La. gets an F for premature births
Every year in the United States, more than half a million babies are born too soon, 10,088 of them right here in Louisiana.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month, when the March of Dimes focuses the nation’s attention on premature birth, with a goal of reducing total premature births in Louisiana by at least 8 percent between 2009 and 2014.
The awareness month kicked off on Tuesday, Nov. 13 with the release of the 2012 Premature Birth Report Card. Nov. 17 marks World Prematurity Day.
The March of Dimes Tuesday issued a grade of F to Louisiana for having too many premature births. According to the report card, the three factors measured were: smoking among women of child-bearing age, uninsured women and late premature births, meaning births between 34 and 36 weeks.
Only two other states, Mississippi and Alabama received the F grade, according to the report card.
Premature birth, also called preterm birth, is a birth occurring before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Full-term birth is defined as a pregnancy lasting 39 to 41 weeks.
The grade of F is based on how close Louisiana is to a goal set by the March of Dimes of less than 10 premature births in a hundred deliveries, or about 10 percent, a rate it hopes to achieve by the year 2020. The report card includes data from the National Center for Health Statistics showing Louisiana’s premature birth rate is 15.6 percent.
The report recommends ways for Louisiana to improve the grade by advocating for increased access to prenatal healthcare, by increasing education about why the last weeks of pregnancy are so important to a baby’s health, and by forming partnerships with Louisiana healthcare leaders, including the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH).
Birthing hospitals in the Louisiana Health Association have reportedly said they will continue to avoid elective deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless medically necessary. DHH has also renewed it commitment to its LA-Moms program to help more pregnant women qualify for Medicaid coverage and March of Dimes will continue to advocate for coverage of smoking cessation programs for pregnant women.
According to DHH, three groups of women are at greatest risk. These include women who have had a previous premature birth, women who are pregnant with twins or more, and women with certain abnormalities of the uterus and cervix. Treatment during pregnancy with the hormone progesterone can help reduce the risk of another premature birth in some women who have had a previous premature birth. These women should discuss with their health care provider whether this treatment is right for them.
To view the full report card, visit http://www.marchofdimes.com/Louisiana.
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