First trimester care: A problematic start to pregnancy

1 in 3 babies in Arlington does not get seen by a healthcare provider during the first trimester of pregnancy.
By Lindsey Hill, Intern

This earliest phase of pregnancy contains the highest number of essential developmental milestones for both mother and baby. During this period, the baby’s organ systems and body structure develop, even tiny miracles as small as fingernail growth occur. As you can imagine, prenatal care, especially in the first trimester, is vital to both the pregnant mother and the development of a healthy baby.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the percentage of women in Arlington seeking a healthcare professional in their first trimester remains relatively low. In 2018, only around 60% of expectant mothers in Arlington sought care in this critical period. While low-income pregnant women face the difficulties of being underinsured and finding or qualifying for healthcare programs, they also experience obstacles to care including transportation issues, lack of providers, language barriers, childcare needs, and the consequences of missed work. As much as these moms want to get the best possible care for their babies, countless roadblocks often stand in their way.

Why is needing care in the first trimester of pregnancy so important? Healthcare appointments in the earliest stage of pregnancy include physical exams and prenatal tests for mom and screenings to assess the health of the baby. These appointments help determine, find, and if necessary, prevent any foreseen problems or complications with the pregnancy. Expectant mothers also learn crucial information about their pregnancy as well as have the opportunity to ask their provider any questions they may have. Increasing the number of women who receive these early stages of care can reduce the likelihood of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, but the longer this care is prolonged, the more health risks the mother and unborn baby face.

The Jennifer Bush-Lawson foundation strives to serve the economically vulnerable mothers and infants of Arlington by giving them a fair start at life through access to quality pre and postnatal healthcare and support. We envision a community where every mother and newborn child receives the support they need to thrive– regardless of race, color, creed, or economic status. This is accomplished through innovative programs such as the tele-health project that increased monitoring access for pregnant women who do not have the option to take time off work or travel for frequent medical appointments. 

Care in the first trimester is critical for expectant mothers. The Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation is driven to provide women with more access to first trimester care as well as education about their pregnancies. Affordable healthcare is not always easily accessible, but coming to better understand the various barriers mothers face, we hope to better serve the community.

5 Questions with: Kelly Garrity

This post is part of a series where we pose five questions on issues related to maternal and infant care for vulnerable populations to health professionals, community advocates, mothers and other important voices. Kelly Garrity joined as JB-LF Executive Director in March 2020.

1. How did you end up in the nonprofit sector and fundraising?

Accidentally! After a brief stint with Tech Start Up and Law Firms, a recruiter sent me a nonprofit position. I got the job and spent the next decade plus working with a nonprofit that focused on systemic health policy issues at the federal level. This ranged from the familiar Affordable Care Act to wonky topics such as value assessment.

I led the team responsible for recruiting nonprofit/business members and administering their associated benefits. In addition, I did fundraising for all of our advocacy and program work, a role that grew organically from the need to expand.

2. Why JBLF?

The intersection of professional growth and personal passions. I knew how important our work was to a vulnernable population from my experience as an infertility patient/advocate, with high-risk pregnancies covered by insurance, and stillbirth. In addition, the position provided me an opportunity to build on my professional experience at the Federal level to benefit my local community.

3. What has surprised you the most in your first year?

The community! After spending so much time focused on federal issues and the larger picture, it was an adjustment transitioning to a more local organization. I have been blown away by the wonderful volunteers, donors, partners, and moms/babies that I’ve gotten to work with this year. The strength of the network that JBLF has developed over just 6 years is amzing.

4. What are you most excited about for 2021?

Holding our 7th annual 5K (and hopefully family fun day) and the research we plan to conduct with the low-income moms we serve. With this research we aim to make long term change by understanding the current process for accessing their care, why barriers may exist to timely initiation of prenatal care, and determining what other obstacles are present during pregnancy for this vulnerable population.

5. What are people surprised to find out about you?

There are a few things that come to mind.
– I am an Air Force child who only moved once.
– I am an ice skater who now coaches the sport.
– I have run a marathon.
– I have 4 tattoos.
– I consider my ADD as a superpower.