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Healthy Beginnings Still Important

Bringing a child into the world is a daunting proposition even under the best of circumstances. For those doing so as teenagers, under socio-economic challenges, or in abusive situations, mother and baby can both suffer. In a recent study, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy estimated around 30 percent of girls in the U.S., become pregnant before they turn 20. Although rates have declined since the 1990s, the U.S., still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrial world.
Women with unintended pregnancies are less likely to seek prenatal care during the first trimester and more likely to use alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy. In fact, cigarette smoking is one of the most preventable risk factors for poor birth outcomes.
Prenatal visits are important for the health of both infant and mother. Health care providers can educate mothers on important health issues, such as immunizations, exercise, weight gain and staying away from drugs and alcohol.
Mothers who receive late (third trimester of pregnancy) or no prenatal care are more likely to have babies with health problems. Mothers who do not receive prenatal care are three times more likely to give birth to a low-weight baby, and their babies are five times more likely to die than babies born to mothers who do receive prenatal care.
Although the U.S., infant mortality rates declined by 90 percent during the 20th century, the country lags behind 27 other nations in maternal mortality and ranks 27th in the world in infant mortality.
The Healthy Beginnings program at St. Mary's Medical Center targets these at-risk moms, in an effort to give them an opportunity to avoid the statistics and raise healthy and happy children. The St. Mary’s Medical Center Foundation, with the support of local community agencies, has made it possible to offer this unique prenatal program free of charge.
Moms who qualify for this group (which has grown over the years) receive two to four individual visits with a registered nurse for one-on-one education. Participants also receive a free car seat, childbirth classes, a breast pump, breastfeeding class and other forms of counseling in a caring and supportive environment.
As early as possible, we want our new moms to have a well-balanced grasp of parenting which goes beyond nutrition for them and their newborns. We cover issues like injury and illness prevention, as well as monitoring for health conditions at home, not to mention the new emotional challenges of caring for an infant.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry finds that teens who become pregnant accidentally may have anger issues. This anger can be directed at the baby as well as feelings of anxiety, depression and failure.
A teen mother who is still in high school may be limited in terms of finding a job that will support her new family. Dropping out of school can affect mother and child throughout their lives. A mother who does not have a high school degree will most likely have a harder time finding a well-paying job than a teen mom who continues her education. 
These concepts can be a challenge for those who've grown up in stressful and strife-filled environments. Despite these hardships, many teen mothers who take active roles in their care are successful. Healthy Beginnings is about encouraging at-risk moms to take that active role.

Shirley Bulen coordinates the Healthy Beginnings program in the Birthing Center at St. Mary’s and can be reached at 816-655-5939.
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