Category Archives: Pregnancy

Sep 9 2014

In the Media: TV Show Zooms in on Birthplace of Midwifery in America

This is part of the September 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.

Nurse-midwifery took a turn in the media spotlight last month during a television talk show in Kentucky, the “birthplace” of midwifery and family nursing practice in America.

In a half-hour segment on Kentucky Educational Television, TV host Renee Shaw interviewed officials from Frontier Nursing University, the longest continuously operating and largest midwifery program in the country. The university will mark its 75th anniversary in October.

Nurse midwives and nurse practitioners “really want to make their community a better place, and they know from working in the system that, as nurses, they can do that,” said Julie Marfell, DNP, APRN, FAANP, dean of nursing at Frontier Nursing University.

Midwifery got its official start in America thanks to Mary Breckenridge, a nurse from a prominent political family who was born in the 1880s. After the deaths of her first husband and both of her children, Breckinridge decided to devote her life to improving health and health care. In 1925, she founded the Frontier Nursing Service in Hyden, Ky., a remote and unserved part of the country, so she could bring British midwifery practices to the United States. The Frontier Nursing Service later added the nation’s first schools of midwifery and family nurse practice.

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May 22 2014

RWJF Scholars in the News: DNA and depression, health impact of foreclosures, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita significantly increased the number of stillbirths in the Louisiana parishes most affected by the storms, according to a study by RWJF Health & Society Scholar Sammy Zahran, PhD. The research team concluded that 117 to 205 fetal deaths could be attributed to distress caused by the storms, the New York Times blog Well reports. “You can have two mothers with equal characteristics—age, race, and so on,” Zahran said. “[B]ut if one happens to be in a more severely destroyed area, the risk of stillbirth is higher.” The study was also covered by Daily Mail and HealthDay. Read more about Zahran’s work on the Human Capital Blog.

Genetics play an important role in whether stress makes people depressed, and in how quickly they recover, reports. RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus Jason Fletcher, PhD, looked at data before and after the 9/11 attacks and correlated it with DNA information reported by survey respondents. He found that 60 percent of participants who carried a particular gene appeared to be at an increased risk for sadness after the attacks. “Overall, the evidence suggests that genetic endowments are an important source of variation in response to a stressful event, in producing some depressive symptoms in young adults,” Fletcher said. MedicalXpress also covered the study.

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Mar 26 2014

Where Evidence Meets Policy—and Politics

Annik Sorhaindo, MSc, is a senior program researcher with the Population Council’s Reproductive Health Program in Mexico. A 1997 alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Project L/EARN initiative, she conducts research to provide evidence that helps inform government policy. This post reports on her work.

Fifty-five percent of all pregnancies in Mexico are unplanned.

That dramatic statistic, from a report by the Guttmacher Institute, can be mapped to the limited access women have to contraception.

“Many women can’t readily obtain contraceptive methods,” says Annik Sorhaindo. As part of a five-organization alliance working to improve reproductive health in the world’s 11th most populous country, the council directs research and analysis for the effort.

“My work focuses on answering research questions: Which occurrences in daily life impact women’s decisions about contraception? What are the impediments to preventing teen pregnancy? What are the challenges to using contraception post-abortion?”

Sorhaindo is quick to note that the council stays above the political fray. “We do the research and interpret the results, and the advocacy organizations address the politics,” she says.

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Dec 11 2012

“Call the Midwife:” Horrors and Humanity in 1950s London

Vernell DeWitty, PhD, RN, is the deputy program director for New Careers in Nursing, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.


Every now and then a television program gets it right, and so it is with “Call the Midwife.” This BBC-produced program aired on PBS this fall, and will be back with a new episode in December. Set in London's very pre-revitalized East End during the late 1950s, and based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, the series chronicles the adventures of a group of midwives working at the Nonnatus House, a nursing convent named for the early cesarean-surviving patron saint of childbirth.  

The series is blunt about the medical practices of the day and the state of birth control and female empowerment at the time. But the strange pull of this series is its humanity, not its horrors.

It is easy to think that women were always tended to during pregnancy, childbirth and delivery; however, this is not the case. We tend to forget the number of women who died in childbirth and the high rate of infant mortality due to lack of proper care not that many years ago.

But with the appearance of the nurse mid-wife, we realized significant decreases in maternal and infant mortality. Indeed, nurse midwives were the forerunners of the advanced practice nurse practitioners of today.

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Nov 2 2012

Being Healthy Now Matters Later to Moms and Babies

Pamela K. Xaverius, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Saint Louis University, and a former grantee with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections program. This post is part of a series in which RWJF scholars, fellows and alumni who are attending the American Public Health Association annual meeting reflect on the experience.


As a former New Connections grantee from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, I was asked to blog about my experience with one of my posters at the 140th annual conference of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in San Francisco this week. The poster was entitled “Prevalence of Preconception Lifestyle Behaviors Between Women With and Without Diabetes.”

There has been a groundswell of activity across the U.S. around the idea that if women want to have healthy babies, they need to be healthy before they get pregnant (aka, preconception health). This idea fits well with the overall theme of the APHA conference this year: Prevention and Wellness Across the Lifespan.

My co-authors and I presented a poster on secondary analysis of data that looked at the relationship between lifestyle behaviors and diabetes status among women of reproductive age. The biggest takeaway that we wanted people to have from this poster was that 93 percent of women with diabetes are not intending a pregnancy, and 73.2 percent of them are not using any birth control method (40.5 percent) or using less effective birth control methods (32.7 percent). This is a recipe for significant public health concern, with the growing rates of diabetes coupled with the potentially deleterious consequences of unmanaged diabetes during pregnancy.

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