Programs aimed at helping expecting moms reach full term after new report gives Louisiana a failing grade

A new report from the March of Dimes shows one in 10 babies in the U.S. are born preterm each year, but in Louisiana, that number is higher.
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 4:49 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A new report from the March of Dimes shows one in 10 babies in the U.S. are born preterm each year, but in Louisiana, that number is higher.

“It’s very scary because I don’t know how this is going to end,” said Edward Veillon, director of maternal and fetal medicine at Woman’s Hospital.

Veillon was not surprised when Louisiana received a failing rate from the March of Dimes for preterm births. He said this is a trend they’ve been seeing for the last few years and is mainly due to more expecting moms being overweight.

“The obesity epidemic plays a huge role into this. The more obese you are, the more likely you are to have high blood pressure, have diabetes and because of that have a preterm delivery,” Veillon added

Cheri Johnson, the executive vice president and chief nursing officer at Woman’s Hospital, said many of the almost 8,000 babies they deliver a year are born preterm or before 37 weeks. When that happens, they have specialized programs to help keep the babies alive.

“Encouraging breast feeding, those type of programs and even safe sleep in the NICU to make sure that we have a really healthy baby going home,” Johnson said.

But Johnson added it’s better to be proactive to ensure the best outcomes for moms and babies. They do this by offering case management for things like hypertension and diabetes and programs for mental health and substance abuse.

“These programs kind of wrap services around mom so that she can have a really healthy pregnancy and deliver the baby closer to term or at term,” Johnson said.

Woman’s Hospital isn’t the only place that offers wrap-around services.

The president and CEO of Family Road of Greater Baton Rouge, Dena Christy, said their Healthy Start program aims to support expecting families from pregnancy until the baby is 18 months old. Along with programs and case management, they also teach moms what they should be looking for to stay healthy.

“Learning about their baby, learning about their growth, you can hear fetal heart tones. They get to measure their tummies themselves and just learn things that when you’re pregnant you should be checking,” said Christy.

Christy believes the efforts will help bring the number of preterm births down and healthy babies up.

“Bringing Louisiana to the next level, you know, making sure we’re here for our community so our community can thrive and that our children can be healthy and happy,” said Christy.

Veillon said expecting moms can do things like exercise, eat right, or even stop smoking to increase their chances of making it full term. For more information about programs the hospital offers, you can check their website. If you’re interested in signing up for the free Healthy Start program, you can do so online.

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