HARLEM — A new grant from the March of Dimes will help the Institute for Family Health steer women in Harlem and The Bronx away from the health, financial and social difficulties of multiple pregnancies over a brief time span.
Doctors define a "rapid repeat pregnancy" as one that occurs six months after giving birth. Those pregnancies help contribute to poverty and birth defects as well as interfere with the socialization of the older child.
One of the main reasons for multiple pregnancies in rapid succession is that women lose their health insurance once they give birth, leaving them without a means to procure birth control, said Dr. Linda Prine, director of women's health for the Institute for Family Health.
"For women in poor communities there are so many obstacles to health care such as lack of insurance and lack of child care," said Prine. "We want to reach women and get them the help they need to get in the clinic."
Current medical guidelines call for three years between pregnancies. The time allows a woman's body to heal and reduces rates of prematurity and birth defects. It also allows a mother to focus on the child she has and not have to divert attention to a newborn which helps with child development, said Prine.
Women at the Institute's Harlem site demonstrate the difficulty of maintaining postpartum care for poor women. Many of the clients live in shelters because of a lack of housing or domestic abuse. As a result, their living situation can be transient. Keeping the women coming to regular appointments when they are on the move can be difficult.
Yvonne Eisner, a practicing nurse practitioner in The Bronx and one of the Institute’s founders called the program "another resource to help women get the postpartum care and support they need to improve their health, and ultimately, their babies’ health as well.”
Under the grant, the Institute will target 250 women with care and support after they give birth, including contraception and postpartum care designed to reduce unplanned pregnancies at six health centers. The women will also receive help with making and keeping follow-up appointments.
"Having someone to call and make that reminder that you have an appointment is really crucial," said Prine.
The grant will also allow doctors in the Institute's residency program to get hands-on training in birth control application. The institute will also track the women in the program to determine the effectiveness of the effort.
"If all the prenatal patients we take care of during this grant manage to not come back with an unintended pregnancy I feel we will have made a difference," said Prine.