Anytime is a good time to support Mamas on Bedrest

December 23rd, 2010

I recently published a blog post about a mama that died in childbirth and at the end made a plea on behalf of the family that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to a neonatal intensive care unit in the mama’s name. I also added a post to our Facebook page announcing yet another donation to Better Bedrest. Someone just sent me a note asking why I am always asking for support, financial support in particular, for pregnant women.

We live in the United States, a country without federally subsidized health care-despite spending more than any other country in the world for health care. The US one of only a few countries that offers no paid maternity leave. In the US, as much as in many developing and impoverished countries, many women don’t have access to or receive the medical care that they need. Sadly (and I feel shamefully) this affects women of color and women of lower socioeconomic status disproportionally.

It has been well documented by Amnesty International, the World Health Organization (WHO) and others that we have some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. These organizations have called on the United States to implement programs and services to lower these rates and to support women’s health. To date we have not heeded this call. We have not lowered maternal mortality, it has continued to rise. Our cesarean section rate is 32%,  far higher than the 5-10% recommended by WHO.  Amnesty Internationals written report, Deadly Delivery shows that it is safer for women to have their babies in other parts of the world than in the US. For example, the likelihood of a woman dying in childbirth in the USA is five times greater than in Greece, four times greater than in Germany, and three times greater than in Spain.

Health officials set bench marks for health care quality improvement back in the early 2000’s with Healthy People 2010. We achieved few if  any of our benchmarks outlined for maternity care for Healthy People 2010 and are setting similar goals for Healthy People 2020.

But while all this is going on in the world of public health and public policy, mamas nationwide continue to struggle. They struggle to maintain their health and the health of their babies. They struggle to maintain their jobs. The struggle to make ends meet. They struggle to feed their families.

It seems to me that sometimes we blame mamas for their struggles. “They should not have gotten pregnant, they do have choices you know.” (But don’t get an abortion!) “Why didn’t they use birth control?” (Despite the fact that birth control is often one of the first benefits cut from insurance policies when money is tight and is not routinely covered by all insurance carriers in general)  “They should go after the baby’s father for support” (who may be unemployed, incarcerated or working and helping support mama and their children already and still they can’t make ends meet! Also many women have no access to legal representation) . Yes, mamas should be doing more. Sigh.

I believe  it’s more beneficial to help mamas than to blame them. Most mamas that I come to know are working and doing their best to support their children (With or without the support of a partner or spouse). A bed rest prescription or a premature infant creates a financial burden for mamas and their families and that is why many organizations are trying to help.

Hopefully, one day the United States will provide safe, low intervention, evidenced-based, mother friendly health care and support to all women of childbearing age-regardless of race or socioeconomic status. This will include access to family planning.  Advances have been made towards this goal, but like anything else requiring a change, the shifts come slowly. Until that time, we mamas will continue to support one another and do our best to fill in the gaps. That is why Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond exists. That is why Better Bedrest exists and why we wholeheartedly support this sister organization.

This is the last planned blog post for 2010, but we want to reiterate that there is still time for you to make a tax deductible donation to Better Bedrest to help pregnant mamas on bed rest in financial need. You can also send donations to the Johns Hopkins NICU’s in memory of Shawnee Nicole Mitchell-Wright(the mama who died in childbirth) here. (Be sure to fill out tribute information at the bottom and to check the box that says “mail a letter on my behalf”)

Blessings to you and yours for a safe, healthy and prosperous 2011!

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