January 6, 2006

Contact: Jenny Savage (505) 272-3651

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

While most teenage girls are searching for prom dresses and learning to drive, thousands of others across the nation are facing the responsibility of a positive pregnancy test and impending motherhood. Along with the social stress of adolescent pregnancy, teenage mothers face a myriad of medical problems that put the health of their babies at risk, including preterm labor and birth, low birth weight, and unplanned repeat pregnancy. Care for these young women must be specialized and innovative in order to be effective.

In 2002, the Nurse Midwifery Division at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center rose to the challenge by establishing the Young Mothers Group, an innovative way of providing comprehensive prenatal care to adolescents in groups. Now in its third year of existence, the program is thriving and was recently awarded grant funding from the New Mexico chapter of the March of Dimes, a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality.

The Young Mothers Group program is comprehensive and includes health assessment, education and support. A key aspect of the program is the active role young mothers are expected to take in their personal healthcare. Young moms take control of their chart and the information it contains by checking their own weight, blood pressure and gestational age and charting the information. With support, they are able to review and understand their own lab work, ultrasound reports and consultation reports.

"Young Mothers Group is not a class and there is very little didactic teaching done," said Elizabeth Tarrant, UNM nurse-midwife. "Rather, women learn from each other and come to understand the power of their own knowledge."

Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality through programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies and in 2003 launched a multi-year campaign to address the increasing rate of premature birth. March of Dimes awards many grants in pursuit of this mission. For more information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org.