March of Dimes: What is Strong Start?

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What is Strong Start?

To give babies a better chance to fully develop, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has partnered with the March of Dimes (MOD), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and others to launch the “Strong Start” initiative.

Why do babies need a “Strong Start”?
Although health care professionals in the U.S. commonly consider a pregnancy of 37 weeks as “full term” for a baby’s growth, research shows:
• Between 37 and 39 weeks of pregnancy babies experience significant and important brain and lung development. During the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, for example, the size of a baby’s brain almost doubles.
• Babies born before 39 weeks have a significantly higher risk of complications at birth as well as higher risk of developmental delays that may affect their quality of life as adults.

It’s difficult to be sure a baby has even reached 37 weeks of development—gestational dating is often inexact and ultra-sound exams can be off by as much as 2 weeks.

Why is the campaign important?
Each year, more than half a million babies in the United States are born preterm, a number that’s grown by 36 percent over the last 20 years. It’s a growing public health problem with significant consequences for families. And it costs our society an estimated $26 billion each year.

In addition, for decades, public health officials and private organizations such as MOD and ACOG have campaigned against elective deliveries, but this practice may still account for 10-15 percent of all deliveries in the U.S. The most frequently cited reasons for these deliveries are concerns from health providers that the mother is overdue, convenience for the mother and the provider, and the size of the baby

November 17 is World Prematurity Day. On this day, we honor the million babies worldwide who died this year because they were born too soon, and the 12 million more who struggle to survive. We will focus everyone’s attention on the serious problem of premature birth.

What is Strong Start and why is it important?
Each year, more than half a million babies in the United States are born preterm, a number that’s grown by 36 percent over the last 20 years. It’s a growing public health problem with significant consequences for families. And it costs our society an estimated $26 billion each year.

What should expectant mothers do?
Pregnant women should ask questions and talk with their doctor.

What are 5 things you need to know about your baby’s development in the womb?
In the early weeks of your pregnancy, your baby is growing rapidly. But your baby’s development during the last weeks is also important.

1. Important organs, like your baby’s brain, lungs and liver, are still developing. If your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks.
2. Your baby’s brain, eyes, ears and lungs are still developing. A baby’s brain at 35 weeks weighs only two-thirds of what it will weigh at 39 to 40 weeks.
3. Your baby is about 20 inches long and weighs about 6 pounds at Week 36. She still needs at least 3 more weeks to fully develop.
4. Babies born after 39 weeks have fewer health problems than babies born early. They also will have an easier time feeding and staying warm.
5. Be informed and ask questions. If your provider talks to you about inducing labor or having a c-section, ask if there’s a problem with your health or the health of your baby.

What questions should you ask late in your pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester?
• When is my due date?
• What is early pre-term birth and am I at risk?
• Can I wait to have my baby until I’m closer to 39 weeks?
• What do I need to consider if I am at risk of having an early preterm baby?
• What are some health problems associated with preterm birth?
• What decisions should I be prepared to make if I am likely to give birth to an early preterm infant?
• Is there a problem with my health or the health of my baby that may make me need to have my baby early?
• If you need to induce labor why and how will you do it?
• Will inducing labor increase the chance that I’ll need to have a c-section?
• What problems can a c-section cause for me and my baby?
• Will I be able to have a vaginal birth for future pregnancies?

To learn more, visit marchofdimes.com/39weeks.

Prematurity Awareness Month

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. During this month, the March of Dimes focuses the nation’s attention on premature birth. Activities will include events in your local community (as listed in right column) and the release of the 2013 Premature Birth Report Card, which assigns grades for each state’s and the nation’s preterm birth rates. Also, November 17 marks World Prematurity Day. The March of Dimes and our partner organizations are asking everyone to help spread the word about the serious problem of premature birth. Join the global community on facebook to read stories from around the world, add your own story to the map, change your status and update your cover photo to get the word out!

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