AUSTIN (KXAN) — New mothers recognize it immediately. Pink and blue stripes line its square shape; soft to the touch, but not overly so. The receiving blankets at nearly every hospital seem almost iconic, at least in some institutional sense.
And yet they also serve as a newborn’s first source of warmth. Nurses swaddle new infants as they hand them over to their parents for the first time.
Moms know. So do dads.
That’s why the March of Dimes wanted to use the recognizable blankets to deliver an important message, but it stands in stark contrast to the unbounded happiness of parenthood.
The ad depicts the baby blanket draped underneath these startling words “Baby is born, mommy died.”
It’s part of the #BLANKETCHANGE campaign pushing lawmakers to look at what the nonprofit is calling an urgent health crisis moms and babies face across Texas.
The organization says 700 women die each year and more than 50,000 have severe complications during pregnancy and that is making America the most dangerous developed country to give birth.
“Even one death of a new mother is a tragedy — 700 is a public health crisis,” said March of Dimes President Stacey D. Stewart. “These deaths of pregnant women and new mothers are completely unacceptable.”
The organization released a report in October showing more than a thousand counties where maternal health care is limited or doesn’t exist.
These maternity care deserts are counties with no hospital that is staffed appropriately to provide care for pregnant women and no obstetrician/gynecologist or certified nurse midwives to care for them, according to March of Dimes.
In Texas, March of Dimes found 116 of 254 counties are maternity care deserts and is now urging lawmakers to support bills that would include pregnancy medical home pilot programs in at least one rural county with high maternal mortality rates and look into the use of telemedicine services for women during pregnancy and the postpartum time.
The organization is also pushing for better postpartum health coverage and extending Medicaid for pregnant women.
“Caring for women beyond 60 days postpartum will help ensure the health of women during their subsequent pregnancies, improve birth outcomes and ultimately reduce costs for the state,” said Matt Keppler, with regional director advocacy and government affairs at the March of Dimes.
Stewart believes partnering with multiple stakeholders will be key in finding a solution.
“There are certain solutions that have to be in place and those things have to be intervening in the hospital, making sure if there are emergency situations that those are dealt with immediately with the right protocols, but also making sure women understand what they need to do to be monitoring their health before pregnancy, during pregnancy and certainly after pregnancy,” Stewart said.
Perhaps only then will those recognizable receiving blanks fall back out of any public campaigns, and return to the hospitals to welcome more newborns into the world.