A new survey shows a majority of new and expectant moms have not discussed preterm birth with their healthcare providers, despite the fact that early prenatal care, including discussion about lifestyle habits and medical history, may give babies a better chance of a healthy, full-term birth. This new survey, titled SPEAKing (Survey on Perceptions, Experiences, Assessment and Knowledge) About Preterm Birth, was conducted among moms and healthcare providers including obstetricians/gynecologists and maternal fetal medicine specialists, by the March of Dimes and BabyCenter, and sponsored by Ther-Rx Corporation.
Starting the conversation about preterm birth early enough and covering all important topics, such as risk factors, represents a challenge for moms and healthcare providers. According to the survey, only one in four new or expectant moms say they discussed preterm birth with their healthcare providers before the second trimester. Additionally, although one of the most significant risk factors is having had a preterm birth before, nearly 40 percent of moms who have previously delivered preterm were not informed that they may be at risk for a subsequent preterm birth.
"Findings from this survey underscore the need for earlier communication between expectant moms and their healthcare providers," said Dr. Alan R. Fleischman, senior vice president and medical director of the March of Dimes. "We encourage every woman to have a medical check up before getting pregnant to identify and manage conditions that contribute to preterm delivery. And we urge women and healthcare providers to talk about risk factors for premature birth as early as possible."
Preterm birth, or the birth of a baby prior to 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, is a serious problem that affects more than half a million babies in the United States each year. Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant death in the U.S. and babies who survive often face serious complications and lifelong disability. Preterm birth also costs the nation more than $26 billion per year.
Healthcare providers cite several barriers to discussing preterm birth with their patients. The majority (83 percent) of healthcare providers agree that the options for preventing preterm birth are limited, which they most frequently cite as a challenge in bringing up the topic of preterm birth with their prenatal patients. More than half of healthcare providers cite concern about causing undue fear or worry as a challenge to discussing preterm birth with their patients.
Increasingly, moms are searching for information outside of their healthcare provider's office; in fact, more than a third (36 percent) of moms surveyed say they receive most or all of their information about important topics related to their pregnancy from other sources outside of their healthcare provider.
"With BabyCenter being mom's first choice for all her parenting and pregnancy information, we see first-hand that moms are taking a more proactive approach to their own healthcare," said Linda Murray, editor-in-chief, BabyCenter. "Therefore, it is more important than ever that moms are equipped with accurate and up-to-date information, and feel empowered to discuss subjects like preterm birth prevention with their healthcare provider."