Community supports aim to prevent and reduce effects of premature birth
Babies born prematurely are at risk for serious health consequences. Medical advances have improved survival rates among “preemies,” but premature birth before 37 weeks remains the leading cause of newborn deaths.
But survival is not the only concern.
A baby’s brain, lungs, and liver are still growing during the final weeks of pregnancy. Babies born too early are at increased risk for respiratory problems, jaundice, and brain damage. And the effects can last well into adulthood, with studies showing children born prematurely are more likely as adults to have chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
So how do you protect babies from being born prematurely?
Dr. Kimberlee Wyche-Etheridge, assistant director for public health practice at Meharry Medical College told The Tennessean recently that focusing on women’s health before pregnancy is key.
“Since prematurity hits every aspect of the community, no one is protected per se, and we have to take care of all of our women in all of our families so all of our babies have a chance at a healthy start,” Wyche-Etheridge told The Tennessean.
She cited health screenings, controlling high blood pressure, weight, diabetes, and even stress from worrying about finances or housing as key health issues to address before pregnancy.
This is where United Way of Williamson County and health partners such as Mercy Community Healthcare help. Ensuring that women – regardless of income level – have access to preventative health care gives the best chance for healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
Supports are also in place, though, for babies born prematurely and their families. Nurses for Newborns, a United Way of Williamson County health partner, provides comprehensive, in-home services for at-risk mothers and medically fragile babies – more than half of whom were born prematurely – and connects their families with other community resources, such as Waves, Inc. Early Learning, to help ensure these babies have every opportunity to grow and thrive.