Our November Charity: Brave Beginnings

Our November Charity: Brave Beginnings

Expecting a new baby comes with many emotions, including surprise, joy, excitement—and also worry. All parents want their baby to be born healthy, but just like many things in life that are out of our control, what happens during pregnancy can be unpredictable. In the United States, approximately 1 in 10 babies in the United States is born premature. A premature (or preterm) birth occurs when a baby is born before 37 weeks gestation, and these babies come into the world before they have a chance to fully develop. Important growth and development happens during those final weeks of pregnancy, so babies who are born prematurely are at risk for a number of issues, including breathing problems, vision problems, hearing problems, feeding difficulties, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays. Every November is recognized as Prematurity Awareness Month in the United States (November 17 is globally recognized as World Prematurity Awareness Day) in order to bring attention to the health crises of premature births. 

Although preterm births are still the leading cause of child death in the United States, the survival rate of premature babies is steadily climbing. Thanks to medical advancements, even babies delivered as early as 22 weeks gestation have a fighting chance at life. Most premature babies need to spend time in a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where they receive around-the-clock care from specially trained neonatal doctors, nurses, and other specialists who address any medical issues caused by their prematurity. This essential care is not only life-saving, it also impacts the long term health of these babies. In honor of Prematurity Awareness Month and World Prematurity Day, we chose Brave Beginnings as our November charity and donated $5,000 to support their work in helping premature babies across the country survive and thrive.

Brave Beginnings, a program of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation, awards grants to hospitals to ensure that their NICUs have the ventilators and other neonatal equipment needed to care for preemies. Since 2006, Brave Beginnings has contributed millions of dollars to facilities across the country, awarding approximately $1 million to hospitals each year. These funds are used to purchase vital equipment, which is always in demand. The rate of premature birth in the United States is climbing in recent years, and having the right equipment in hospitals can literally mean the difference between life and death. To date, Brave Beginnings has granted $9.5 million to 200 hospitals across the United States to ease the burden of accommodating a growing number of newborns in critical need. It is their mission to ensure that every preemie has the care they need to grow.

We’re proud to support an organization that works so hard to help preemies thrive, and we’re also honoring Prematurity Awareness Month by spreading the word about the importance of reducing preterm birth. Although a preterm birth can occur with no risk factors present, there are known factors that increase the risk, such as medical history, pregnancy complications, lifestyle, and age. Risk factors like health conditions or age are out of your control, but you can take these steps to reduce your risk for preterm labor and premature birth:

  • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy (not too little, not too much).
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, use illicit drugs, or abuse prescription drugs.
  • Stay on top of prenatal care, such as taking prenatal vitamins and going to all your prenatal care checkups.
  • Get treated for chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and thyroid problems.
  • Protect yourself from infections.
  • Reduce your stress and eat a variety of healthy foods.
  • Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again.

Even if you have no risk factors and do everything right, preterm labor can happen to anyone without warning. But, going into preterm labor does not necessarily mean that you will have a preterm birth. Preterm labor stops on its own for about 3 in 10 women, and if it does not stop, there are treatments that can be given to try and delay birth. In order to get help as quickly as possible, it’s important to learn these signs and symptoms of preterm labor:

  • Change in vaginal discharge (watery, bloody, mucus, or more than usual)
  • Pressure in your pelvis or lower belly
  • Constant low, dull backache
  • Belly cramps with or without diarrhea
  • Regular or frequent contractions that may not be painful, or uterine tightening
  • Your water breaks

If you have even one of these signs and symptoms, call your provider right away so you can find out if you really are in labor and receive treatment to help stop it. Delaying labor by even just one or two days can be enough time for steroids to help a baby’s lungs develop and greatly improve their outcome.

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