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Iowa receives a "B" on March of Dimes premature birth report card

BY ALEKSANDRA VUJICIC | NOVEMBER 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Premature births are slowly declining in Iowa.

March of Dimes recently came out with its annual report card, which showed Iowa’s premature birth rate dropped to 11.1 percent in 2013 — down from 11.5 percent in 2012.

Iowa beat the national preterm birth rate, earning a “B” on the report card.

“Iowa is very progressive in prenatal care compared with other states across the nation,” said Michelle Gogerty, the Iowa March of Dimes director of programs and advocacy.

March of Dimes is a nonprofit organization that advocates for mother and baby health.           

The national rate decreased to 11.4 percent in 2013, the lowest preterm birth rate in 17 years. But the nation still received a “C” on the report card.

Cary Murphy, the head of the Programs Committee for the Iowa March of Dimes, said prematurity is now the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5.

He said he hopes to see Iowa reach the March of Dimes goal of 9.6 percent in 2020.

University of Iowa Professor Jeffrey Segar, the director of the Neonatology Division at the UI Children’s Hospital, said that in order for a pregnancy to be considered preterm, the infant is born before 37 weeks of gestation.

Late preterm infants, or those who are born between 34-36 weeks, make up roughly 75 percent of all preterm births, Segar said.

Upwards of 20 percent of those births are elective, meaning the physician decides the infant should be delivered early depending on the mother’s condition.

Segar said elective preterm births can be reduced by better managing the mother’s condition instead of delivering the baby prematurely.

Social determinants are a factor to prematurity, Segar said, including poverty and social stresses.

Segar said the premature birth rate at the UIHC is slightly higher than the rest of the state, which is expected because it is a referral center for higher risk patients across the state.

Gogerty said March of Dimes has a longstanding partnership with UIHC.

The organization has funded over $3 million in active research grants that are underway, including research that is identifying ways to end prematurity and birth defects.

The group also funded the UIHC’s Centering Pregnancy Program, an evidence-based model of group prenatal care that has shown to reduce preterm birth rates, particularly among African-American women.

Segar said in order to see a long-term sustainable effect on lowering the rate of prematurity; it has to be treated as a public-health issue, in terms of education, screening, and addressing risk factors.

Although Iowa seems to be on the right track, Sager said, the state still has room for improvement.

“I think we still have a ways to go and a lot to learn in terms of how we can better prevent prematurity within the state of Iowa.”


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