In Brief

Post-birth home nurse visits now required under new law

By: - July 30, 2021 7:01 am
Senator Teresa Ruiz speaking

Sen. Teresa Ruiz speaking in Bloomfield on July 22, 2021. (Photo by Fran Baltzer for the New Jersey Monitor)

Headaches wracked Sunmisola Adedonkun in the days after she gave birth.

She might have written it off as a minor ailment treatable by over-the-counter pain relievers, but a visit from a home nurse identified the potentially life-threatening postpartum preeclampsia she faced. Today, Adedonkun credits that visit with saving her life.

“I rushed to the hospital. The doctor saw me. In fact, I was taken directly to the ER. My blood pressure was as high as 190. Thank God I’m here, I’m alive,” she said Thursday. “I think it was because of the visitation. I wouldn’t have known.”

Such visits, ones health officials say are key to reducing maternal and infant mortality rates, will be required in New Jersey under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed Thursday.

The measure, championed by State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), will require up to three home visits from registered nurses free-of-charge to all mothers and newborns statewide. The state is funding the program through a $2.75 million appropriation to the Department of Children and Families.

The first of the home visits must be made within two weeks of birth, a period when many dangerous conditions can first be identified.

Speaking in Newark Thursday, Ruiz — whose sponsorship was joined by Senate Health Committee Chairman Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex) and Democratic Assembly members Shanique Speight, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and John Armato — said she began drafting the legislation after her own experience with an in-home visit.

“I was just thinking about the moment when my lactation nurse specialist came to the house because I didn’t know if I was feeding her,” Ruiz said. “And she stripped Silver down, put her on a special piece of equipment, weighed her, asked me to nurse her, put her back on there and said ‘you just gave her three ounces.’ For me, after that the flood gates opened up.”

The visits under the new law will examine the physical, mental and social well-being of mothers and their newborn children, with attention paid to food security and employment.

Adoptive and resource parents will be eligible for the visits, as will families who experience a stillbirth.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.