Oklahoma gets 'D' for preterm birth rate
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
11/21/12 at 3:09 PM
This story originally incorrectly identified what agency is responsible for the Every Week Counts program. The story has been corrected.
Oklahoma has reduced its preterm birth rate to the lowest mark in five years but still received a grade of D on a recent report card from the March of Dimes.
In 2011, Oklahoma had a preterm birth rate of 13.2 percent, a decrease from 13.9 percent in 2010. The national rate is 11.7 percent, which is the lowest in a decade.
The grade given to each state is based on the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6 percent.
Dr. Lisa Owens, medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at Peggy V. Helmerich Women's Health Center, said health and socioeconomic factors lead to Oklahoma's relatively high premature birth rate.
Smoking and obesity can lead to premature birth, and the state continually ranks among the worst in those factors.
Women without health insurance are also at a higher risk for giving birth prematurely. Oklahoma has coverage for pregnant women, but it does not help them between pregnancies, when chronic conditions can be addressed, Owens said.
"Those conditions don't get cared for in the interim," she said.
Dr. Stephen Jones, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at St. Francis Hospital, said demographics play a part in Oklahoma's rate but that the country as a whole isn't doing a good job of preventing premature births.
Babies born prematurely are at higher risk for respiratory problems and cerebral palsy, as well as developmental delays and other problems later in life, he said.
Premature babies also cost more to care for, he said.
Better technology has made premature births more likely in some ways. More older women are having babies, for example, he said.
Owens said women who are pregnant should know the signs and symptoms of an early delivery, including abdominal cramping and low back pain, she said.
One bright spot in the report is a decrease in late-term premature births, which are defined as those between 34 and 36 weeks.
That rate in 2011 was 9.4 percent, down from 10 percent the year before.
This may be attributed to an Oklahoma Hospital Association program called Every Week Counts. Participating hospitals focus on deterring women from choosing to have an early birth for no medical reason. The program is funded by grants from the March of Dimes and the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
"At least our state is taking steps to try to address this," Owens said.
The number of uninsured women in the state increased from 23.5 percent to 25.3 percent, according to the report card.
It lists 29.3 percent of Oklahoma women as smokers but does not have a number for the year before.
Oklahoma has a goal of reducing the preterm birth rate to 8 percent by 2014, according to the March of Dimes.
Owens said the goal is realistic but will be difficult to reach.
"If we can't get some women some health care, that's going to be tough," she said.
Original Print Headline: March of Dimes report card gives Oklahoma 'D'
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378