Knoxville earns ‘D’ on premature births report card

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Too many babies are being born too soon in Tennessee. The state recently earned a D on the Premature Birth Report Card.

The study looks at the birth rate across the nation, but it dove into what’s going wrong in cities as well as ethnic groups. The March of Dimes’ goal is 8.1 percent by 2020 when it comes to the preterm birth rate. Tennessee scored 10.8 percent. Knoxville had 11 percent of babies born prematurely, and the city earned a D as well.

Fragile and just a few weeks old, little Lilly McMahon is growing, but not at home.

“She was born at 24 weeks and six days, one pound and one ounce. This is our only child so we were not prepared,” said dad Jonathan McMahon.

Lilly is a preemie because her mom Ashley McMahon was diagnosed with a condition that meant an early delivery was necessary to save both of their lives.

“With the baby doing better, it makes me feel better,” said McMahon.

The McMahons aren’t alone. Tennessee is trailing behind other states when it comes to preterm births.

“Although Tennessee has received a D, we have bettered our percentage rate last year in 2014. It was 12.6 percent and now we’re down to 10.8 percent part of the premature births,” said Susie Racek Executive Director of the East Tennessee chapter of March of Dimes.

More online: Read the full report [PDF]

To get this rate to drop even more, more research needs to be done.

“Healthy mothers leads to healthy babies,” said Dr. Mark Gaylord, director of the Neonatal Care Unit at UT Medical Center.

There are things soon-to-be moms can do.

“Number one is to improve maternal health. Second is to make sure everybody has a very good and adequate prenatal care, they see their physicians and that they stop using things like cigarettes, alcohol during pregnancy,” added Dr. Gaylord.

It’s also suggested women wait longer to have the next baby and be aware that preterm babies may pass down in generations.

“We are trying to improve but make that realistic improvement,” said Dr. Gaylord.

The McMahons take each day one at a time.

“Just to be able to hold her without all the wires and having to worry about keeping her in a certain position, just being able to snuggle her like I want to that is going to be a sweet day,” Ashley.

The 2015 Premature Birth Report Card ranks other cities across the state. Memphis with the highest percentage of 13.7 earning an F. Chattanooga close behind at 13.1 percent, and over in middle Tennessee, Nashville received 10.1 percent.

World Prematurity Day

World Prematurity Day will he held on Nov. 17. The March of Dimes hopes to raise awareness for a nationwide epidemic. Dr. Keri Lattimore from the University of Tennessee Medical Center joins us WATE 6 On Your Side’s Tearsa Smith with the latest numbers and what we can do about them.

What is prematurity and why is it a concern?
– Babies born too early, or before 37 weeks of pregnancy, are premature. The goal is to deliver as close to the full-term of 40 weeks as possible
– Worldwide, more than 15 million babies are born premature and more than 1 million of them die because of it
– Complications from prematurity are the leading cause of death in children under the age of five
– For survivors, prematurity can lead to life-long health problems or significant developmental delays
– That’s why the March of Dimes created World Prematurity Day

What makes us more at risk for delivering a premature baby?
– Lack of proper pre-natal care
– Smoking, drug and alcohol abuse
– Stress
– Poor maternal health
– Conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes
– Previously delivering a premature baby
– Pregnancy with twins or multiples

What can we do to prevent it?
– For individuals:
o Plan to start a family, include discussions with your doctor
o Even if you weren’t planning, get to the doctor right away to ensure you’re receiving proper pre-natal care
o Live a healthy lifestyle
o Unless there’s a medical reason, do not schedule a C-section before 39 weeks of pregnancy
– For everyone:
o Spread awareness
o Encourage or support research about prematurity, as we still don’t know the cause of about half of premature births

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