A car accident leads to my premature birth scare & my hospital bed baby shower
When I was eight months pregnant with my second child, I was in a car accident. I was rear ended while waiting at a stop sign. I’ll never forget the moment of impact. Of course, the first thing I screamed was, “My baby!!!” I was obviously rushed to the hospital—where the doctors thought they saw some sort of tear in my placenta and indications of fetal stress—and thus began the scary conversations of possibly having to take my baby early.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month and my personal experience always comes to mind. As a mother, getting your baby to term is a key goal post. You know that pre-term birth is the leading cause of newborn death. And even babies who survive face an increased risk of life-long health challenges. Waiting in that hospital bed for hours in between each test, I worried about the risks of a pre-term baby even one that late in the game. I was a nervous wreck. Thankfully, two days of observation and testing later, I was able to go home with my baby still in the oven. I was so happy! (although I missed my surprise baby shower that Saturday and my friends brought the party and presents to my hospital room. Check out the pics!)
Last year, an estimated 460,000 babies were born preterm in the United States, according to the March of Dimes. Preterm birth, (before 37 weeks of completed pregnancy,) is the leading cause of newborn death (death in the first month of life) and is the second leading cause of infant death (death in the first year). Babies born too soon face an increased risk of health challenges, including cerebral palsy, breathing problems, intellectual disabilities and other problems for the rest of their life.
Unfortunately, African American women are twice as likely as women of other ethnicities to deliver their babies too soon. A still large unexplainable phenomenon which contributes to our high infant mortality rate. Important side note: When babies are born too small and too soon, they are the most in need of the life-saving immunities and preventive medicine of breast milk.
The March of Dimes recently expanded their ‘Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait’ program, which is designed to reach African-American women and give them to the tools, resources and support to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
But I’m also happy to report some good news.
Preterm births fell for the fifth straight year in 2011, and the improvement was across the board — every racial and ethnic group benefitted, and there were fewer preterm babies born at all stages of pregnancy, according to preliminary birth data released by the National Center for Health Statistics.
The US preterm birth rate peaked in 2006 at 12.8, after rising steadily for more than two decades and dropped by more than 8 percent to 11.7 in 2011. The March of Dimes estimates that this single year improvement means about 16,000 babies were spared the health consequences of an early birth.
“About 64,000 fewer babies were born preterm in 2010, when compared to 2006, the peak year. All this improvement means not just healthier babies, but also a potential savings of roughly $3 billion in health care and economic costs to society,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. “The March of Dimes credits this success to prevention efforts by its many partners including state and local health departments and hospitals.”
This is great news. It’s still difficult for me to ride past that corner where the accident happened—even with my now eight-year-old baby boy safely in the back seat. It is a constant reminder that premature births can happen to anyone and how grateful I am that my baby was not counted among them that year.