November is Prematurity Awareness Month and the March of Dimes is focusing attention on premature birth. 1 in 8 babies in the USA is born prematurely. In Portage County, public health nurses address this through the Prenatal Care Coordination Program.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month, the time when the March of Dimes focuses national attention on premature birth. In the United States, 1 in 8 babies is born prematurely. In fact, over the last 25 years, our country’s premature birth rate has risen by 36 percent. The March of Dimes preterm birth prevention initiative called “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” stresses that the last weeks of pregnancy (35-40 weeks) are important in a baby’s development. The baby’s brain,
eyes and ears are still developing and the lungs and liver are maturing.
Although no one knows the exact causes of premature birth, research has identified a number of risk factors associated with preterm delivery in the US. They include young or advanced maternal age, single marital status, race and ethnicity, low educational level, smoking and alcohol use, substance abuse, lack of regular prenatal and dental care, food and housing insecurity, lack of transportation, previous preterm birth, history of infections, chronic health conditions or mental illness, high stress levels, and domestic violence.
In Portage County, public health nurses address this issue through the Prenatal Care Coordination Program (PNCC). The nurses work with women who have been identified as having a high number of risk factors associated with preterm delivery by providing resources and education to increase knowledge of the factors linked to preterm birth. The women are connected with community partners/support systems that can help overcome barriers to care, provide safety, or work on eliminating unhealthy behaviors.
The adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, is applicable to preterm birth. There are many costs involved with a preterm infant. There is an immediate emotional toll on the family who has a child in the neonatal intensive care unit. (NICU).
There are financial tolls - medical costs for a premature baby are 10 times more than for a healthy newborn. In addition, preterm babies are at risk for lifelong disabilities and health problems that may affect their chance of success in school and careers. These costs are shared by the entire community. Resources spent on ensuring that pregnant women have access to early and regular prenatal care, good nutrition, safe and affordable housing, and support networks for overcoming dependencies are a wise investment.
If you have questions regarding the Prenatal Care Coordination Program, please call Portage County Health and Human Services at 715-345-5350 and ask to speak to a public health nurse.