infant mortality

Mamas on Bedrest: The Myth of the Missing Black Father Debunked

May 19th, 2015

Greetings Mamas!!

Seldom do I revert to childish gloating, but occasionally I just have to go there. Such is the case as I am gleefully reading the report put out by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention utilizing data from the National Center for Health Statistics which shows that Black fathers are just as engaged-if not more so-in the rearing and support of their children than fathers of other races. 

Excuse me while I take a moment to gloat.

Yeeeeeeeee haw!!!!!

Yaaaaaaaahoooooo!!!

“Ha! Told yaaaaaaa!!”

“Na na na na na, you were wrong!!!!!”

Now you may be wondering why I am so over the moon about this research? Well, there are several reasons.

1. I am sick to death of hearing how black men are no good, they “hit it and quit it” and don’t take responsibility for the children that they help create.

2. I am sick and tired of hearing that all the ills of the world are because of black men.

3. I am thoroughly done with the portrayal of black men-black people actually-as uncivilized and bringing down the status of US culture globally.

4. And I am beyond through with this nation feeling that it is okay to kill a black male simply because he is present in time and space!

Now you all may be wondering, “What in God’s name does any of this have to do with high risk pregnancy and bed rest??” Well, it has everything to do with it. As I have often reported, African American women and infants have the worst birth outcomes of any other race or ethnicity in the US, with 2-4 times the morbidity and mortality of women and infants of other races and ethnicities. An African American infant is more than twice as likely to die before its first birthday than infants of other races and ethnicities and this is due primarily to preterm birth!!!

Are you following me yet?

Let me continue. Ever since I can remember and at least for my adult professional life “the party line” regarding the black family has been,

“It’s the breakdown of the black family, and the absence of black fathers in particular, that is the cause of the high maternal and infant morbidity and mortality that exists amongst African Americans.”

As an African American, and now as a divorced single mama, I knew that isn’t at all the case but had no way of substantiating what I knew to be true. Now there is concrete data obtained by one of the most reputable scientific bodies in the United States that has shown what many of us African Americans already knew. Yes, many more African American children are born to  and/or raised by “single” mothers, but what this study has shown is that while the parents of a child may not be married, they may in fact be together (co-habitating) and even if they are not living together, African American fathers are intricately involved in the rearing of and support (and here I do mean financially) of their children, in many cases more than White or Latino fathers.

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My son and his dad reading at the library.

 

So again you may be asking, “What does this have to do with preterm labor and infant mortality?” Stay with me.

There is a lot going on in the United States as regards race and quite frankly none of it is good. We have all seen and heard the news reports of police shooting unarmed African American men, racial profiling of both African American men and women, disparities in discipline for African American School Children and so on and so on and so on. These are daily facts of life, daily stressors for African American women, and daily stressors for the infants they are carrying. Additionally, poverty for all families is reaching heights not seen since the great depression and other times in our history. The unemployment rate is still teetering on the high side and looms highest amongst African American men. More depressing is the fact that people of any race with higher educations are now just as likely as those with little to no education to endure a prolonged time of unemployment, and those numbers are again higher for African American men. This amounts to markedly elevated stress for African American men and African American women, their partners. Stress, as well as poverty, is not good for anyone, but particularly not good for pregnant African American women and the infants that they are carrying. We know that stress is an independent risk factor for preterm labor, prematurity and low birth weight all areas in which African Americans have the highest rates. So I think that it is safe to say that poverty, unemployment and racism are far strong predictors and stressors on maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in African Americans than “absentee dads”.

Now I know that many of you are going to come right back at me and say, “But what about black on black violence? What about the crime rates in predominantly black neighborhoods? And we know that many African American men abandon their family responsibilities.” Agreed. But the data from this study, which was broad and the study well constructed, shows that despite all these negative influences, African American men continue to be hands on fathers, and at greater rates than white or Latino fathers.

I wholeheartedly admit that there is much that needs to be done within my culture to heal it. But let’s not look astray too much to lay blame. Much of what we see in these urban, depressed areas is poverty; boarded up buildings, non-existent stores and services, poorer schools and no revenue coming into these areas. Add to that no jobs, no way for people in these areas to support themselves and their families, no money, leads to crime and yes, homicides. Is it okay? No. Is it an excuse? Of course not. But let’s consider the fact that if people in these areas had jobs, income and ways in which to support and sustain their families, then, according to data from the CDC again, crime rates would in fact go down and quality of life would go up.

But I myself have veered a bit off topic. The bottom line is this-even in depressed economic times, even in economically depressed communities, even when jobless, even with the threats to their lives black men are taking care of their children. Contrary to the sensationalized news reports and the stereotypic depictions on television and in movies, black men are taking care of their children-their families. The question now becomes, how can we as a culture, as a nation give them a hand so that this can continue? What are we as a nation, as a culture doing to reduce poverty, increase jobs, increase opportunities for education so that not just black men, but all men, can have the means to raise and support their children?

Finally, we have to ask the question, “Have we too narrowly defined “family”? We know from this work that there are men and women living together and raising their children but not married, or married and helping to raise their spouse’s children. Aren’t they still a family? What about blended families? Large extended families? This is all data that is yet to be analyzed-or even obtained. We know that African Americans being of the African diaspora are a “tribal” people. Migration and dispersion-both voluntary and involuntary-has also played a role in the depressed socioeconomic status of African Americans resulting in decreased community support for families. How are we as African Americans going to re-establish our communities and our families going forward?

There are many unanswered questions and I am sure that many more studies will come about, but what we do know is this: African American men are supporting their children and its time to toss out the stereotypes of them as “absentee fathers” and do what we can to support their efforts and the efforts of all men who want to be active parents to their children.

References:

Jo Jones, Ph.D., and William D. Mosher, Ph.D., “Father’s Involvement With Their Children: United States, 2006–2010″. National Health Statistics Report, Number 71, December 20, 2013

The Causes of Infant Mortality-The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

African-American Women and Their Babies at a Higher Risk for Pregnancy and Birth ComplicationsThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Black Unemployment Rate 2015: In Better Economy, African-Americans See Minimal GainsInternational Business Times.

Murry, V. M., Brown, P. A., Brody, G. H., Cutrona, C. E. and Simons, R. L. (2001), “Racial Discrimination as a Moderator of the Links Among Stress, Maternal Psychological Functioning, and Family Relationships.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 63: 915–926. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00915. x

The Absent Black Father Myth Debunked-by CDCThe Daily Kos

Mamas on Bedrest: Can routine cervical measuring and treatment with progesterone as indicated reduce and/or eventually eliminate bed rest?

January 6th, 2015

Hello Mamas and Happy New Year!!!

Right before we all took a much anticipated holiday break, The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) added their voice to those of  The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM), The March of Dimes, Medicaid and The Perinatal Research Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute to recommend that preterm birth risk screening include cervical length measurements and for those women at increased risk, treatment with progesterone injections.

Why is this important? Well, if you visit our Facebook page, you will notice that a large number of the mamas in our community are on bed rest for cervical insufficiency or incompetent cervix. Cervical insufficiency is one of the leading causes of preterm labor in the US and one of the leading causes of infant mortality (infant death). The United States ranks 55th globally in infant mortality, with 26,000 infants dying annually before their first birthdays. This is a horrendous and utterly embarrassing statistic given that the US is one of the richest countries in the world with some of the most advanced health care, yet we can’t seem to save our babies. What is worse, infant mortality in the United States for African American babies is twice that of Caucasian babies, so deaths among little black infants is disproportionately high in the US.

But despite all this doom and gloom, the upside is that all of these medical societies have looked at the data as well as at available treatments and they have all come to the same conclusion: If there is more screening for preterm labor in pregnant women-measurement of the cervix and in those women at risk, the initiation of progesterone injections-the rates of preterm labor can be reduced 40-50% in mamas having just one baby and no prior history of preterm birth. And if every pregnant woman is screened for shortened cervix and those at risk identified and started on progesterone shots, medical costs associated with preterm labor, premature birth and subsequent medical and developmental support could be reduced by $750 million annually. Given that preterm labor and prematurity currently costs the US in excess of $26.2 billion annually, this is substantial savings. All of the medical societies are also in agreement that if a woman is noted to have a shortened cervix and is less than 24 weeks gestation, she should have a cerclage (a surgical stitich placed to hold the cervix closed) placed.

Preterm labor and prematurity are major issues in Maternal and Infant health and the leading cause of infant death before one year in the United States. If by simply screening and measuring cervical length early on with ultrasound and providing treatment with progesterone and cerclage can reduce preterm labor and prematurity and save the lives of babies, then we should be adopting these recommendations.

The elephant in the room for us here is will these practices negate the need for prescribed bed rest? That subject was not addressed in these recommendations, however, many of these same professional medical societies are recommending that bed rest not be routinely prescribed due to the negative effects that is has on Mamas’ bodies. So it will be very interesting to see how these recommendations are implemented and their effect on the overall preterm labor and prematurity rates. My guess is that if rates start dropping, we my in fact see a reduction in the bed rest prescription. Now wouldn’t that be exciting???

Mamas, share this information with your health care providers and see what they have to say. If you’ve been screened for a shortened cervix and started on progesterone, let us know in the comments section below. We would love to share the journey with you (join our Facebook Community!!)! And if you are prescribed the progesterone and/or cerclage without bedrest, do let us know how you fare and when you deliver your baby.

Reference

Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine Joins with Other Organizations to Brief Congress on Need for Medical Protocols that will Save the Lives of Infants in the US by Reducing Preterm Birth. (Press Release December 17, 2014, Washington, D.C. Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. www.smfm.org

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