The U.S. has the sixth highest rate of premature birth in the world. Let me repeat that: The U.S. has the sixth highest rate of premature birth in the entire WORLD. We follow India, China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Nevada premature birth rates rank as one of the worst in the nation. Crazy to think about, right?
Below are a few pieces of our conversation.
Were you surprised that the U.S. rates 6th highest in the world and that Nevada ranks so poorly ? Do you know someone who delivered a premature baby? During your pregnancy, did the possibility of a premature birth worry you?
Fayth: I absolutely was surprised by these statistics. I guess I just imagined in this day and age and with America being so
technologically advanced, I would have assumed we had a “cure” for premature births. I had no idea this was so common. That said, I do have a dear friend who has delivered two premature babies and had to have a cervical cerclage (stitches in the cervix to hold it closed) with her third pregnancy, which was blessedly successful. The possibility of a premature birth did worry me with my first pregnancy – but I was also a worry wart who read everything and went to every checkup with my OB with long lists of questions and concerns. It wasn’t something I was terribly concerned about, but I do remember reaching the “safe” stage and giving a sigh of relief. By my third child, it definitely wasn’t a concern of mine, but perhaps should have been, as baby #3 arrived at 36 weeks and was therefore classified as a “late preterm”.
Jennifer D.: I am surprised by the statistics. Like Fayth, we’ve come so far with medical advances I just assumed that premature birth was something that we had better control of today. I also had no idea that it was a common occurrence outside of twin births. When I was pregnant, it wasn’t a concern but I was so worried about delivering each of my babies I didn’t worry about much else.
Annie: I wonder how many other livability factors are influencing this ranking, like lack of quality rural health care, education funding, continued high unemployment, etc. A premature birth was never on my list of worries, and it wasn’t one of my OB’s discussion points.
Aramelle: I was really startled by the statistic of being 6th in the world. That said, once I read further the information that was sent in the follow up email, it seemed a lot less shocking. The statistic is based on total number of premature births, not a percentage. Given that the US is 3rd or 4th (depending on which source you look at) in population size, it is less striking to me when I realized it was based on total number of births. That being said, I found further info that says that 12% of births in the US are premature, and I found that to be pretty eye-opening. I also realized that my mind immediately goes to extremely early births when I think about premature babies. I think as a society we aren’t as educated as well as we should be on the implications of delivery early, even when you’re discussing the last few weeks of pregnancy. The day that we had the discussion, I thought of one friend who had a premature baby. My head was still in the “way early” state of mind, and it never occurred to me to think beyond that. I do actually have several friends, though, who had their babies between weeks 35-38, often times as scheduled c-sections.
I was never concerned about the possibility of a pre-mature birth. In fact, around 30 weeks is the time of my pregnancy when I *finally* allowed myself to relax a little and let go of the worries and stress that I carried with me for the majority of my pregnancy. It was also never a concern that I remember being discussed at any of my OB appointments.
Jenny: I wasn’t incredibly shocked to learn that the U.S. ranked so high. I researched a lot during my first pregnancy and remember being shocked at that time to learn about our country’s maternal mortality rates. There are definitely parts of our healthcare system that are broken and maternal/pre-natal care is one of them.
The only time I really worried about premature birth was during my second pregnancy when I got really sick and had to be hospitalized. I was 35 weeks and having contractions every 2 minutes, but my midwife said that we were in the safe zone and that they wouldn’t do anything to stop labor from happening. I ended up getting better and being pregnant for another 5 weeks. I was concerned for that very brief amount of time that 35 weeks was still too early.
Premature Birth in Nevada
When our group was first asked if we had any friends or family who had had a premature baby all of us shook our heads no, but as the conversation continued each mom shared an anecdote of a friend or family member or neighbor who had had a premature baby. Although we had been told that the premature birth rate was so high, it didn’t really hit home until we all started to think about the people close to us who have dealt with having a baby born too soon.
Our group had many hypotheses on why the premature birth rate is so high in the U.S. that ranged from our country’s health care accessibility issues, Nevada’s rural communities, poor sex education and the income gap that makes getting pre-natal care difficult for many young women.
A Local Resource
Most of us who attended the round table were surprised to learn that our local Ronald McDonald House’s main clientele are parents whose babies are in the NICU. The House is built on the simple idea that nothing else should matter when a family is focused on the health of their child – not where they can afford to stay, where they will get their next meal or where they will lay their head at night to rest. The RMH believes that when a child is hospitalized the love and support of family is as powerful as the strongest medicine prescribed. To our group of moms that seemed like a no-brainer. Who can imagine the added stress of being away from your child or baby when they are ill?
In order to stay at the RMH families must live 30 minutes or more away from Reno. The house has helped neighboring families from places as close as Gardnerville, Palomino Valley and Susanville.
How You Can Help
Our group was also surprised to learn that the Northern Nevada Ronald McDonald House is funded almost entirely by local donors. There are a lot of ways to get involved and help including donating, volunteering, supplying basic household items like tin foil, laundry or dishwasher detergent or cooking a meal for the families that are staying at the house.
What’s your experience with premature birth? Have you or someone you know had a premature baby?