Working to reverse the rise in premature births

Published in Birthing Services, OB/GYN Services Author: Diane Pelant, RN, MSN, CCRN-K

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Today in 2017, we are fortunate to live in an age where new technology and facilities are helping premature babies survive, grow and go home sooner than ever before.

But with all of this progress, many may be surprised to learn that the rate of preterm births has actually increased the past few years. This is true not just nationally, but also here in Minnesota.

Although the rate of births occurring before week 37 of pregnancy decreased for much of the first part of this decade, last year it returned to 8.8% percent. The same level it was at in 2010.

Why is this important? Not only is premature birth the leading cause of death in babies in this country, those who survive often face long-term health problems, such as cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease, blindness, hearing loss, intellectual disabilities and more. As the baby continues to grow and develop, these problems over time can impact their ability to learn and eventually work.

And as you can imagine, these problems associated with prematurity not only cost our society more due to interventions needed to support the infants as they grow — the stress and uncertainty also places an emotional toll on the families.

With 1 in 10 pregnancies ending early in this country, you likely know someone who has been impacted one way or another by a premature birth. As this month comes to a close, consider how you can help bring awareness to this important health issue over the coming year. Among the things you can do include: