‘Pre-birth’ support programs help birth rates fall in US, report finds

Data published by the March of Dimes shows health group claims decline in the United States of prenatal mortality, birth rate and infant mortality rate

The premature birth rate in the United States has declined for the second year in a row in a report released on Thursday by the March of Dimes, the health advocacy group.

The group said that out of 1.4 million live births in the US in 2016, more than 99,000 babies were born preterm, which is either born before 37 weeks into the pregnancy, or preterm term, the longest expected length of life. Preterm births represent 8.5% of all live births in the US, up slightly from a preterm birth rate of 8.3% in 2015, the March of Dimes said.

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Experts said the decline in the infant mortality rate was also significant. The March of Dimes reported that the death rate for the US has fallen by more than a quarter since 2010, when there were nearly eight infant deaths per 1,000 live births. That percentage has fallen to about 6.6 deaths in 2016.

Dr Marybeth Lavery, who is chief of the National Center for Telehealth and Innovation at the March of Dimes, said that internet-based tools have also helped to reduce the rate of parents traveling to hospitals for help. And they are gaining more popularity among busy women.

Researchers believe internet-based tools are helping to reduce the need for expensive hospital visits, as well as helping deliver babies early.

A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2015 looked at online tools such as the “30-Minute Birth Coach” and found that women using such tools had a 15% lower pregnancy risk than mothers who used regular birth control methods alone or with contraception such as condoms or birth control pills. The study found that 23% of women using the online pregnancy support tool had a premature birth.

Lavery said the tools were key to delivery in the best-case scenario when doctors are unable to get through with a pre-term birth or mother is too busy.

“A lot of physicians still think there is no good time to deliver a baby in the hospital,” Lavery said.

Fifty-three states in the US have preterm birth rates below 7%, the March of Dimes report said. There were no preterm birth rates below 6.8% in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia.

Tennessee is the only state with a preterm birth rate above 10%, the report found. Preterm birth rates were highest in Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Ohio, Virginia and Florida. The least preterm birth rate was observed in Hawaii.

The March of Dimes said that the rate of pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation training continues to climb in the US, thanks to the March of Dimes’ initiative. The initiative’s goal is to deliver CPR to 400,000 children across the country by 2020.

“Childbirth is complicated enough, and it’s so important for moms and dads to be able to have a safe, healthy pregnancy,” Dr Nancy Messonnier, CEO of the March of Dimes, said in a statement. “We know that modern birth strategies – such as echocardiography, ultrasound, heart rate monitors and echocardiography – can help us understand if a baby is moving about properly, and we have increased early access to oxygen delivery and increased energy delivery because babies need both at the same time.”

The report also found that the number of African-American mothers who are diagnosed with preterm birth before the first week of their pregnancy rose nearly 30% from 2009 to 2016. In 2016, one in six African-American women suffered a preterm birth.

Overall, the number of women who had a preterm birth fell in 2016. The preterm birth rate fell 4% from 2015, a drop of nearly 23,000 babies.

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