preeclampsia Foundation in the most tragic of circumstances: the loss of their son Cooper Landon Barnett at 23 weeks due to severe preeclampsia.

“In the moment everything happened so quickly and we did not know much about preeclampsia,” said Elizabeth. Their search for information brought them to the Preeclampsia Foundation, providing them with support, education and an outlet to take action in honor of Cooper. The Barnetts and their loved ones participated in the inaugural San Jose Promise Walk in May 2011, and never looked back since, ensuring Cooper’s memory will not be forgotten.

My favorite memory of past walks is the first walk we participated in and having all our friends and family there around us, supporting us, loving us and giving us strength to get through a very difficult time,” said Elizabeth.  “It was healing for us and exactly what we needed.”

Their deep connection to the cause led Elizabeth to take a leadership role for the walk in the fourth annual San Jose, California Promise Walk for Preeclampsia, and she decided to shake things up. The 2014 walk will be held at new location Santana Row, a great downtown location with plenty of public visibility and shopping for the families that attend. It is a family-friendly event, with lots of activities for kids and a great sense of community for people who are passionate about the maternal health cause. Dr. Maurice Druzin, co-chair of the Preeclampsia Task Force for the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, the group that created the new Preeclampsia Toolkit for the state of California, will be the guest speaker at the event.

She has also worked to develop a strong team of volunteers from those same family and friends who attended the 2011 walk, now working together to solicit sponsorships, handle promotions, direct registration, and spread the word.

Happily, Elizabeth and Tyler, got to celebrate the healthy birth of their daughter Quinn in 2013, and are expecting again. Elizabeth has been carefully monitored in both pregnancies, and agrees that knowledge is power. Her goal for the event is to increase awareness to new audiences, so they know the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia and take it seriously.

To join the Barnett family and friends at the San Jose Promise Walk for Preeclampsia, visit www.promisewalk.org/sanjose.


Mission Monday: Pennsylvania Family Experiences Dual Impact

March 31, 2014

Mission Family Monday is when we take the opportunity to spotlight the real stories of families affected by preeclampsia, who have chosen to share that story in their local community to raise awareness of this cause. These individuals shine a spotlight on the work that the Preeclampsia Foundation supporters do through the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. Please feel free to share this story in your own community!

Bradley, Michelle and baby Alexandra

Bradley, Michelle and baby Alexandra

Michelle and Bradley Derry were expecting for the first time in 2012 and were thrilled  to find out that it was twin girls.

Michelle’s pregnancy was going pretty normally, until  21 weeks, when Michelle had a blood pressure reading of 125/80, which was high for her. She and her medical care providers dismissed it, since the reading was within “normal” range. But by almost 23 weeks, Michelle was unable to fit in her shoes and her blood pressure was at 135/85.

“I knew I had an appointment in a few days with maternal-fetal medicine, and convinced myself I would be told all was okay,” said Michelle. Unfortunately, things got rapidly worse. At the appointment, her BP had spiked to 145/95 and she had developed protein in her urine. They admitted her to the hospital immediately and put her on complete bed rest, but the severity of her symptoms continued to increase. An ultrasound and more blood work revealed that Michelle had developed HELLP syndrome. Delivery was the Derrys only option to save the lives of Michelle and her unborn twins.

At 23 weeks, 3 days, the Michelle and Bradley’s twin baby girls were born, neither weighing even a pound.

While her babies struggled in the neonatal intensive care unit, Michelle’s health crisis had not ended. She spent 3 days in the intensive care unit on magnesium sulfate, as medical providers struggled to bring her blood pressure down. She developed a blood clot in her leg, and was later diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome, a sticky blood autoimmune condition. She also developed acute tachycardia (a heartbeat that exceeds the normal range).

On top of Michelle’s personal medical struggles, the twins faced a long uphill struggle. Devastatingly, Elissa Derry passed away 5 days after birth. Her sister Alexandra fought for 9 and a half months, but thankfully got to go home. She is still trached and g-tube fed, but is slowly making steady progress. Happily, her vent was recently removed. Nevertheless, the Derry family live in fear of germs, worried that Alexandra will get sick and delay her progress, which also means that some family members have never even gotten to meet her yet.

Michelle continues to struggle from the long-term impact of her struggle with HELLP syndrome, requiring daily medication and monthly blood clotting test for the rest of her life. She is also at far higher risk for cardiovascular disease throughout the rest of her life, and must carefully monitor her blood pressure.

In May of 2012, Michelle’s mom read about the Lehigh Valley Promise Walk for Preeclampsia in her local newspaper.  She immediately contacted walk coordinator Dawn Detweiler, a fellow preeclampsia survivor, who welcomed them warmly and provided them emotional support to process all that had happened.  For the first time the family did not feel so alone.

Now the Derry family is the 2014 Mission Family for the Lehigh Valley Promise Walk for Preeclampsia, and they hope Alexandra might be well enough to make her public debut at the walk. Even if Alexandra may not be ready to venture out to the walk, her family will be representing the cause as the face of the mission. You can join the Derry family at the Lehigh Valley Promise Walk on May 3 at the Forks Township Community Park by registering at http://www.promisewalk.org/lehighvalley.

“I want to help educate others about the dangers of preeclampsia and HELLP,” said Michelle. “Life will never be the same as I knew it, but every day when I look at my daughter, I know it was all worth it. I am so glad to be a part of the Promise Walk!”


Mission Monday: Baby Autumn’s Denver legacy

March 24, 2014

ostendorf_familyJust after Easter 2011, at about 18 weeks gestation, Jessie Ostendorf started exhibiting signs of preeclampsia: swollen feet and ankles as well as an overall puffiness. Attributing it to normal signs of pregnancy and working too hard, even the nurses that Jessie called just said to relax and drink more water.

Preeclampsia was a nagging thought, but Jessie kept going, being a “super woman” and doing it all. At 21 weeks gestation, after a night of severe headache that did not go away, she was admitted to the hospital with a blood pressure of 200/100, high levels of protein in the urine, and an official diagnosis of preeclampsia.

The Ostendorfs did not want to induce in order to give baby Autumn more time. Despite the medical team’s effort to prolong the pregnancy however, an ultrasound revealed that the baby was also very sick. Autum and Jessie were failing quickly and delaying delivery, the only know “cure,” was no longer an option. Jessie ‘s health took a rapid turn for the worse: a fever of 107.5 sent her to the ICU and a central line. The medical team scrambled to save her life.

Their angel Autumn was delivered stillborn on Saturday, May 14, 2011.

Seeking more information about their traumatic pregnancy experience, the Ostendorfs turned to the Preeclampsia Foundation website as a source of information and to receive support. Through the Foundation’s educational programs, Ostendorf and her family were able to learn about preeclampsia, and network with a community of preeclampsia survivors in their home state. They founded Team Autumn for the 2011 Denver Promise Walk and have been active volunteers ever since.

Today, the Ostendorf family is the 2014 Denver Promise Walk Mission Family, sharing their story of loss and survival to help educate others in their community about the long-term impact of preeclampsia on families. People like you make a difference in families like the Ostendorfs: by funding education and research through the Preeclampsia Foundation, you help save lives of moms and babies.

To Join the Ostendorfs and “Team Autumn,” register at www.promisewalk.org/denver for the 4th Annual Denver Promise Walk for Preeclampsia on Sunday, May 4, 2014 at City Park in Denver at 8 am, sponsored by Reign Magazine, Rose Medical Center, the Lefkovitz Foundation and BellyBliss.


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