New mom or mom-to-be? Check out text4baby

January 25, 2012

New moms and moms-to-be are often dealing with new expenses and responsibilities in order to properly care for their little bundles of love (diapers, formula, and childcare–oh my!).  It’s not often that they’re handed help that’s both useful and free.

Enter text4baby, an educational service of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and supported by the US Department of Health and Human Services.  This program sends free informational text messages to the phones of moms-to-be and new moms.  The messages, which are timed so they match either where the mother is in her pregnancy or the age of the baby, contain health tips about pregnancy and for caring for a baby up to one year of age.  The texts provide valuable information on birth defect prevention, immunization, nutrition, seasonal flu, mental health, oral health, and safe sleep.  The messages can also help connect women to prenatal and infant care services and other resources.

Being a new mother brings with it a lot of responsibility, but it’s reassuring to know that you can get free, useful information to help you along the way.  If you’re interested in receiving text4baby messages, just text BABY to the shortcode 511411 (or text BEBE to 511411 to get the messages in Spanish).

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Cervical Health Awareness Month: Free and low-cost screening resources

January 6, 2012

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, which focuses on issues relating to cervical cancer, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and the importance of early detection.  It’s also an ideal time to educate women about the importance of getting screened for cervical cancer/HPV. 

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality currently recommends that women “have a Pap smear every 1 to 3 years if you are 21 to 65 years old and have been sexually active. If you are older than 65 and recent Pap smears were normal, you do not need a Pap smear. If you have had a hysterectomy for a reason other than cancer, you do not need a Pap smear.”

Routine administration of Pap tests is the most common method of detecting cervical cancer early, although HPV tests are gaining popularity as well since they are able to detect high-risk HPV strains that could go on to become cancerous.  Additionally, recently developed vaccines have the potential to protect women from the disease by targeting cancer-causing types of HPV. HPV is the only known cause of cervical cancer, and two types of the virus, HPV 16 and HPV 18, account for over 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases.

If you have health insurance, a routine Pap smear should be covered by your preventive care benefits.  If you don’t have health insurance, the National Cervical Cancer Coalition provides this list of free and low-cost Pap test resources in the United States.  Just look up your state on the list, and you will see a number to call (and in some cases, a website to look at) to find out if you qualify for a free or low-cost Pap test.  You can also get more information about cervical cancer, HPV and Cervical Health Awareness Month by visiting the National Cervical Cancer Coalition’s website.