Monitoring helps lower rate of preterm births in Miss.

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015

 LOCAL HEALTHCARE: The Center for Women’s Health resides inside Highland Community Hospital.

LOCAL HEALTHCARE: The Center for Women’s Health resides at Highland Community Hospital. File photo.

Health officials in Mississippi are working hard to reduce the number of premature births, which is the leading cause of infant mortality. Officials from the Mississippi State Department of Health and community healthcare partners received the March of Dimes Virginia Apgar Award, which recognizes states that accepted and met a challenge to lower their preterm birth rates by at least 8 percent between 2009 and 2014, according to a press release from MSDH.

Mississippi not only decreased its preterm birthrate by 11 percent, but also saw an 18 percent increase in the number of infants born at full term, the press release stated.

Worldwide, 15 million infants are born prematurely each year and more than a million infants die as a result. In Mississippi, an estimated 17 percent of babies are born prematurely compared to a national average of about 12 percent, according to MSDH’s website.

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Dr. Susanne Osborne, from Highland Community Hospital’s Center for Women’s Health, said that pregnant women, especially if they have a history of premature births, are now monitored more frequently to reduce their chances of delivering prematurely. Doctors use progesterone injections to prevent their patients’ going into early childbirth and measure mothers’ cervical length to evaluate their preterm birth risk in order to provide adequate prenatal care.

“We do more surveillance with them, so because of that, I think it’s helped decrease preterm birth rates,” Osborne said.

Births are considered premature when they occur before 39 weeks of pregnancy. The warning signs of preterm labor include contractions every 10 minutes, pelvic pressure, belly cramps with or without diarrhea and change in vaginal discharge, according to the press release.

Infants who survive preterm births often develop physical issues, including vision and hearing loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities, Osborne said.

In order to reduce a woman’s chance of delivering before reaching full term, Osborne advises moms-to-be to stop smoking, avoid second-hand smoke exposure and avoid all types of drugs including tobacco and marijuana, which have been directly linked to premature births.

MSDH Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier said in the press release, “This award is a reflection of the effort and dedication of health care providers of maternal and newborn care and health care organizations throughout our state. This is an important step in reducing our high infant mortality rate.”

November marks Prematurity Awareness Month, which focuses the nation’s attention on premature birth.

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