By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
Last year more than 10 percent of American babies were born prematurely.
An experience Sarah Wilburn knows all too well after her twin girls were born underweight and spent two weeks in the St. Charles-Bend Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“They are eating fantastic,” Wilburn said. “They are putting on weight as expected and they will be going home tomorrow. (Congratulations.) Thank you. Can’t wait.”
Depending on how early they are born, premature babies often require intensive and expensive medical care to breath, eat and develop into healthy children. More than 22,000 babies die in the U.S. before their first birthday
Oregon, however, was the only state to receive an A- in a new March of Dimes’ Report Card “revealing the nation’s current state of maternal and infant health.”
According to the report card, overall preterm births worsened in 30 states, with six states earning a failing grade compared to only four last year.
“Every American should be alarmed about the state of maternal and infant health in this country, because it is an issue that touches each one of us. This is one crisis, not two. The health of moms and babies is powerfully linked, and we need to start treating it as such,” said Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO of March of Dimes.
In Oregon, the rate of premature births is just 7 percent.
“Oregon has one of the lowest rates of uninsured and in addition to that, the quality of pre-natal care is very good,” said Dr. Aryan Azimi, Director of Neonatology at St. Charles Medical Center. “So those go hand in hand. If you receive good prenatal care that prevents pre-term deliveries.”
The March of Dimes recommends expanding programs to care for pregnant women, ensuring that women have access to public health insurance programs and expanding Medicaid to cover low income families
“Some babies are with us up to three months at one end of the spectrum,” Azimi said. “At the other end of the spectrum we have babies that come in for 5 to 7 days and they are out of here.”
Azimi says obstetricians are the unsung heroes in the fight against premature births. OB-GYN’s are the first to detect problems early in pregnancy and provide medical care that helps mothers carry babies full term.
About 700 women die annually in the United States from pregnancy-related complications. More than half those deaths are preventable according to the March of Dimes.