A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Avoiding premature births starts with prenatal care for fewer newborn deaths, less childhood disability

Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death and childhood disability. The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) is promoting preterm birth prevention as a part of Prematurity Awareness Month.

In Kentucky, the preterm birth rate in 2015 for Kentucky babies was 10.8 percent, higher than the national rate of 9.6 percent. Unfortunately, the preliminary report of preterm Kentucky birth rates for 2016 showed an increase to 11.3 percent.

A woman’s pregnancy should last an average of 40 weeks. The last few weeks of pregnancy is very important to the development of the baby. Babies born before 37 weeks gestation are still vulnerable to problems associated with premature birth, including permanent disabilities.

“Improving birth outcomes throughout Kentucky reduces the risk of short-term and long-term complications associated with early delivery. With adequate prenatal care, pregnant women can increase the likelihood of carrying their baby to the full term of pregnancy,” said Dr. Henrietta Bada, director for the DPH Division of Maternal and Child Health.

Many preterm births, especially late preterm births, are preventable with the following prevention methods:

• Avoid alcohol, tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.
• Eat healthy foods and vitamins.
• Talk to your doctor about a healthy exercise plan for you for a healthy weight throughout pregnancy.
• Follow appropriate treatment for existing medical conditions.
• Avoid induction of labor or cesarean deliveries, unless there is a medical indication that necessitates this procedure.
• Wait at least 18 months between pregnancies.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health is committed to advancing initiatives that ensure early access to prenatal care and prevention of preterm birth in Kentucky. All pregnant women are encouraged to seek prenatal care from a health care provider as soon as they find out they are pregnant and continue care throughout the course of their pregnancy.

To learn about how to prevent preterm birth of your baby, visit www.marchofdimes.com or call the Department for Public Health at (502) 564-2154.

From Cabinet for Health and Family Services

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