Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written in partnership with the Anthem Foundation, however, all opinions are my own.
Did you know that one in every 10 babies born in the United States is born prematurely? In fact, I was born prematurely at just barely 7-months. I weighed 4 pounds and my dad said you could fit my entire stretched out body in the space between the crook of his elbow and his wrist. I was tiny. I was jaundiced and I wasn’t what anyone expected.
Babies born prematurely before 37-weeks gestation can face a host of issues like breathing problems, difficulty with feedings, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, vision and hearing impairments. I know first-hand that these are true because I myself have had chronic breathing related issues my entire life and live with a 15% hearing loss. I was sick a lot as a child, almost constantly in the early years and fun fact, my mom said when I was born I was covered in lanugo. That usually falls off before you are born, but when you are born prematurely, you’re simply not done gestating.
In the U.S., prematurity is the number one killer of babies, and those born just a few weeks early have higher rates of illness and hospitalization compared to full-term newborns. In addition to the stress and worry toll, it takes on parents, the cost of prematurely born babies is estimated at more than $26 billion annually by the National Academy of Medicine. No new parent needs that extra financial burden on top of trying to care for a premature newborn. The Anthem Foundation is investing in healthy maternal practices, giving more babies a healthy start in life.
Can you imagine? Being so excited for your brand new baby, waiting for months to hold her in your arms and then realizing she came too early before her little body was ready to be born; before she was fully formed and functional to live on the outside. My parents said the worry was constant in those first few months, especially since they were first-time parents to this tiny premature baby. But that was a long time ago and there have been significant advancements in prenatal care and the programs women have that provide them with more easily accessible information about pregnancy and their bodies.
Since 2010, the Anthem Foundation has provided more than $4.3 million in grant funding to the March of Dimes to scale up and implement several programs that encourage and facilitate first-trimester prenatal care and help at-risk mothers commit to behaviors that reduce the numbers of low-birthweight babies.
These programs include quality improvement initiatives related to the elimination of early elective deliveries, smoking cessation, Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait Community Programs® and a group prenatal care model called CenteringPregnancy® (CP). This last program brings together 8 to 10 women with similar due dates, and from all races, ages and socio-economic backgrounds. The women meet for nine sessions. In the last year, more than three thousand women were registered, of which 1,410 were Latinas. By 2020, the Census Bureau projects that there will be more than 13.8 million Hispanic women of childbearing age.