Kerri Stephen is the Community Liaison with the Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County and ACOG Region 3 contact for the 39 Weeks project. She shares her role in preventing infant mortality:
“The timing of my pregnancy couldn’t have been more perfect. I had just begun working for the Healthy Start Coalition of Orange County when I discovered I was pregnant. I was going to be a first-time mom! Due to the nature of my work and what Healthy Start is all about, I was equipped with a plethora of knowledge about having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Perhaps the information I found most intriguing was learning how my baby was growing and developing inside of me, including crucial development occurring up to the very last weeks of pregnancy.”
One way I’ve become knowledgeable of the important developments occurring during the last weeks of pregnancy is through the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalition’s implementation of the “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” campaign in Florida. The campaign has been made possible by funding from March of Dimes, with the purpose to increase the understanding of the importance of the last weeks of pregnancy and the contributions of this period to healthy fetal development and reduced health complications for mothers and babies.
Coalitions around the state have received March of Dimes materials about the importance of the last few weeks of pregnancy that have been distributed to local hospitals and provider offices. Rack and wallet cards were also created from the information obtained from focus groups around Florida as part of the grant. These materials were also disseminated around the state.
I am fortunate to say that I had a very healthy and complication-free pregnancy, which I credit in part to my wanting to do all that I could possibly do to give my baby the very best start…exercising, eating healthy, reducing stress, getting enough rest, etc. Also in wanting my baby to be the healthiest he could be, it was no question to me that I wanted my baby to be born full-term (39 Weeks) and that I wanted my labor to begin on its own. Of course, you never know what may happen, so I did my research and attended a childbirth class to learn about possible pregnancy complications, reasons for interventions, medications during pregnancy, and more. I wanted to be well-informed and aware of my options and any risks they may pose to me or my baby so in the case something were to go not as planned, I would be prepared to make the decision considered best for me and my baby. It was also important to me to have a birth plan and make sure my provider of care was on the same page as me.
On August 20, 2011, my baby was born full-term (a day or two shy of his due date), weighing in at 8lbs. 11oz, and he was definitely worth the wait! I am proud to say my labor began on its own and I delivered medication and intervention-free at a birth center. I was fortunate that I didn’t have any medical complications during labor and no interventions were needed, and I know this is not always the case. From infancy to now toddlerhood, my “baby” has amazed me with his strength, good health, and intelligence. As a mom of such a healthy boy, I would encourage all moms-to-be to consider the importance of waiting 39 Weeks and letting labor begin on its own if there are no medical complications.”