Infant mortality. Reading these two words immediately evokes an emotional response for most.
Infant mortality is when infants die before their first birthday. The fact that all babies are not born healthy and angelic looking is something that we, as a society, would much rather pretend does not happen. When we see a pregnant woman on the street, we smile and assume she is appropriately being cared for and in turn caring for the unborn baby inside of her womb.
Unfortunately, once that child is brought into this world, we quickly lose interest in the care and welfare of both mom and baby. We do not want to infringe on other people’s “business” or talk about whether mom and baby are making their scheduled doctor appointments. For the health of our community, we must change that mindset.
In Robeson County, nearly 15 live births out of 1,000 live births end in death, more than twice the national rate of 7.0 per 1,000. In 2010 alone, 29 of 2,129 babies born in Robeson County did not live to see his or her first birthday. No, it’s not an easy conversation, but it is crucial to our entire nation, especially when infant mortality rates rank consistently above unindustrialized countries like Cuba. Why are so many of our babies dying?
We know Robeson County is poor and not enough people have health insurance. There are many other risk factors: smoking during pregnancy; not taking prenatal vitamins (including folic acid); poor overall health of the mother; domestic violence; sexually transmitted diseases; pre- and post-natal drug use;exposure to secondhand smoke; and Sudden Infant Deaths Syndrome (SIDS/SUIDS).
Beginning when mom finds out she is pregnant, life changes — for all of us. it then becomes the responsibility of the family and community as a whole. Fathers are needed to offer support and take responsibility even before baby arrives.
According to UNC Pembroke’s Healthy Start CORPS’ fact sheet, single mothers are less likely to obtain pre-natal care, experience depression twice as often, and have infant mortality rates 1.8 times higher than that of their married counterparts.
Community-based organizations like UNCP’s Healthy Start CORPS and the Robeson County Health Department provide a variety of services like case management, depression screening and health education.
Minorities are typically at greatest risk with African American babies dying almost 2.5 times more often than their white counterparts. Do you still think it does not affect you? The annual economic cost associated with pre-term birth in the U.S. is $26.2 billion.
No one could explain the devastation a pre-term birth mother feels once she is told by her physician that her pregnancy will not go full term and in fact her baby will be born eight weeks early than Leah Quick. A member of the Robeson County Infant Mortality Task Force, Leah has become an advocate for other new parents who may go through a similar traumatic birth experience.
Leah is the mother of Jayden Alexander Quick, born on Nov. 3, 2009, at 32 weeks and weighing a little less than 5 pounds.
“Jayden fought to maintain his body weight and was hospitalized for a week,” she said.
Jayden had fewer complications than some, but he could not suck a bottle and had to be fed through a tube.
“I could not bear to watch my baby go through what he went through,” Leah said, so she prayed. Jayden is now an active 2-year-old who suffers from speech delays and hypersensitivity to sounds.
If you want to do more, you have several options: join the Healthy Start CORPS and March of Dimes’ March for Babies on Saturday at Luther Britt Park, join the Robeson County Infant Mortality Task Force, or attend the Infant Mortality Awareness Symposium on Sept. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at UNCP’s Regional Center at COMtech.
Together we can give mom and baby a healthy start and make life beyond the first year, beginning on day 366, happy and healthy for all babies. For more information about any of the events listed, Healthy Start CORPS, or Infant Mortality Awareness month, please contact me at 910-521-6181 or firstname.lastname@example.org.