Premature birth rates rise again for the third year in a row

Henrietta Strickland
November 4, 2018

"When moms are more mature, say in their 40s, the risk of delivering prematurely is higher".

A birth is considered preterm or premature if it happens before the 37th week of gestation.

The continued rise in its preterm birth rate earned the US a "C" grade on the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, which grades all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico on their preterm birth rate. MS had the highest rate of preterm births at 13.6 percent followed by Louisiana with 12.7 percent. The CDC says that they are at risk of vision and hearing problems as well as cerebral palsy.

Among large cities, Irvine, Calif., had the lowest preterm birth rate at 5.5 percent and Detroit had the highest rate at 14.5 percent, according to the March of Dimes report.

"The overall rate in this country for premature birth is just shy of ten percent, but in certain areas of the country, it's particularly worse", says the March of Dimes' Stacey D. Stewart. And if they even if they don't appear in childhood, they may show up in early adulthood'. Rates remain stubbornly high in many states.

Currently, March of Dimes is taking steps to lower the premature birth rate, including doing research into the underlying causes of premature birth, advocating for bills that will help protect pregnant women and their health, and launching programs across the country that help make sure women have access to medical and emotional support during pregnancy, Stewart says. Vermont had the lowest preterm birth rate at 7.5 percent, while Puerto Rico and three other states actually saw a decline in preterm birth rates.

'Right now, 10 million women lack health insurance and we know if a woman is not as healthy as she can be, that increases the risk of premature birth, ' she explained. More than 10 million women live in counties with limited access to maternity care'. Sarasota and Pinellas counties got a B rating on the report.

A mother's race or ethnicity also determine her risk of having a preterm baby. The highest risk of preterm births was among African-American women at 13.4 percent (between 2014 and 2016).

This means that black women in the U.S. were 49 percent more likely to have a preterm birth than other woman of all races and ethnicities.

'This is often due to stress of living in a society around racial discrimination that affects women on a daily basis'.

It's hard to say what, exactly, is behind this but there are some theories, Jose Perez, MD, a neonatologist with Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

A 2004 study from Northwestern University and the University of IL found that the stress of racial discrimination put African American women at a higher risk of low birth weight, preterm infants.

'Research shows that there is some intersection between racial discrimination/bias and that could be affecting health, ' said Stewart. The report card draws from the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

If they have access to a health care provider during this time, it can make it easier for women to get help in managing chronic conditions like hypertension or diabetes, improve their nutrition, or quit smoking, all of which reduce risks for preterm birth.

'We're asking for everyone to get involved in what we are referring to as a "blanket change agenda",' she said.

Some experts have said that there is inequality in healthcare access.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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