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State continues focus on lowering preterm births
by Mary Cosgrove
December 19, 2012 09:54 AM | 1303 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Preterm birth is an issue nationally and statewide, with many factors contributing to the early birth of a child.

Georgia is continuing to decrease its rate of preterm birth, but was still handed a “D” on its preterm birth report card for 2012 from the March of Dimes.

Lack of insurance, or being underinsured, smoking, chronic illnesses and education all can affect whether a pregnancy is carried full term.

In Fulton County, women who have received less than a high school education are at a 30 percent greater risk for having a preterm baby, according to Theresa Chapple-McGruder, the director of the Office of Epidemiology, Maternal and Child Health at the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“We really want to encourage women to have an education before they start having their babies,” she said. “Going to college decreases your risk by 25 percent.”

Teen pregnancies are also higher-risk, with Fulton County pregnant teens facing a 25 percent greater risk at having a premature baby.

For Fulton County in 2010, the preterm rate was 12.7 percent. Georgia’ preterm rate for 2013 is 13.2 percent.

While the number is on the downslide for Georgia, it still hasn’t reached the goal of 9.6 percent set by the March of Dimes.

Chapple-McGruder said the state continues to educate women on the importance of prenatal care, which is helping the preterm rate to drop.

“If you’re pregnant, you’re more than likely covered for prenatal care,” she said.

It is suggested that women have their first prenatal care visit within the first trimester.

“Over time, we’ve seen that number grow, but it’s nowhere near where we need to be,” Chapple-McGruder said.

She recommends 12 prenatal visits during the course of a 40-week pregnancy.

In Georgia, the number of uninsured women has jumped from 24.8 percent to 27 percent.

Controlling chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension prior to becoming pregnant aids in lowering preterm risk. Women in the South have a higher than national rate of chronic illnesses.

Quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight are also essential. The 2012 rate of pregnant women who smoke in Georgia is 20.1 percent, which Chapple-McGruder said is lower than the national average.

“You want to be healthy before entering pregnancy,” she said.

Also, new data has come out proving the necessity of carrying a child full term. Chapple-McGruder said modern medicine has made inducing labor easier, adding a convenience factor to pregnancy and labor.

However, brain and lung development during the final weeks of pregnancy are vital to the long term health of the child.
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