Born in chains

On the one hand:

When [Shawanna] Nelson was six months pregnant, she was incarcerated in Arkansas for passing bad checks. She went into labor during her short sentence. A correctional officer shackled her legs to opposite sides of the bed that transported her to ha delivery room, removing them briefly during a nurse’s examination. Nelson was re-shackled immediately after giving birth to her nine-pound son.

Unidentified woman from San Franciso Bay View story

In her civil suit, Nelson, whose charges were later dismissed:

testified that the shackles prevented her from moving her legs, stretching or changing positions during the most painful part of her labor. She offered evidence that the shackling had caused a permanent hip injury, torn stomach muscles, an umbilical hernia that required an operation and extreme mental anguish.

On the other hand:

The Heart2Heart Birth Center in Sanford, Florida:

Schedule … a pregnancy massage, or join us for our Monthly Materni-Tea Parties for an afternoon session to hear guest speakers on pregnancy and parenting topics. Bring a pregnant friend in and get her a henna belly tattoo, or a belly cast, or shop for a sling in any fabric you choose! We also put together special Pampered Mama Spa Days, where you get to choose between the belly cast or the henna tattoo (wears off in 2-3 weeks!) a luxurious salt soak in our jacuzzi tub, and a light lunch with tea. This service is also included in your Heart 2 Heart Premium Birth Package. While here, visit The Hart Sister’s Tea Room for “High Tea” or to plan your baby shower!

Hard to believe this is the good news, but here it is: “The movement to end labor in chains appears to be gaining momentum,” reports the BBC. In addition to Nelson’s court victories, that includes a Federal Bureau of Prisons policy, the new policy under review in Pennsylvania, and a ban in New York (except in extreme circumstances).

Besides the human rights violations, there are some interesting issues here:

First, the prison system is made for male prisoners, and the procedures here seem to have been taken from the way men are handled when they’re transported or receive medical care.

Second, what about the children born this way? In an odd parallel, the Heart 2 Heart website is all about mothers and their pregnancies, and little about the babies. And the abuse of the women in prison is about abusing them, with what seems like disregard for the children. The babies “birth experience” seems negatively affected as much as the mom’s “birthing experience.” Neither babies – the shackled-moms’ nor the rose-petalled moms’ – have committed any crimes yet.

Where the youngest die more

The U.S. lags seriously behind in preterm births and infant mortality.

A recent CDC report finds that the U.S. lags seriously behind almost all European countries on two key indicators of women and children’s health: preterm births and infant mortality.

Preterm births and infant mortality are related, sequentially. That is, we have very high rates of pre-term births (defined here as those born between 22 and 36 weeks of gestation)…

… and, partly as a result of that, we have high rates of infant mortality (defined here as deaths in the first year of life, per 1,000 live births):

The CDC report concludes: “The main cause of the United States’ high infant mortality rate when compared with Europe is the very high percentage of preterm births in the United States.” Excluding those born extremely early – at less than 22 weeks – for example, Sweden has an infant mortality rate of 3.0, compared with 5.8 in the U.S. Using standardization, the report determined that with the Swede’s gestational age distribution the U.S. rate would be 3.9 – which means the differences in the gestational age pattern accounts for 68% of the difference between the two countries.

So reducing the rate of preterm births is two-thirds of the battle for the U.S. infant morality rate problem.

So what causes preterm births? I’m not a medical expert, but this is from reading a few general reviews and specific studies. Large studies show that preterm births are associated with older age and smoking, as well as maternal infections or other underlying health conditions. Black women and those with lower socioeconomic status and higher stress are at greater risk of preterm births.1 And women with more prenatal visits have lower risks.2

I take all that to confirm that preventive care for women in general and prenatal care for mothers is essential. Check back here for an update in 2019. If these rankings haven’t improved in 10 years, health care reform didn’t work.

1 Overall, 13% of U.S. mothers smoke during pregnancy, with White women having the highest rates. The U.S. rates are similar to Sweden’s, but lower than some others, such as Denmark’s, and the United Kingdom.
2 Multiple births related to assisted reproductive technology and older mothers also account for some of the U.S. pattern of preterm births.

Biggest tiny losers?

There’s got to be an idea in here somewhere, between the weight-conscious 4-year-olds

Nearly half of the 3- to 6-year-old girls in a study by University of Central Florida psychology professor Stacey Tantleff-Dunn and doctoral student Sharon Hayes said they worry about being fat…. Studies have shown that young girls worried about their body image are more likely to suffer from eating disorders when they are older.

…the self-destructive competitive weight loss contestants

Ryan C. Benson, who lost 122 of his 330-pound starting weight … is now back above 300 pounds but he thinks he has been shunned by the show because he publicly admitted that he dropped some of the weight by fasting and dehydrating himself to the point that he was urinating blood.

…the competitive eating, covered by Sports Illustrated:

…and the wasting of 40% of all calories produced in the country:

We found that US per capita food waste has progressively increased by ~50% since 1974 reaching more than 1400 kcal per person per day or 150 trillion kcal per year. Food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater consumption and ~300 million barrels of oil per year.

The new estimate of food waste (solid line, with confidence intervals above and below) is based on a model of calories produced, burned and stored as weight. It shows much more waste than the USDA estimates (shown in the black squares).