As we again honor World Prematurity Day on November 17th, we must also acknowledge the problem is still growing. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the average rate of preterm birth (birth prior to 37 weeks gestation) has increased for the third year in a row. The preterm birth rate has increased from 9.6% to 9.93% between 2016 and 2017. As a result, the March of Dimes Premature Birth Rate Report Card gives the United States a disappointing grade of “C”.
Prematurity is the leading cause of death worldwide in children under five years of age. This vulnerable population is at an increased risk of long-term health problems such as: cerebral palsy, developmental delay, breathing difficulties, blindness and hearing loss.
October marks Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) Awareness Month. NAS is the result of the sudden discontinuation of fetal exposure of a substance, typically an opiate such as methadone, heroin, or prescription opiates. It can give afflicted newborns a constellation of symptoms such as: vomiting, loose stools, high-pitched crying, irritability, inconsolability, tremors, sweating, sneezing, poor feeding, or even seizures.
Because of the opioid epidemic in the United States, the incidence of NAS has skyrocketed over the past decade. For the NICU physicians and nurses that care for such unfortunate infants on a regular basis, following best practices for NAS care is crucial.
As Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month comes to a close, we’d like to remind everyone of the unique challenges that families, providers, and communities face in caring for premature and medically complex newborns – struggles that often endure well beyond infancy.
The March of Dimes is one of the most widely known and respected charities. They’ve been leading the charge for healthier babies and moms for decades, and their mission is near and dear to our hearts here at ProgenyHealth. Fighting Premature Birth: The Prematurity Campaign puts focus on many of the issues that we also face in providing care management services for such infants and their families in the first year of life.
According to CDC data as of 2016 cited in the campaign, 9.8% of all births in the US are preterm (<37 weeks gestation). Unfortunately, the rate of such births is growing, and the national opioid epidemic is contributing to the problem. To-date, a single solution has proven elusive. Until one is found, the best approach is a renewed focus on the issue that encompasses its inherent breadth and depth.