Did you know that nearly seven babies will die before their first birthday for every thousand who are born in the U.S. and the rate for African American, Hispanic and Native American women, are even higher?   Premature births occurring before thirty-seven weeks and low-weight babies, weighing less than five pounds account for the highest number of deaths in the U.S.

In recognition of September as the National Infant Mortality Awareness Month, I’d like to share some SMART tips to pregnant women:

S = Seek prenatal care early.  Problems in pregnancy cannot be fixed at the last minute. Tests for genetic problems can only be detected in the early first and second trimesters.  A first trimester ultrasound is also the MOST accurate in terms of a due date. 

M = Mention all high-risk factors such as family history of diabetes, high blood pressure or bleeding. Do not omit information such as smoking or “recreational” drugs.  It will come back to haunt you.

A= Ask to have your cervix measured during your ultrasound if there is a previous history of premature contractions or delivery.  A cervical length of 2.5 centimeters or less is a risk factor for preterm labor. 

R= Research your hospital and prospective physician or midwife carefully.  Is the physician or midwife skilled in managing high-risk conditions?  Will they continue to see you even if you lose your insurance?  Has the hospital had any recent outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant – infections in the newborn nursery?  Is there 24-hour anesthesia? 

T= Test for potential problems such as Gestational Diabetes, Sickle Cell Trait or sexually transmitted infections.

The U.S. is one of the most industrialized countries in the world, yet we rank below Cuba and Taiwan, with respect to our national infant mortality rate.  The health of a nation is judged by its national infant mortality rate. We can do better.  We must do better.  The health of our future generation is depending on it.