New program helps prevent preterm births

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Justine Boyd’s first child is 3 months old to the day.

During her pregnancy, she asked questions at Saint Peter’s University Hospital’s centering pregnancy program. Instead of being one-on-one with a provider, centering offers women a chance to be in a group with other expecting mothers with similar due dates.

“Since I am a first time mom, there’s a lot you have to ask about and consider. We were dealing with a couple of girls that had kids already,” said Boyd.

Topics like nutrition, labor, car seats, breastfeeding and anything else moms-to-be want to learn are discussed.

“They are more aware of symptoms and signs to watch our for to prevent preterm labor or birth,” said nurse practitioner Reni Mathai.

The National Institutes of Health says there are several factors that contribute to preterm birth. Things like if you’ve delivered preterm before, if you’re pregnant with multiples, or if you have a medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes. There are also lifestyle and environmental factors like late or no health care during pregnancy; smoking, drinking or using drugs; a lack of social support; stress, age and ethnicity also increase your risk.

The March of Dimes found African-American women are 49 percent more likely to have a preterm birth than all other women.

Nurse practitioner Joanne Pecoraro said reasons like access to care, access to education and isolation account for the drastic difference.

Pecoraro says preterm birth rates go down with centering programs because the more information they give women, the more they’re empowered to know when there is something wrong.

“If a mom identifies that she’s having these contractions, we can actually bring her in and help her, put her on bed rest, give her medication. Sometimes even they may perform a procedure on the cervix,” said Pecoraro.

The end result, two healthy moms and two healthy babies meeting each other for the first time.