Category Archives: Birth Control

Decrease Your Risk of Preterm Birth


Decrease Your Risk of Preterm Birth


Rachel Heitman

Director of Injury Prevention, Infant Mortality Reduction and Death Review

Tennessee Department of Health

Did you know that 1 in 10 babies are born too early in Tennessee? In Memphis, 13.7% of all babies are born prematurely or before 37 weeks gestation. Preterm birth is one of the leading causes of infant mortality. When a baby is born prematurely, he/she might need special care in the hospital. The baby is also at risk for life long disabilities or death. Some steps that you can take to reduce your risk and improve your overall health when pregnant include:

1. Avoid alcohol and illicit drug use.

There is no safe level of alcohol use during pregnancy. Alcohol can affect the fetus throughout pregnancy. It is best not to drink at all while you are pregnant. If you did drink alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, you can reduce the risk of further harm to the baby by stopping drinking.
Illicit drug use includes use of any illegal drugs in addition to the use of prescription drugs for a nonmedical reason. Drug use can interfere with the growth of the fetus and cause preterm birth and fetal death.

2. If you smoke, STOP.

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. When you smoke during pregnancy, those chemicals build up in your blood stream, which is the source of oxygen and nutrients for your baby. If you need help with quitting, call the quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

3. Get early prenatal care and attend all of your scheduled appointments.

Some of the largest risk factors for premature birth include high blood pressure, infections, abnormal uterus or cervix, and stress. By going to your provider early and often, these types of conditions can be tracked and monitored and possibly lead to preventing a preterm birth.
4. Learn the signs and symptoms of preterm labor.

The signs of preterm labor include pain in the belly, painful urination, decreased movement from the baby, backache, contractions, cramping, leaking fluid, increased abdominal pressure, increased vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, and fever. If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to check in with your provider.

5. Ask your provider if you are a candidate for 17P.

If you have already had a preterm birth, you might be eligible for a medication called 17P. This medication is a weekly injection starting around the 16th week of pregnancy and continuing until 37 weeks pregnant. There are no known side effects for the baby. This medication has shown to lower the risk of delivering a preterm baby by as much as 33% for women that have had a previous preterm birth. If you would like more information about 17P, please talk to your OB provider.

6. Wait at least 18 months between pregnancies.

Take your time between pregnancies. Another high-risk factor for preterm birth is having less than 18 months between pregnancies. Infants conceived less than 6 months after giving birth have a 40% chance of being born premature. A longer time between pregnancies is important to help your body heal. To prevent pregnancy for at least 18 months, talk with your provider or local health department about birth control options. If you do become pregnant within this period, be sure to get early care from your provider.

7. Manage stress.

Increased stress puts you and your baby at risk for a preterm birth. Figure out what’s making you stressed and talk to your partner, a friend, family member or your health care provider about it.

8. Lead a healthy lifestyle before becoming pregnant.

If you are considering becoming pregnant, start your healthy lifestyle now. This includes exercising, eating healthy, taking a multivitamin, seeing your physician for a check-up, and getting any illnesses or chronic diseases under control
The following links provide more information on prematurity.


What’s your story?

what is your story question in vintage wooden letterpress printing blocks, stained by color inks, isolated on white

Do you have a story you’d like to share about the importance of prenatal care? Have you been involved in a successful program and want to share your story? Do you belong to an organization in Shelby County that could benefit others to ensure their baby is healthy? We are looking for personal stories for the IMRI blog, and we’d like to feature you as a guest blogger! Send an email to and someone from our team will be in contact with you.

Three Tips for Moms-To-Be



By: Alicia Anderson

A Step Ahead Foundation

Pregnancy Nutrition Tip

If you are pregnant or might get pregnant soon, start taking folic acid (Vitamin B) to reduce the risk of birth defects.  In addition to folic acid supplements or prenatal vitamins, stock up on orange juice, fortified cereals, grapefruit, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, lentils, and peas – all great sources of folic acid.

Baby Safety Tip

Take a CPR class for your baby and invite baby’s other caregivers.  Classes are offered all over the Memphis area at different times and days of the week. 

The Red Cross

Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown

Baptist Women’s Hospital

Two Nurses & A Manikin

Restart the Heart CPR

Heartbeat CPR


Family Planning Tip

Doctors recommend waiting a minimum of at least 18-23 months between pregnancies (the most recent birth and the beginning of the next pregnancy) to increase the chance that the baby is born healthy.  How long you wait is up to you, but if you aren’t ready for another bundle of joy right away, consider getting on a highly effective method of birth control that is long-lasting but not permanent.  These methods are perfect for new moms (or any busy woman) because you don’t have to remember to do anything such as taking a pill every day.  Unlike some other methods, they are safe to use while breastfeeding, which provides your baby with so many benefits.  Call A Step Ahead Foundation at (901) 320-STEP to get an appointment for this FREE birth control.

There are many other things to consider regarding nutrition during pregnancy and the safety of your new baby.  These are just a few helpful tips.  This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, see a medical professional as soon as possible.

Lifting Health through Collaboration

A Step Ahead Foundation

Lifting Health through Collaboration

By: Kellie Spilman, MPH

A Step Ahead Foundation

“In a country as great as this one, a child’s zip code should never be what determines his or her opportunity,”

– Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz

Memphis has been called many things. Home of the blues, birthplace of rock and roll, grind city — all nicknames we’re proud to put on display to any non-Memphian who dares speak ill about our beloved town. Exciting new developments, successful basketball teams, and a growing food culture have led our city to a boom in Memphis pride. We’re happy to embrace that pride — and we should. We have a lot of reasons to be proud.

We can’t let that pride in our culture blind us to an area where we tragically need improvement: our health. Memphis has been called the least healthy city in America — and for good reason. Our city falls within the bottom five American metro areas for indicators in infant mortality, diabetes, obesity, homicide, illegal drug use, heart disease, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV. Close to half of the children in Memphis are living in poverty, and rates of asthma, obesity, teenage pregnancy, and gang involvement for these children are significantly higher than their more fortunate peers.

In order to improve the health of all of our residents, we need to start from day one. Infant mortality is a tragedy no one can ignore. Infant health is connected to educational, health, and economic outcomes later in life. We need to band together to take care of our most vulnerable fellow Memphians — and there are ways we can do this that are proven to make an impact. We need to start by providing women with the tools they need to plan their children: babies born from an unplanned or teenage pregnancy are at higher risk. We need to help families access education about infant nutrition and best practices. We need to make sure parents have a way to access medical care for their families so that they can work with their doctor to determine the best plan to keep their families healthy.

Thankfully we have organizations in Memphis that can help with all of these things – and they deserve our pride just as much as our restaurants and sports teams. So let’s cheer for March of Dimes and the Early Success Coalition, organizations working to improve the health and lives of our babies. Let’s tell all of our friends about A Step Ahead Foundation, which provides free birth control to any woman in Shelby County (and not just any birth control, the most effective, top of the line birth control – IUDs and implants). Let’s celebrate our amazing network of community clinics who are providing care to our most vulnerable citizens. These organizations are something to be proud of, and as we help lift Memphis up, let’s not forget our most valuable assets.

My Tooth Hurts!

Claudia Haltom ASAF

By: Claudia Haltom


When I was pregnant with my first child, my tooth started hurting. It was a terrible tooth ache. My dentist told me that my body needed more calcium to build the baby and it was drawing off of bones and teeth. But, I could not have an x-ray because of the pregnancy and they wanted to limit the drugs they gave me. It was awful. I had to have a root canal.

I waited three years to have my next child. During those three years I took lots of calcium supplements, ate lots of yogurt and kept my teeth and my bones healthy. During the second pregnancy, my teeth were fine and my baby boy was a rough tumbler who never broke a bone in childhood!

I got ready to have a baby, planned him and spaced him. The first one was out of diapers before the second one came along. I was rested and a lot less stressed. A Step Ahead Foundation provides the most effective birth control methods free of charge to any woman in Shelby County, thus helping her space her babies safely and effectively. A Step Ahead Foundation works with 19 clinics in the Memphis area, including Shelby County Health Department clinics, providing women with a free well-woman exam, STI test, and the birth control method of her choosing. The methods offered are the Paragard IUD, Mirena IUD, and the Nexplanon implant. IUDs are the most popular form of birth control that female health providers choose for themselves and all three methods are safe to use while breastfeeding. To make an appointment, call (901) 320-STEP(7837) or visit for more information.