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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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There is no more crushing blow to a mama than the realization that the little one she has been carrying-even if only for a few weeks as had been the case for me-is gone. With the loss of that little soul also comes the loss of hopes and dreams not only for that little one, but also for the entire family into which that little one was to be born.
That loss happened 10 years ago. I had my first miscarriage on June 25 2001, a year before the birth of my daughter. I think of those souls often, and wonder, “What would you have been like?” Would you have been boys or a girls? Who would you look like, me or your father? What kind of personalities would you have? Sometimes I just give into, “What if?”
And yet, I know if the baby I “lost” on November 1, 2004 had lived, I would not have my now 8 year old son, the little guy who just makes my heart full and who can zing me with his uncanny perception of the truth and his quick wit. If I had had the baby I lost on June 25, 2001, I would not have my daughter. I may not have experienced that trials and tribulations that I experienced having her which ultimately have lead to the “birth” of Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond.
Both of my children are my greatest blessings. I truly cannot imagine my life without them in it. Yet it wasn’t an easy path to get them here. Several people have asked me over the years if I had to do it again, knowing my path to parenthood, would I do it again? I have to honestly answer, I don’t know. I know that I definitely would want to have my children, but, weenie that I am, I don’t know if I could knowingly go that path to getting them here again.
Mamas on Bedrest, each of you will travel a unique path and have an exquisite story to tell about how you came to be a mama and how you brought your baby into this world. For some of you, this path may be so overwhelming that you don’t trod it ever again. No worries and no judgement. Other mamas will go on to have other children, sometimes going back on bed rest, sometimes progressing just fine without life restriction. Some of you will go on to write books, start businesses, start non-profit organizations or do some other sort of humanitarian work as a result of your pregnancy and birth experiences.
It’s all good. It’s all perfect. Everything is as it should be. That is what I have learned over the years. While I still get a tiny sting in my heart when I think of the souls that moved on so quickly, I also smile and thank the Gods above for the delightful and dynamic souls that I live with each day. I learn so much from ALL my children. From those with me I learn patience and to not take myself so seriously. I also learn humility as they are often quick to point out my faults or mirror them back to me.
From those that have gone on, I have learned that life goes on. I will always remember them and for me, I honor them by serving other mamas and babies. Their gift to me is my service to you, to ensure to the best of my ability that each mama has the support and resources she needs to safely and successfully deliver a healthy baby. I thank you all for allowing me to honor my children.