Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-N.C.) speaks during the congressional hearing on Preterm Births and Racial Disparities hosted by DSM, and March of Dimes on April 26, 2023.
Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-N.C.) speaks during the congressional hearing on Preterm Births and Racial Disparities hosted by DSM, and March of Dimes on April 26, 2023.

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Maternal health complications are affecting mothers nationwide, as D.C. is seeing an increase in preterm birth rates, particularly among Black women. DSM has teamed together with March of Dimes to encourage policy change in bringing vital prenatal vitamins to every mother in need.  

“Every Day Counts,” is an initiative fueled by DSM and March of Dimes in efforts to inspire policymakers to mandate improved prenatal vitamins while providing them at no cost for women in federal and state assistance programs.  Last week, the collective met with Congressional leaders to address solutions to the preterm birth crisis, advocating for the fundamental benefits, and need of accessible DHA Omega-3 supplementation in expecting mothers. 

“There are a lot of challenges with maternal health in economically challenged communities, particularly amongst Black expecting mothers, much of that is influenced by lack of access to health care, access to prenatal treatment and advice, access to proper nutrition, but scientifically, historically low DHA Omega-3 levels, in the general population, but, particularly, in the African American population,” said Hugh Welsh, president and general counsel of DSM North America.

According to the 2022 March of Dimes Report Card, D.C. holds a 10.1% preterm birth rate, while the preterm birth rate is 77% higher for Black women than among their women counterparts. Black non-Hispanic women lead in the highest rates of preterm births, averaging 14.8z5 of babies being born before 37 weeks among other women.  

Omega-3 fatty acids are best retained within our diets, primarily through eating fatty fish including sardines and anchovies, but also higher quality fish including salmon, swordfish, or tuna, which although expecting mothers may want to eat, many have either a lack of available retail sources within their communities or a limited financial bandwidth to afford those options. 

Research shows preterm birth as the number one cause of infant mortality, and numerous birth defects that carry lifelong challenges such as learning disabilities, visual hearing problems, cerebral palsy, asthma, autism, and more that could be avoidable with the solution of proper nutrient levels in their system. 

Welsh highlighted the immense benefits that can come with every expecting mother across the country having the DHA levels that they require, which could substantially cut preterm births in half.  The projected decline in preemie and neonatal care is estimated to save, not only roughly $8 billion in annual healthcare costs, but also countless lives that have been lost from the tragedy of preterm birth complications.  DSM and the March of Dimes have received positive feedback from congressional leaders in hopes of turning their mission into legislation.

“If [expecting mothers] are not going to get it through their diet, then we need to find a way to increase levels in prenatal vitamins, offer an additional supplement, but also find ways for folks in economically challenged communities, who are relying on WIC programs, or other moms who use flexible spending accounts to buy these kinds of products, to get it through these programs,
Welsh said.

“I’ve never had a response like this before.  I’ve been coming up to capitol hill for 20 years, but whether I’m in a Democratic office, a Republican office, whether I’m on the House side or the Senate side, every office I’ve ever visited, [the response] is like, this makes so much sense, what do we do to help?”

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