The instances of babies being born too soon in Baltimore ticked up according to a new study by the March of Dimes.
The nation's leading maternal and infant health nonprofit dropped the city's grade from a "C" to a "D" on its Premature Birth Report Card as Baltimore's preterm birthrate rose from 10.1 to 10.5 from 2016 into 2017. Racial disparities exaggerate the problem, as black women have preterm babies at a rate that's 42 percent higher than white women and their babies. It is part of a national trend three years running where more babies are being born too soon, which presents serious health risks.
Premature birth and the complications that derive from it are the leading cause of death for U.S. babies in their first year, and the leading cause of death for children younger than five worldwide, the March of Dimes said. A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered "preterm."
“We must all come together to take concrete, commonsense steps to reverse this alarming trend,” says Stacey D. Stewart, president of March of Dimes. “Our country’s most important resource is human potential. That begins with ensuring every baby has the healthiest possible start in life, regardless of racial and ethnic background or their family’s income. By expanding proven programs and innovative solutions we can shift our health care system to improve treatment and preventive care for moms and lower the preterm birth rate. Birth equity is our goal; it can be reached.”
Medical researchers have not determined a single cause of preterm birth, but chronic inequities and unequal access to care affect the rates and grow disparities among groups of women and their children.
To combat the challenge of preterm births and provide resources to mothers, the March of Dimes and community partners have run programs available to Maryland residents, such as:
- Centering Pregnancy, the group model of prenatal care held at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore City, Community Clinic Inc. in Prince George’s County and University of Maryland Community Medical Group in Anne Arundel County.
- Stork’s Nest, a prenatal education and incentive program that encourages pregnant women to keep prenatal appointments and attend prenatal education classes. The program is held at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Centers in Baltimore City.
- The Still-a-Mom program, which specifically targets women who have experienced a fetal or infant loss and includes home visitation and a 10-week support group. In addition to grief counseling and social support, Still-a-Mom provides counseling on family planning, birth spacing, and smoking cessation.