America Is Still Way Behind When It Comes to Safe Births

premature birthsDid you realize we're being graded on how well we birth babies? Apparently last year, the United States received a "D" when it came to the number of babies being born at full-term -- 37 weeks or later. That's not a great grade, and in fact, in my household, it would be considered failing.

Even though in 2010 the U.S. had 40,000 fewer babies born pre-term than between the years of 2006 and 2009, we're still getting a "C" since the goal is to limit the amount of pre-term babies to 9.6 percent. Our national average is 12.2 percent. Why? Because the leading cause of newborn death is being born pre-term. The cost of caring for preemie babies is astronomical, and while the United States is first in health care spending, we're a very pathetic 39th in infant mortality.

While the study points out the usual suspects -- lack of prenatal care, fertility treatments leading to multiples, smoking, and scheduled c-sections -- I had a different experience with my pre-term birth.

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When my daughter was breech and I went in for an external cephalic version, I was told I would be having a c-section instead -- right then. My amniotic fluid was non-existent and it was considered an emergency. My baby girl was born at 36 weeks, and while she was barely a preemie, it would still count in this research gathered by the March of Dimes.

Later, I had a very natural friend point out that it would have been possible to replenish my fluids and the doctor had perhaps jumped the gun. It hardly matters now that I have a happy, healthy, thriving 5-year-old, but in the big picture, it matters a lot. If doctors are intervening early, and unnecessarily, they are putting lives at risk.

The movement towards more home births and using doulas and midwives is all about trusting our bodies to do what nature intended. Without medical intervention, at least two of those reasons for pre-term births would be eliminated. Of course, with medical intervention (prenatal care, smoking and health education), two others would not be issues.

Regardless, we're not doing such a great job carrying our babies to term. With the goal of the March of Dimes in sight, and knowing that we're getting a report card, hopefully we can do better, and soon.

Did you have a pre-term baby?


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