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Text Your Way to a Healthier Pregnancy
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Pregnant women and new moms now have a new tool to help them through their pregnancies and their baby's first year: text message tips.
Sent by a service called text4baby, and provided free by nearly every wireless carrier in the U.S., moms receive up to three text messages a week, with information timed to their due date or their baby's birth date, which continue through the child's first birthday. Signing up for the service is easy -- just text the word BABY (or BEBE for Spanish messages) to 511411, and enter your due date or your baby's birth date and your zip code, when prompted.
For expectant moms, the first message urges them see a doctor early in their pregnancy and to keep all their prenatal appointments -- yet moms are reminded that the tips are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.
The text4baby messages were developed by the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB), and have been vetted by a number of government and nonprofit health experts. The messages focus on a range of topics that are critical to the mother's and baby's health, including: nutrition, prenatal care, immunizations, birth defects prevention, emotional well-being, drugs and alcohol, labor and delivery, stopping smoking, breastfeeding, car seat safety, exercise and fitness, developmental milestones, safe sleep, family violence and more.
According to the text4baby website, the service aims to cut down on the high number of premature births across the nation; currently a half-million babies are born prematurely every year in the U.S., according to the Los Angeles Times, and about 28,000 die before their first birthday.
"We're trying to address the problem," Elizabeth Jordan, a board member of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies and a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing tells the Times. "We have over 300 messages we send based on the mothers' weeks pregnant or the baby's age."
Jordan adds that anyone can sign up, but the target audience includes Spanish speakers and disadvantaged women with lower incomes or without much access to computers or books, as text messaging is especially prevalent among women of childbearing years and minorities who face higher infant mortality rates.
According to Time magazine, as of May 3, text4baby had enrolled more than 30,000 users since its debut in February, 2010. In addition, quite a few partner organizations are now backing the service, including health insurance providers such as CIGNA, state and local government agencies including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and corporations like Johnson & Johnson and MTV.
Related: Nielsen: Teens Sends an Average of 10 Text Messages Per Hour