For years, public health officials
in Maryland have worked to educate pregnant women and new mothers about
steps they can take to keep their babies healthy. Data released this
month by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene shows that
those efforts are paying off.
In 2011, more Maryland mothers
than ever reported receiving early prenatal care, breastfeeding and
placing their babies to sleep on their backs.
Among women who delivered in 2011,
82 percent received care during the first trimester of pregnancy,
compared to 74 percent in 2006. In addition, a record high 85 percent of
Maryland mothers who delivered in 2011 reported breastfeeding, and a
record 77 percent of mothers reported placing their infants to sleep on
their backs. A decade ago, only 72 percent reported breastfeeding and
63 percent placed their infants to sleep on their back. Both of these
behaviors have a positive impact on the health of babies.
The data is collected
by the Maryland Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS).
Every year the Department, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), selects approximately 2,000 mothers to
participate in a survey about their attitudes, behaviors and experiences
just before, during and after pregnancy. The mothers are randomly
selected, however women who have delivered low birth weight infants are
over-sampled to gain a better idea of factors that may be associated
with poor pregnancy outcomes.
The news was not all good. Some
unhealthy factors or behaviors were trending upwards to record high
levels, such as the prevalence of obesity just before pregnancy (23
percent reported they were obese) and the rate of unintended pregnancy
(46 percent reported that the pregnancy was not wanted or wanted
later). Alcohol use during the last three months of pregnancy was also
near records highs - reported by 9 percent of mothers.
DHMH and other public health
officials in Maryland will continue the ongoing campaign to promote safe
sleep. Just last week, Maryland’s latest effort to promote healthy
babies took effect – a new ban on the sale of crib bumpers, which pose
potential serious risks to infants, including suffocation and death.