The March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card offers a look at how a particular region is doing in the challenge of reducing premature births. I spoke with Valerie Tichenor from the March of Dimes about this and also with Mitzie Warner, whose 2 1/2 year-old son Dylan was born when she was just 26 weeks pregnant. It's an amazing story, but luckily it is indicative of advances being made in the care and nurturing of these tiniest of babies.
Key Messages from the March of Dimes
- For the third year in a row, more U.S. babies were born too soon with serious risks to their health according to the 2018 Premature Birth Report Card.
- The overall U.S. preterm birth rate rose to 9.93 percent of births in 2017 from 9.85 percent in 2016. This preterm birth rate earned the nation a “C” grade.
Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributors to death in the first year of life in the U.S., and the leading cause of death of children under age 5 worldwide.
- Each year in the U.S. more than 380,000 babies—1 in 10—are born preterm, defined as less than 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- Babies born too soon face a greater likelihood of death or disability.
- The U.S. preterm birth rate is among the worst of highly developed nations.
- Chronic inequities and unequal access to quality health care have a negative impact on preterm birth rates. These are among the factors that contribute to the reality that:
- Women of color are up to 50 percent more likely to deliver prematurely and their children can face a 130 percent higher infant death rate compared to children of white women.
- A recent March of Dimes report revealed the unequal access to maternity care across the U.S., particularly in communities with higher poverty rates.
- More than 10 million women in the U.S. did not have health insurance in 2016. We know coverage for health care is a critical component for women during their reproductive years.
- No single action can address the problem of limited access to care, but there are many opportunities to improve the situation.
- increased access to affordable care during preconception, prenatal and postpartum time
- incentivized health care providers to work in underserved areas
- advances in medical technology
- providing logistical support and financial assistance to women so they can travel to receive care