Category Archives: Family Planning

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.


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.

Birth Spacing Allows You to be Prepared

Vickie Porter

Birth Spacing

By: Vickie Porter, MSN-FNP

Shelby County Health Department Family Planning Clinic


Oh, how wonderful and exciting it is to discover you are pregnant! You begin imagining what he or she will look like.  Will he/she have my eyes or dad’s nose or will he/she reach back into the family tree and get grandma’s green eye color.  Now, let’s fast forward… head in hands, tears flowing as you hear, “you’re pregnant” with child number three, ages 2 years, 10 months and now pregnant!!! This situation is fictional…or is it?

Whether you’re thinking about getting pregnant for the first time or you already have children, it’s important to think about family planning and your reproductive goals.  Nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended.   Birth Spacing refers to the time interval from one child’s birth date until the next child’s birth date. There are many factors to consider in determining what is an optimal time interval between pregnancies.  Research has shown there are a number of issues which are more likely to occur when a woman is pregnant again within a year of giving birth. These issues include an increased risk of:

  • Low birth weight
  • Small gestational size
  • Preterm birth
  • Infant death
  • Labor issues such as uterine rupture

Medical professionals recommend new mothers wait at least a full year to have another baby – some even say to wait 2 years! This gives the mothers time to replenish vital nutrients that were lost during child birth and also the recovery time to allow organs to restore back to normal. It can also help ensure that new parents will have the energy and ability to focus on another child.

So, yes it can be exciting to be pregnant and anticipating the birth of a child but it is also a very stressful period of time for the whole family. Speak with your provider of care about a contraceptive method so that you can have a baby when you are physically and emotionally prepared.

Set Your Mind. Set Your Goals

Choices logo

Creating a Reproductive Life Plan

By: Katy Leopard

Choices. Memphis Center  of  Reproductive Health

Having a plan helps you make important choices in your life. A Reproductive Life Plan is a set of goals you can make about having or not having children. You may change your mind over time – that is ok. A reproductive life plan is important for your personal well-being, whether or not you plan to have children. Planning if and when to have children helps you think about how you want to live your life and achieve your goals. Many pregnancies in Tennessee are unplanned and happen at a time when a woman’s health or social situation is not ideal. Making a reproductive life plan can help ensure that you are healthy and ready if you choose to get pregnant. If you don’t have a plan to prevent pregnancy, you have a plan to get pregnant!

A Reproductive Life Plan takes into account your future goals and dreams for yourself, your physical health, mental health, family and health history, as well as your desire to have children or not. Have you ever thought about what your life will be like in 5 years? How much education would you like to complete? What work would you like to be doing? Do you see yourself in a committed relationship? Being in control of your reproductive life is a key part of making these dreams and goals a reality. Good health habits and working to manage any chronic diseases like diabetes or asthma can affect your future health and your reproductive life goals. Health problems can also come from parents or other relatives. If you know the health background of your family, you’re a step ahead in understanding problems that could affect you, your future and any children you may have. That’s why it is important to know about your past. Finally, emotional wellness means you feel good about yourself, your relationships and your purpose in life. When you are emotionally healthy, you will have fewer lows and be able to bounce back from sad times faster.

At Choices. Memphis Center for Reproductive Health we address the interconnected needs of our patients to prevent, plan, and space future pregnancies by combining patient education and high quality medical care. Choices recognizes that health outcomes are impacted by a multitude of factors. Our feminist perspective views women within the context of relationships, family, and community; and understands that class and race/ethnicity interact with gender to provide different outcomes for women of all ages. At Choices we encourage women to take control of their reproductive lives and to develop a reproductive life plan to prevent and/or plan and space future pregnancies. Attached is a booklet to help you think through your goals and make a Reproductive Life Plan. For preconception health care contact Choices 901-274-3550.