Image from March of Dimes.
A recently released report from the March of Dimes shows that Ohio’s premature birth rate is on a steady decline, from 13.3% in 2006 to 12.3% in 2009. While Ohio’s numbers are still lower than the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6%, earning the state a C, the continuing decline is a good sign for Ohio’s children. Ohio’s rate is comparable to that of the nation as a whole, 12.2%.
A more detailed report card shows that Ohio could further improve its score by reducing the percentages of uninsured women and women smoking, both of which contribute to preterm births. Preterm birth statistics include all births of babies before 37 weeks gestation. Although in many cases the exact cause of preterm birth is unknown, risk factors for preterm labor include: obesity, pregnancy with multiples, mothers younger than 17 or older than 35, and high levels of stress. African-American women and low income women are also at a higher risk of preterm labor. Preterm birth has been linked to a variety of negative health outcomes, including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and blindness. Prematurity is also the leading cause of newborn deaths in America.
In an article in The Plain Dealer on the report, Schubert Center Faculty Associate H. Gerry Taylor commented on his recently published study of premature children that found children born prematurely learn spelling and math skills more slowly than other children during kindergarten. He said, “We had demonstrated previously, as had many researchers, that children born [very early] had problems with memory, executive function and were more prone to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. If we can show that these problems can be documented and that we have the tools to document them, we can do something about these problems before a child starts falling too far behind.” Download a research and policy brief from a recent Schubert Center talk given by Dr. Taylor.
Dr. Taylor is just one of several Faculty Associates studying premature births. Maureen Hack studies the long term outcomes for very low birth weight children. Download a research and policy brief on her work. Marilyn Lotas researches the health issues of very low and low birth weight infants. Susan Ludington conducts research on the benefit of kangaroo care for preterm infants.