Alabama graded ‘F’ in limiting preterm births

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – In its 2021 report card of natal and neonatal care for each state, March of Dimes rated Alabama healthcare ‘F’, specifically in premature births.

“It starts to really feel ridiculous that we can’t do anything about these preventable causes when in fact, we absolutely can,” said Honour McDaniel, director of Maternal & Infant Health Initiatives for the March of Dimes’ Alabama chapter.

While the United States slightly improved in natal and neonatal care last year, Alabama did not. McDaniel said for every 100 births, 13 were premature. Black mothers are 52% more likely than other demographics to experience them, according to the report.

“It really puts us up against (states) around us and it’s not a grade that we want to bring home to Mom and Dad for sure. An ‘F’ is not where we want to be as a state,” McDaniel said of the failing grade.

 Pediatric ER Medical Director Dr. Jessica Branscome of Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children said one solution for individual women can be COVID-19 vaccinations for women before or during pregnancy.

“COVID has definitely been linked to premature labor and to fetal injury and death of the mother,” Branscome said. “I know that’s another scary time to think about doing vaccinations, but I think it’s really important to take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby.”

McDaniel explains where a mom-to-be simply lives is also a big indicator of the care received, as many rural counties are in ‘maternity care deserts’.

“Maybe (a woman) didn’t have the safe sidewalks or the transportation to a doctor. Where’s the nearest doctor? Well if it’s a county over and she doesn’t have transportation, that makes it tough to get to that prenatal care visit,” McDaniel said.

Local & state leaders also play a crucial role, McDaniel said.

“This needs to be prioritized. Again, it’s easily preventable, it’s something that we as a state are very much set up to do if we get that support from our legislators,” he added.

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