Report Cards Part II – Grade Premature

As I mentioned yesterday, my state seems to be struggling slightly when it comes to the whole reading and math concepts. (Clearly their parents never read them Harold and the Purple Crayon…)

But there was another report card that just came out too: The March of Dimes 2011 Premature Birth Report Cards. And the sunny state of California earned a B – above average. 10.3 percent of under-gestationally ready babies. (Haha.)

Our nation as a whole is completely average. (Grade C) Kinda. Almost 13 percent of births are premature (defined as any little one arriving before 37 weeks.) That’s 1 out of every 8 babies. (I’d make a Kate Gosselin joke here – but at least six of her brood were preemies. The sextuplets were born at 30 weeks. Not that I’m jealous that she managed to make it longer than me. The nerve!)

Every year, 543,000 babies are born too soon. Again I will state – prematurity is the leading cause of newborn death. And that number of over half a million annual preemies is higher than most developed nations.

One state has an A. One. Vermont – with 9.3 percent of babies born preemie.

The good news is the rate has been consistently dropping – now at 12.2 percent, down from a high of 12.8 percent in 2006. The March of Dimes goal is for our country to reach no more than 9.6 percent of preterm births by 2020.

Here is my concern. (Let’s assume the decrease is statistically significant. I was a liberal arts major, and while I did enjoy Finite math, Statistics and Calculus, I really just can’t be bothered right now.) Is this trend an overall reduction in preterm births – or is it really the number of “late” preterm births that is being discouraged (babies born between 34-36 weeks). We are seeing more and more anecdotal evidence of anti-elective deliveries before 39 weeks.

What is the percentage of micro-preemie birth breakdown (under 28 weeks)?

The causes of prematurity are still largely unknown. Any woman can give birth prematurely, but some women are at greater risk than others. Per the March of Dimes, three groups of women are at greatest risk for premature birth.

1. Women who have had a previous premature birth

2. Women who are pregnant with twins, triplets or more. (Ok, you got me on this one.)

3. Women with certain uterine or cervical abnormalities

Now lets review the factors that may put the mom-to-be (hypothetically ME) at an enhanced risk especially if she falls into one of the groups above.

Factors that DID NOT apply to me:

  • Being pregnant with a single fetus that is the result of in vitro fertilization
  • Being underweight before pregnancy
  • Birth defects in the baby
  • Clotting disorders (thrombophilia)
  • Diabetes
  • Domestic violence (including physical, sexual or emotional abuse)
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Exposure to the medication DES
  • Extremely high levels of stress
  • Lack of social support
  • Late or no prenatal care
  • Long working hours with long periods of standing
  • Smoking
  • Using illegal drugs
  • High blood pressure and preeclampsia
  • Infections (including urinary tract, vaginal, sexually transmitted and other infections)
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Non-Hispanic black race
  • Obesity
  • Short time period between pregnancies
  • Younger than age 17, or older than age 35

Factors that DID apply to me:

Anyone may have to deal with prematurity. And even if you have not, if you look around I bet you are close to someone who has been touched by a baby born too soon.

The muppets are not just a statistic. They are happy healthy bouncing baby boys – intent on creating as much chaos as humanly possible in their environment. They started life looking like Waldorf and Statler – complaining wrinkly old men muppets. This week they scoured the neighborhood demanding sugar as the ever adorable Kermit and Fozzie Bear. BFFs.

No tiny person is simply a statistic. Have you been touched by a micro-preemie? What’s your story?

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