November 17, 2020
World Prematurity Day 2020 - Childbirth Educators Have a Role
By: Sharon Muza, BS, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA), CLE | 0 Comments
Today, November 17th, is World Prematurity Day. Globally, this day is set aside to recognize the signs and risks of premature birth and to understand the impact that premature birth has on babies and families. One in ten babies are born prematurely around the world. The most recent rate in the United States is 9.7 and that is an increase from the year before. You can find out more global current stats here. Being born prematurely impacts the health and well-being of babies from the moment of birth and throughout their entire life. Additionally, the medical dollars dedicated to caring for premature babies from the time of birth and often continuing for their entire life is immense.
This year, I wanted to stress what a key role childbirth educators can play in helping families identify the signs of a potential preterm birth. Every single time I start a new childbirth education class, I share the warning signs of preterm labor. I include when to contact their health care provider, information on circumstances that increase the risk of preterm birth and most importantly, to trust their intuition and continue to talk to providers until they find someone to listen to them and take their concerns seriously.
Three weeks ago, I started a new series. Week one, just like every week one of all the classes I have held in the past 18 years, we discussed warning signs for premature birth. I looked out onto yet another sea of “Zoom” faces and encourage them to tune in and listen to their bodies.
Late last week, I received an email from a current student, sharing some information about their pregnancy that concerned them, and questioning of me, if I thought they were at risk of premature birth based on what was happening. I of course instructed them to immediately contact their provider. To make a long story short, their concerns were not taken seriously by their provider and they ultimately delivered a baby a few weeks into their third trimester. Thankfully everyone is doing ok under the circumstances, but there is a long NICU period that is necessary before this baby will be going home. This family needed to escalate their concern repeatedly and advocate to several health care providers that something was not right. And then it was too late, as they were in labor and birthing a premature baby.
Educators - we must remain ever vigilant that we share the warning signs and information on premature birth (along with other warning signs related to pregnancy) with every family we work with. It feels mundane, repetitive and often unnecessary. It is not. You just never know which family will need the very information you provide them.
I know how precious every minute is in class, and the struggle to squeeze all the valuable content in a very limited time frame is real. But please, whatever you do, do not eliminate important information about what to watch for during pregnancy and postpartum that may require medical care. Let families know that they can be strong advocates for themselves and their babies. Encourage them to make noise and be heard until someone takes them seriously. And if they are a Black, Indigenous or Person of Color (BIPOC) family, they may need extra help in making sure their voice is heard, as systemic and institutional racism makes it even less likely that their concerns are heard or taken seriously. You may even need to help them navigate the system to receive the care they need.
Some resources for perinatal professionals
These resources include consumer facing information, information for professionals and messaging and graphics that we can use on a variety of social media platforms. The resources are made available at no cost in order to raise awareness.
TagsChildbirth education Prematurity Premature Birth Prematurity Awareness Month World Prematurity Day Sharon Muza