When Sovannah found out she was pregnant with her third child, she did everything she could to have a healthy pregnancy. She went walking regularly, maintained a healthy diet, and attended recommended prenatal classes. Less than two years earlier, Sovannah and her husband had moved from Missouri to Pittsburg, Kan. Between their move and becoming pregnant, Sovannah lost both her mother and her uncle. Sovannah’s sister was still an important support but she lived back in Missouri. 

“We had just gone through this rough patch where we lost so many supports. In Pittsburg, me and my husband have each other—that’s it, when it comes to family.” 

 So when Sovannah’s pregnancy became complicated in her second trimester, she was worried. She was diagnosed with maternal hypertension (high blood pressure), a potentially dangerous complication of pregnancy that can lead to heart disease and organ damage in mothers and preterm birth and low birthweight for babies. She also developed a serious liver condition that can sometimes lead to stillbirth.  

Sovannah and her husband were now facing a high-risk pregnancy, and they were doing it without any family nearby.  

Recognizing that she needed more support, Sovannah turned to a local group called Becoming a Mom. Run by the March of Dimes Foundation as part of the Kansas Perinatal Community Collaborative (KPCC), Becoming a Mom provides group prenatal classes to women eligible for Medicaid while fostering a sense of community and connectivity among the families it serves. The program is housed in the same location as the local WIC clinic (Women Infants and Children Nutrition Program) and the city’s Baby and Me Tobacco Free Program, an evidence-based smoking cessation program, creating an accessible one-stop shop for prenatal and postpartum care.  

The groups Sovannah joined in Kansas were also part of a nationwide collaborative led by the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality, or NICHQ. NICHQ launched its Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network to Reduce Infant Mortality (IM CoIIN) to address infant mortality rates and improve birth outcomes. For four years, NICHQ worked with 51 states and jurisdictions and more than 2,800 federal, state, and local leaders, public and private agencies, professionals, and communities. 

Working with four of the states in particular—Kansas, along with Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Oklahoma—NICHQ has sought to identify policies, structures, and other factors that may impact rates of early and preterm birth, a leading cause of infant mortality.  

Sovannah ended up giving birth to a healthy baby boy, Kyssaic. She says that connecting with the network of supports through Becoming a Mom completely changed her family’s experience. Her story sheds light on the powerful potential of coordinated systems — for reducing preterm births and for strengthening families.   

To Learn More 

Read the case studies from the four states, which capture findings, recommendations, and personal family stories. 

Listen to this webinar, which dives into targeted interventions, policy efforts, and emerging issues that promoted or hindered improvements in preterm birth rates in each of the four states represented in the case studies.  

Read more of Sovannah’s story