Nurse visits after birth in effort to address NJ’s maternal mortality

Source: New Jersey Herald

New mothers will soon be able to get up to three free visits from nurses after giving birth under a new program designed to support healthy development and reduce postpartum complications, including death.

With Gov. Phil Murphy’s signing Thursday of the Statewide Newborn Home Nurse Visitation Program, New Jersey is now the second state in the country, behind Oregon, to offer home nurse visits to infants and their parents.

In a country with the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations, New Jersey has a “crisis” of dying mothers, as bill sponsors have said. The state ranked 45th in the nation in maternal mortality in 2018, with 38 deaths per 100,000 births, according to the United Health Foundation. The Murphy administration ranks it even worse, 47th in the country.

Black women in particular are at high risk in New Jersey. According to Nurture NJ, they are seven times more likely than white women to die after childbirth, and Black babies are three times more likely to die before their first birthday than white infants. But maternal health after birth is a problem that cuts across all racial demographics.

About 52% of maternal deaths happen during the postpartum period of up to a year, and nearly two-thirds of deaths are attributed to preventable causes, according to the Commonwealth Fund. In the first week after birth, the organization said, severe bleeding, high blood pressure and infection are the most common contributors to maternal deaths.

As many as 40% of women in the United States do not see a doctor for a postpartum visit, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Under the new program, which is voluntary, a registered nurse would visit the home of a family within two weeks of an infant’s birth. The visit would include a weight and health check of the newborn, breastfeeding support, a physical wellness assessment of the mother and assistance with perinatal mood disorders.

Another two visits would be available within the baby’s first three months.

The program, which will be run by the Department of Children and Families at a cost of $2.75 million to start, would also apply to adoptive parents and parents experiencing a stillbirth.

The visitation program is the latest in a series of efforts to make childbirth and the postpartum period safer in New Jersey. First lady Tammy Murphy has led those efforts by establishing the Nurture NJ awareness campaign and advocating for new laws, such as changes to Medicaid, and additional funding for doulas.

Nurture NJ also issued a strategic plan earlier this year to improve birth outcomes.

“This will help fundamentally change the direction we’ve been going in here in New Jersey. The changes in the strategic plan are going to call for holistic changes across every department, every agency, every profession — honestly, every field,” Tammy Murphy said.

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