National Survey Underscores Importance of Prenatal Care
One-fifth (20 percent) of women who have been pregnant say they did not visit their doctors for early prenatal care (within the first three months of pregnancy), according to a national survey of women ranging in age from 18-44. The study, released in conjunction with a partnership between FIRST RESPONSE and the March of Dimes, was an extensive examination of women’s attitudes and experiences surrounding pregnancy. The findings are consistent with national birth certificate data from the National Center for Health Statistics (see www.marchofdimes.com/peristats), the March of Dimes says.
Women who get early and regular health care during pregnancy have healthier babies, are less likely to deliver prematurely (prior to 37 completed weeks of gestation), and are less likely to have other serious problems related to pregnancy, according to the March of Dimes. Premature births are on the rise in the United States and the March of Dimes says one out of eight babies—or more than 470,000—is born prematurely each year.
To draw attention to this serious and common public health problem, the March of Dimes has designated November as Prematurity Awareness Month. During Prematurity Awareness Month, the March of Dimes brings families together to connect, share their personal stories and call for increased federal funding for research.
“With more research, answers can be found to save babies from premature birth,” said Robert Lucas, Senior Vice President, Revenue Development, for the March of Dimes. “The March of Dimes wants every newborn to be a healthy, full-term baby.” He cited the findings of the survey as important proof that more work has yet to be done to educate expectant mothers on the importance of early prenatal care.
“It is important that women understand how critical early pregnancy detection and care is for the health of the developing fetus,” said Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist in private practice in New Haven, Conn. and a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine. She said many people are surprised to learn that several crucial organ systems, including the brain and spinal cord, have already begun to develop even before most women realize they are pregnant.
“Obviously, the earlier you know you are pregnant, the sooner you can take steps to care for yourself and your baby,” Dr. Minkin said. She went on to say that with products like the First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test, which tells a woman whether or not she is pregnant as early as five days before her missed period, it is easier than ever for a woman to learn of her pregnancy as soon as possible and take the appropriate steps to care for her baby.
During early prenatal care, a woman and her doctor can discuss her health status, her partner’s health, and the health of their close family members; identify medical problems; discuss any medications she is taking; test for cervical cancer and vaginal infections; and make sure she is taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid. All of these factors can impact the health of both mother and baby.
About the March of Dimes
The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies and in 2003 launched a campaign to address the increasing rate of premature birth. For more information, visit the March of Dimes Web site at www.marchofdimes.com or its Spanish language Web site at www.nacersano.org.#