The first-ever report card for the nation on premature birth is out. In it, the March of Dimes gives the U.S. a "D." Kansas is among 23 states getting the same grade. Eightteen states received failing grades.
Dr. John Evans of Stormont-Vail's Maternal/Fetal Medicine says it's important for babies to be carried full-term whenever possible, because so much happens in the final four to six weeks of development. He says parents-to-be can help the effort by being aware of what's happening physiologically. Problems such as cramps, spotting or changes in the baby's activity, he says, could signal a potential problem. If it is a problem, doctors can give medications to help baby's development and try to delay delivery.
In fact, Evans says women should see a doctor as soon as they think they're pregnant, before there's a problem. If they don't, he says events that could make a difference in the outcome of the pregnancy may be missed.
In addition to lace of prenatal care, another big risk factor for premature birth is smoking. Evans says it constricts the blood vessels, including those to the uterus, and puts impurities in the blood's oxygen. The effect, he says, is reducing circulation then polluting the air the baby gets.
Kansas does have a "Kan Stop" program to help people quit. Plus, the Shawnee County Health Agency has support programs for expectant moms, as does Stormont-Vail with its "Stork's Cradle."
Shawnee County Health Agency
Maternal and Child Home Health Visitation
Stork's Cradle Information
KDHE Tobacco Quit Line