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Premature births in the U.S. are not a partisan issue -By Nonprofit

After a difficult journey with 2019 IVF – they avoided the announcement, always waiting for another ultrasound or another standard to share the good news.

Premature births in the U.S. are not a partisan issue -By Nonprofit

Things got complicated when she noticed in the 23rd week of pregnancy. Lack of movement. By week 24, a previously scheduled ultrasound revealed problems with blood flow to the umbilical cord, and Cato’s doctor told her to go to the hospital that night.

He moved to rural Lavonia, Ga. An hour’s drive from his home at the nearby Advanced Hospital, Greenville, S.C. At 25 weeks, the baby’s condition worsened with an emergency C-section. (For reference: Pregnancy usually lasts 40 weeks, and any birth before 37 weeks is considered “preterm”.)

The boy, Brooks, had to be resuscitated immediately. Cato remembers a nurse carrying the 24-ounce baby in her arms when he was so small she couldn’t see him. As she was recovering from her own procedure, she recalls the warning she and her husband received.

Brooks spent nearly four months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before being discharged from oxygen in early 2020.

He has since had eye surgery, seen a pulmonologist for chronic respiratory problems, worked hard with physical and occupational therapists, and connected with his peers.

“Most importantly, he’s the happiest, he’s very loving,” she said. She is now two and a half years old. The family has made a tradition of donating 103 birthday items — from swaddles to snacks — to the hospital (March of Dimes and Ronald McDonald House Charities) that helped Brooks through her 103 days in the NICU.

Brooks is one of the millions of babies born prematurely in the United States each year. Premature birth is a leading cause of infant mortality and can have long-term effects on children’s health and development. And, according to a new report, they’re on the rise.

On Tuesday, the nonprofit March of Dimes released its 2022 report. The card ranks the nation as a whole and individual states, including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, on measures related to maternal and child health.

The report found that the preterm birth rate in the US will reach 10.5 percent in 2021. A 4% increase from the previous year’s rate, the highest rate since 2007.

In 45 states, plus Washington, D.C. Puerto Rico’s premature birth rate soared. It is based on 2021 liveability data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The report scores only one state, Vermont, in category A (its preterm birth rate is between 7.7 and 8.1%). Several states have received seeds, including California, Oregon, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Several states — concentrated in the Southeast — gave Puerto Rico failing grades of 11.5% or higher.

Overall, rising preterm birth rates across the country dropped the U.S. from a C- to a D+. to March of Dimes’ rating system.

Key takeaways from the report include an increase in preterm births and widening racial disparities in maternal and child health, Dr. Zskeba Henderson, March of Dimes senior vice president and interim chief medical and health officer.

But there are some encouraging signs that infant mortality rates are falling and states are taking action to improve health outcomes. The report also outlines what policymakers can do to help when it comes to the midterms — which Henderson stressed in an interview with NPR is not a partisan issue.

I think it’s a universal problem,” she says. “Unfortunately, our country is one of the safest places to give birth and give birth. And … there are policy measures that [lawmakers] can implement to help address some of the problems that we’re seeing.”

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