US lags behind developed world in successful births

Local birthing center aims to buck national trend

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. - According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 9 children in the United States is before the 37 week period required to be considered a full-term birth.

Nearly 25,000 babies a year die in infancy and each year hundreds of women still die in childbirth.

These alarming national statistics are also costly for the American economy, with studies estimating it cost the healthcare system over $26 billion dollars in 2006 to pay for the care for premature births.

"One of the big issues in this country is that we have women who are having poor outcomes and so the quality of the care is obviously part of that," said Jennie Joseph, a practicing midwife who is also the executive director of Commonsense Childbirth, Inc.

Joseph sees hundreds of women each year at the Birth Place in Winter Garden.  The facility recently was awarded a grant from Every Mother Counts, a charitable organization founded by former model Christy Turlington-Burns.

The charity usually provides funding for prenatal care in developing countries but awarded Joseph's organization a grant due to the alarming number of women in the United States not able to bring babies to full-term.

"We have the best facilities, and even the most well-meaning doctors but won't we don't have is a personalized relationship," said Joseph.

Joseph has been practicing midwifery for 27 years and has been with the Birth Place for over 10 years.  She sees many young and poor mothers, some of them are undocumented and not eligible for Medicaid.

"Most statics show babies are being born low-birth weight and even premature in this demographic so we've changed that completely, we've turned it on its head," said Joseph.

Joseph developed the 'JJ Way' which is a comprehensive maternity model aimed to get mothers to full-term.  

"It's not just the medical piece the whole thing has to be taken into consideration and in doing so women open up, and as they share they become more empowered," she said.

The model focuses on nutrition and attention to emotional stress on the mother.  

Patients at the Birth Place said the difference they notice with the 'JJ Way' is the personal attention.

Destiny Gordon found out she was pregnant with her first child at just 15 years old.  She said Joseph was able to point out problems with her diet and for a short-time thought the young mother may be at risk for diabetes.

"If you're overweight they help you with the baby, because it can hurt the baby and it can hurt you," said Gordon, who is now 18 and pregnant with a second child.

Gordon was able to bring her daughter, Andrea, to full-term and deliver without complications. 

Joseph said each mother and baby saves taxpayers about $50,000 since most of the patients in the practice receive government healthcare benefits.

Neo-natal care can be very costly, so if babies are born healthy after 37 weeks of gestation that cost is eliminated.

Women are also able to deliver at The Birth Place, as long as the labor is low-risk.  Joseph said only about 10 percent of patients have to be transferred to a hospital to deliver.

Joseph said their cost of delivery is about a third of a cost of an uncomplicated hospital stay.

However, she sees many patients who chose from the beginning to have a hospital birth but seek their prenatal care at the Birth Place due to the affordability and access.

Joseph said they do not turn anyone away at The Birth Place, regardless of their ability to pay. Often times they assist women to get on Medicaid and WIC but they are often provided free care for the first few visits before the assistance is available.  In addition, undocumented mothers are not eligible for these programs.

Joseph said the Every Mother Counts grant will pay for those gaps.  

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