To help raise awareness on World Prematurity Day on November 17, the March of Dimes released its 2012 Report Card. The Report Card measures each state’s progress towards the organization’s pre-term birth rate goal of 9.6 percent. This year, Ohio is barely passing and is slightly worse than the rest of the class – it scored a C with 12 percent of all births occurring too early. The rest of the United States had an average rate of 11.7 percent.
Premature births often result in dangerous and long-term consequences for newborns. These can include severe disorders like cerebral palsy, sensory disabilities like blindness, and short-term acute conditions like pneumonia.
In measuring progress towards its goal, the March of Dimes identified three big contributing factors: uninsured mothers, late preterm births, and smoking while pregnant. Each of these factors drives up the rate of premature deliveries.
Uninsured women face higher risks because they are often unable to secure frequent checkups to assess and treat dangerous conditions that can lead to a premature birth. When working with an uninsured mother, it is even more important for doctors to diligently identify and respond to any problems to prevent complications.
Doctors can also raise the risk of preterm complications by allowing or recommending an elective c-section or induced delivery before a mother reaches the point of complete gestation at 39 weeks. The March of Dimes is concerned that medical centers and the healthcare industry are not using programs and guidelines to lower the high rate of elective early deliveries.
While many of the 500,000 annual premature deliveries in the United States will not result in long-term complications for infants, the risk is still too high for doctors to allow unnecessary preterm births. If medical malpractice contributes to a prematurity-related injury, families may be able to hold the doctor accountable to provide for the child’s long-term care needs.
Sources: ABC News, “U.S. Gets ‘C’ Grade in Premature Births,” Laura Phillips, M.D., Nov. 17, 2012; March of Dimes, “2012 Premature Birth Report Card: Ohio,” Nov. 2012