The March of Dimes and AMAG Pharmaceuticals have teamed up with Willow Creek Women’s Clinic in Johnson to offer a new supportive pregnancy care (SPC) program aimed at improving the health of mom and baby during pregnancy, labor, delivery and infancy.
Willow Creek is the first hospital in Arkansas to offer the program, and Arkansas is one of six states piloting the program with AMAG and March of Dimes. The health provider said all women are eligible regardless of insurance coverage. There will be separate groups formed for Marshallese-speaking and Spanish-speaking women.
The March of Dimes program offers prenatal care in a group setting with moms-to-be of similar gestational ages. At each group session, women learn to perform their own self-care by measuring and recording their own weight and blood pressure with the help of a facilitator. A licensed obstetric provider meets individually with each woman to perform a physical assessment and discuss specific concerns in a semi-private area within the group space.
During each visit, women benefit not only from prenatal care education but also from the vital social and emotional support they receive from other mothers. Each visit lasts ninety minutes to two hours — giving women up to ten times more time with their provider than they would during conventional individual prenatal checkups. SPC also includes web-based tools and a social media platform to enable mothers to connect and socialize with each other online outside the group sessions and access helpful information on healthy pregnancies.
One in 10 babies in the United States is born premature (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), meaning that the U.S. has one of the worst preterm birth rates of any high-income countries in the world, according to a news release. In Arkansas, the preterm birth rate as noted by March of Dimes is 10.8%, earning the state a letter grade of “D”. Even in affluent counties, like Benton, Washington and Faulkner, the rates are 9.6%, 10.5% and 8.7%, respectively. Craighead County has a rate of 12.3%.
The 2018 Premature Birth Report Card from March of Dimes, released on Nov. 1, shows preterm birth rates rose again last year for the third year in a row. Babies who survive an early birth often have lifelong health issues such as learning disabilities, vision and hearing loss. Even infants born just a few weeks early have a greater risk of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), feeding difficulties, temperature instability, which can increase the risk for hypothermia, jaundice and delayed brain development.
Willow Creek officials said a new group of expectant mothers is being recruited to begin the program Aug. 8. Women in their first trimester of pregnancy who are interested in taking part can call (479-757-1730) or email at [email protected] for additional information and enrollment.