I want to highlight a critical factor sometimes overlooked in the discussion of infant mortality in South Carolina — the importance of a woman’s health prior to pregnancy. Women who have access to routine medical care before becoming pregnant have better birth outcomes. Basic preventive care like annual well-woman exams, cancer screenings, and preconception education — when and if a woman is considering becoming pregnant — improve overall health and increase positive birth outcomes later on.

A woman’s ability to plan when she becomes pregnant and to space her pregnancies are key factors in lowering infant mortality.

According to the S.C. Department of Education’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly half of high school students report they have had sex. We know unprotected sex leads to unintended pregnancies and teen pregnancies are associated with a higher risk of infant mortality, poverty and other life-long challenges. As with older women, prevention is key. Charleston County teens deserve medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education in schools that includes information about abstinence, birth control, and STD prevention.

As Health Center Manager of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic’s Charleston location, I am proud to work for an organization committed to making sure all women and teens have access to affordable, high quality preventive health care.

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic looks forward to joining with other health care professionals and nonprofit organizations to reduce infant mortality — an achievable goal if we work together to make sure all South Carolinians have access to health care and education necessary to make healthy decisions before and after starting families.

Mary Shaw, B.S.

Health Center Manager

Charleston Health Center

Planned Parenthood

South Atlantic

Rutledge Avenue

Charleston