I wanted to share this exciting news with you! If you haven’t heard about the Text4baby initiative let me tell you a little bit about it. This is a brand new, totally free and first health education program in the U.S. of its kind to use one of the most widely-used technologies in America–the cell phone– to deliver timely information on maternal and infant health to women through pregnancy and through the first year postpartum.
Signing up for the service is easy. All you have to do is text “BABY”(or “BEBE” in Spanish) to 511411. Those who sign up for the service will receive three text messages weekly on their cell phone. The timing and duration of the text messages will be based on the woman’s due date. Topics covered by the messages include—but are not limited to—birth defect prevention, nutrition and importance of sleep for the expectant/new mom, depression (during pregnancy and postpartum) and the Postpartum Support International (PSI) toll-free number to call if an expectant or new mom (up to 1st year postpartum) feels sad anxious or hopeless, a reminder to schedule appointments with the pediatrician for checkups and immunizations, and breastfeeding (including a toll-free number to call for support in their community).
Yes, that’s right. PSI is an outreach partner of text4baby, which means that texts related to mom’s mental health will connect women to PSI resources. This ground-breaking inclusion of mental health messages in this program will help reduce stigma around, minimize risk for, and increase awareness about perinatal mood disorders.
Organizers hope this initiative can help decrease the number of premature births, which can be caused by poor nutrition, excessive stress, and smoking. As I’d mentioned back in November during Prematurity Awareness Month, one in eight babies born in the U.S. is premature (coincidentally, postpartum depression rate is one in eight new mothers), and the rate of premature birth in America (approximately 500,000 a year) is higher than that of most other developed nations). Premature birth is the #1 killer of newborns during the first month of life, with approximately 28,000 infants dying before their first birthdays. For those that survive the first year, all too many end up facing serious health challenges and lifelong disabilities. What is alarming is the fact that the rate of premature birth is increasing (i.e., it has increased 31% since 1981). In half the cases, the cause of premature birth is not known, which is why we need to unite in our effort to raise awareness, raise funding and promote research efforts to prevent premature births!
With approximately 90% of Americans possessing a cell phone and texting especially prevalent among women of childbearing age and minority populations (who face higher infant mortality rates), organizers believe—and hope—that texting will prove to be an effective means of delivering maternal and infant wellness tips.
Text4baby is made possible thanks to a unique collaboration of organizations in both the public and private sector, including wireless carriers, as well as federal, state and local agencies, like the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The text4baby wireless carriers are voluntarily distributing the text messages to recipients at no charge. Visit the text4baby website for a complete list of sponsors and participating wireless carriers.
For more information:
- Visit the text4baby website
- View the Public Service Announcement of Sherri Shepard, co-host of THE VIEW, encouraging mothers to sign up for the service
- Visit the White House Blog
- Susan Stone’s Perinatal Pro Blog