Helping Moms Help Their Babies
For years, public health officials in Maryland have worked to educate pregnant women and new mothers about steps they can take to keep their babies healthy. Data released this month by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene shows that those efforts are paying off.
In 2011, more Maryland mothers than ever reported receiving early prenatal care, breastfeeding and placing their babies to sleep on their backs.  
Among women who delivered in 2011, 82 percent received care during the first trimester of pregnancy, compared to 74 percent in 2006. In addition, a record high 85 percent of Maryland mothers who delivered in 2011 reported breastfeeding, and a record 77 percent of mothers reported placing their infants to sleep on their backs.  A decade ago, only 72 percent reported breastfeeding and 63 percent placed their infants to sleep on their back. Both of these behaviors have a positive impact on the health of babies. 
The data is collected by the Maryland Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS).  Every year the Department, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), selects approximately 2,000 mothers to participate in a survey about their attitudes, behaviors and experiences just before, during and after pregnancy.  The mothers are randomly selected, however women who have delivered low birth weight infants are over-sampled to gain a better idea of factors that may be associated with poor pregnancy outcomes. 
The news was not all good. Some unhealthy factors or behaviors were trending upwards to record high levels, such as the prevalence of obesity just before pregnancy (23 percent reported they were obese) and the rate of unintended pregnancy (46 percent reported that the pregnancy was not wanted or wanted later).  Alcohol use during the last three months of pregnancy was also near records highs - reported by 9 percent of mothers. 
DHMH and other public health officials in Maryland will continue the ongoing campaign to promote safe sleep. Just last week, Maryland’s latest effort to promote healthy babies took effect – a new ban on the sale of crib bumpers, which pose potential serious risks to infants, including suffocation and death.
The data from 2011 births and other Maryland PRAMS reports may be viewed at