Program in Norfolk tackles rise in preterm births

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NORFOLK, Va (WAVY) — An unexplained increase in the number premature births in Virginia is sparking an urgent need for action to save the lives of mothers and their babies.

While the preterm birth rate went up nearly 10 percent in Virginia in 2016, the numbers at one medical practice in Norfolk went down four percent.

So what is that practice doing different than others? Dana Doan says she knows. “You have this group and this bond and you’re meeting each month and I just think it was a great opportunity.”

Doan took part in a program called Centering Pregnancy at Woman Care Centers in Norfolk.

Over the last two years they’ve seen a reduction in preterm labor from 12 percent to eight percent.

“To see that much of a change with this model of pregnancy care is huge,” said program director and Certified Nurse Midwife, Blair Congers.

“We are bringing women together to share their wisdom with each other,” Congers explained.

It’s a kind of community Congers said can’t be replicated online, where many Moms turn today.

Dona told 10 On Your Side, “It’s scary when you google things and so just to have that opportunity to share and to learn I think is what’s key.”

The mothers receive a textbook and hear from experts on topics like nutrition, breastfeeding, baby rearing and dealing with the aches and pains of pregnancy.

It’s something April Stilwel wishes she’d had before her son, Parker was born nine weeks early. “Our health bill was over $100,000 for three weeks and my son was relatively healthy,” she said.

Stilwel now works for the March Of Dimes. She said the cost to families and insurance companies is astronomical.

That’s why Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield provided money to the March of Dimes for a grant that is paying for the program in Norfolk.

It allows the mothers to pay nothing which, they say, is priceless.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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