Greene Co. Above National Average of Premie Birth Rates

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Premature births are on the rise in the U.S. for the second year in a row, but Greene County is seeing different numbers.

March of Dimes, a non-profit organization for pregnancy and baby health, recently released its latest report on premature birth rates across the country. 

More than 380,000 babies are born before 37 weeks every year. 

"By and large, pre-term labor itself is the biggest reason," said Dr. Staci Niemoth, medical director of Women's Services at CoxHealth. 

Most of the time, Dr. Niemoth says doctors don't have any warning signs nor a specific cause for early labors. 

"Sometimes she just goes into labor, sometimes it's the result of her water breaking, infections, medical problems the mother may have prior to pregnancy," she said. 

Improper nutrition, obesity, prior pre-term deliveries, and smoking may be factors. 

"We still see smoking in pregnancy," Dr. Niemoth said. 

She says babies born early could have disabilities or other health conditions, including neurological and developmental abnormalities, problems breathing or with feeding.  

The latest report by March of Dimes says an additional  8,000  babies were born prematurely in 2016 compared to 2015. 

"That means we have room for improvement," Dr. Niemoth said.  

The U.S. received a "C" grade on the latest report card with a 9.8 percent premie birth rate. Missouri also got a C with a 10.0 percent.

"That means for every 100 babies, 10 of them are being born premature," said Gabe Hulsey, chair for the 2018 March for Babies. "If you look across the state, access to quality healthcare and food is a profound impact." 

Greene County, however, got a "B"  with a 9.2 percent. 

"That shows that we have good health systems in place in Greene County," Dr. Niemoth says.  

She says the racial and socio-economic make-up of the county may contribute to a lower number. 

"We don't have as much diversity in terms of race," she said. "African-Americans do have a higher incidence of pre-term labor and pre-term delivery."

She says keeping track of the numbers can help educate providers on how to take care of those moms and improve prenatal care. 

March of Dimes reports pre-term deliveries cost about $26 billion annually. 

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