North Carolina earned a D+ for its preterm birth rate, according to the 2019 March of Dimes Report Card. The annual report, released Monday, shows that the state slightly improved its rate from last year, but still ranks 36th among the 50 states, according to a press release about the report.
Women aged 15 to 44 in North Carolina also are more likely to be uninsured, have inadequate prenatal care and live in poverty when compared to their peers across the country.
“The health of moms and babies in North Carolina must be a priority issue for all of us. By working together, as individuals and across the public and private sectors, we can make significant changes that can give every mom the care she deserves and every baby the best possible start,” said Stephen DeMeo, who works in the Division of Neonatology at WakeMed Health & Hospitals and serves as a March of Dimes Maternal Child Health Committee Member, in a press release.
The annual March of Dimes Report Card takes a look at maternal and infant health across the United States. Along with the preterm birth rate, it also dives into maternal health issues and highlights solutions and policy actions that could help moms and babies.
Among developed countries, according to the March of Dimes, the United States is one of the most dangerous places to give birth. About 22,000 babies die in the United States each year — that’s two babies an hour. Every 12 hours, a woman dies from complications due to pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, more than 60% of those deaths are preventable.
In North Carolina, the preterm birth rate improved from 10.5% of live births in 2017 to 10.4% in 2018. A birth is considered premature or preterm when it takes place before a woman’s 37th week of pregnancy. It is considered a key indicator of maternal and infant health.
Among black moms, the preterm birth rate in North Carolina was highest at 13.8%. For American Indian moms, it was 11.9%; 9.3% for whites; 8.9% for Hispanic moms; and 8.6% for Asian mothers.
Among counties, the preterm birthrate was highest in Cumberland County, coming in at 11.2%. The rate in Durham County, at 10.1%, had worsened compared to the previous year. Wake County’s rate remained the same at 8.9%.
According to the March of Dimes, high rates of preterm births are costly, totaling about $64,000, including medical care for premature children, special education services and lost productivity.
To improve the health of moms and babies in North Carolina, the March of Dimes recommended these four policy actions for lawmakers and employers:
- Closing the healthcare coverage gap
- Enhancing insurance reimbursement for group prenatal care
- Providing workplace accommodations for pregnant and nursing women
- Offering paid parental leave
“Every American should be alarmed about the state of maternal and infant health in this country, because it is an issue that touches each one of us. This is one crisis, not two. The health of moms and babies is powerfully linked, and we need to start treating it as such,” said Stacey D. Stewart, president and CEO of March of Dimes, in the press release. “This crisis is about the moms and babies we have lost, and those who face serious health challenges. It’s not fine. But with your help, it can be.”
The March of Dimes is taking action in North Carolina to improve the health of moms and babies by taking part in trainings for healthcare providers and medical students; serving on state task forces; and launching a preconception health campaign, among other collaborations.
To raise awareness about the conditions for moms and babies, November is Prematurity Awareness Month. More information is on the March of Dimes’ website.