Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
Tips and resources for expectant mothers
By Bridgette Springer
Eight years ago, at 33 weeks pregnant during my first birthing class at Portsmouth Hospital, my husband and I listened to our instructor intently as the initial topic of conversation turned to pre-term labor. I digested the warning signs, yet never considered myself to be at risk since I was eating right, took my vitamins, and continued to exercise.
There was no way I would become one of the one in eight women to have a premature baby, or so I thought.
I never made it to the remaining birthing classes. A few days later, after a check up for some troublesome backaches I had been experiencing, I found myself being taken by ambulance to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, getting ready for a way too early birth. I was in shock as I was prepped for delivery ahead of schedule. I worried about the health of my baby, and wondered what went wrong.
While I may not have been considered high risk for premature delivery, it does happen indiscriminately and often for reasons yet to be understood. According to Karen Dennis, Director of the New Hampshire March of Dimes, the key is to always consult your physician if something doesn’t feel right so you may give your baby the best possible chance for a 40-week pregnancy. She advises all women to be vigilant about early labor symptoms.
Signs of premature labor include:
“It is critical to be prepared even as you are just contemplating pregnancy,” said Abby Rogers, Director of Program Services for the March of Dimes. She said women can do things such as taking a prenatal vitamin before they decide to get pregnant to safeguard against potential problems like early delivery
Social support and education
There is the possibility you will be a mom like myself who went into early labor with absolutely no warning and without explanation. Yet, there are also certain risk factors that can increase the chances for a premature birth. These include smoking, alcohol abuse and illegal drug use. Engaging in these types of activities may not only lead to early delivery, but also to a host of medical issues for the baby as well.
Sometimes a lack of social connections and education can leave women with little support for a healthy pregnancy. For this reason, the March of Dimes has joined forces with several New Hampshire health care centers to support their mission for a program called, “Centering Pregnancy.” Here’s how it works. Instead a of a 10-minute visit, women can count on a two-hour appointment at approximately 16 weeks in one-month intervals. At 28 weeks, the group appointments are increased to twice a month. Derived from midwifery care, there are three components to the model which include assessment, education and support.
“The benefits include a peer-to-peer process, forces women to keep their appointments, and the pregnancies have a better outcome,” Dennis said. Three facilities in New Hampshire including Alice Peck in Lebanon, Cheshire Medical Center in Keene and Concord Family Health Center offer this program.
Dr. Angela Yerdon McLeod, D.O., a family physician with the Concord Hospital Family Health Center where the program has been active for more than five years supports the program wholeheartedly.
“I saw in our patient population that women who had very little social support would come into our lobby and not talk to each other. I felt they could have a great one if we connected them.” It was this thought process that led Dr. Yerdon McLeod to spearhead the program in Concord.
“The social component decreases stress and leads to healthier pregnancies overall,” she said. As for the future of the program, the March of Dimes is hoping for a participant increase of 100 women by the end of the year. For more information, go to www.marchofdimes.com/newhampshire.
My daughter was born weighing five pounds and I am happy to say she did just fine with a little extra care. However I found the first year after her birth very nerve-racking. I really wanted to unite with parents who were going through the same experience as I was. Emotional support is available to families with premature babies via Facebook, hospital support groups and blogs.
Bridgette Springer is a freelance writer juggling motherhood in Stratham. She is a contributor to regional newspapers, magazines and marketing projects. Bridgette can be reached at email@example.com.
According to the March of Dimes, there is still so much to be done when it comes to premature births and healthy pregnancies. To learn more about their campaign, as well as information on volunteering, visit the New Hampshire chapter at www.marchofdimes.com/newhampshire.
By the numbers:
According to the National Center for Health Statistics there is some promising news for New Hampshire premature birth rates. Most recent reports show a slight drop in preterm births, down from 12.8 to 12.7 percent, with a 10 percent drop in New Hampshire. This means one in nine women will have a premature baby in New Hampshire.
However, Karen Dennis, Director of the New Hampshire March of Dimes, Dennis also said with 277 babies born each week, one in 12 will suffer from low birth rate, and on average two babies die each week before their first birthday.
Last updated by Morgen Thiboult Jun 24, 2011.