March of Dimes and Make Your Date today announced the launch of their Supportive Pregnancy Care program at Wayne Health’s 400 Mack Ave. Health Center in Detroit. The innovative SPC program is supported by the Danialle and Peter Karmanos Jr. Family Foundation to help improve mother and baby health during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and infancy.
The March of Dimes SPC program offers prenatal care in a group setting with mothers-to-be of similar gestational ages. At each group session, women learn to perform self-care by measuring and recording their weight and blood pressure with the help of a facilitator. A licensed obstetric provider meets individually with each woman to perform a physical assessment and discuss specific concerns in a semi-private area within the group space. During each SPC visit, women have more time with their health care providers than they would during conventional individual prenatal checkups, and benefit from prenatal care and education, and through the vital social and emotional support they receive from other mothers. The program will be launched with COVID-19 restrictions in place and will adapt as necessary to ensure safety for all mothers.
“Limited access to quality health care during pregnancy, exacerbated by racial and ethnic disparities, plays a decisive role in the rising preterm birth rate in the United States. In fact, women of color are up to 50 percent more likely to deliver prematurely,” said Sonia Hassan, M.D., associate vice president of the Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University and Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist with Wayne Health. “Wayne State University, Wayne Health and March of Dimes share a passion and commitment to improving maternal and child health. An innovative approach like the SPC program will play a key role in breaking down some of the barriers these expectant moms encounter during their pregnancy, leading to fewer premature births and better pregnancy outcomes.”
For Danialle Karmanos, the SPC program is more than just philanthropy. “As a mom of four boys, I feel a deep connection to the mothers we serve. I carried four children through three high-risk pregnancies, three hospitalizations, three months of bedrest and two doctors advising my twins wouldn’t survive. I deeply understand an expectant mother’s intense desire to create the safest opportunities for her unborn children. My greatest hope is that this collaboration will give both mother and baby the greatest chances for health and success.”
With support from the Danialle and Peter Karmanos Jr. Family Foundation, March of Dimes is able to bring SPC to more locations with more participating care providers. The organization first launched SPC in Tennessee in 2017 and now operates SPC sites in 20 states and Puerto Rico. The Make Your Date/Wayne Health site will be the first SPC location in Michigan.
“The SPC environment can empower women to take control of their pregnancy care and fosters relationships that can last throughout their pregnancies and beyond,” said Mark E. Schweitzer, M.D., dean of the Wayne State University School of Medicine and vice president of WSU Health Affairs. “National research has shown that a group setting for prenatal care is associated with fewer premature births, reduced incidence of low-birth-weight infants and shorter neonatal intensive care stays.”
The projected impact of SPC in Detroit includes a decrease in the rate of preterm birth within the participant groups and a decrease in racial/ethnic disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. Preterm birth rates in Detroit are higher than both the national and state average (Detroit 14.3% vs. Michigan 10.2% and U.S. 10.1% from 2017 to 2019). Also, the preterm birth rate among African American women is 60% higher than the rate among all other women. This program, as a form of group prenatal care, has shown to reduce preterm birth rates among African American women by 41% and by 33% among participants of all races/ethnicities.
In the U.S., one in 10 babies is born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) each year, making the nation one of the most dangerous developed nations in which to give birth. Babies who survive an early birth often have lifelong health issues such as learning disabilities, and vision and hearing loss. Infants born just a few weeks early have a greater risk of respiratory distress syndrome, feeding difficulties, temperature instability that can increase the risk for hypothermia, jaundice and delayed brain development.