Connecticut’s premature births increase; state graded a C by March of Dimes
Connecticut’s rate of premature births rose in the last year, although four of the six counties surveyed saw an improvement from 2015, according to the March of Dimes’ 2016 Premature Birth Report Card.
The state as a whole was graded a C, with a 9.4 percent rate, down from a B last year. The grades are computed using 8.1 percent as a goal, which the March of Dimes hopes to reach by 2020.
The rate for New Haven County improved from 9.6 percent to 8.9 percent, a B grade.
Litchfield County was graded A, based on its improvement from 8.4 percent of premature births to 7.7 percent. Middlesex County, however, did more poorly, with pre-term births rising from 7.5 percent to 8.3 percent, a grade of B.
The second county that did more poorly in 2016 than in 2015 was Hartford, which had 9.4 percent premature births in 2015 but 10.1 percent in 2016. Hartford County received a C grade; all others except Litchfield were graded B.
“We’ve made progress in certain regions and we’ve made progress with certain racial and ethnic groups but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Dr. Christopher Morosky, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Connecticut Health Center and co-chairman of the Connecticut March of Dimes’ Maternal and Child Health State Committee.
Nationwide, the rate of premature birth — a birth earlier than 37 weeks — stands at 9.6 percent.
“This is the first time in eight years that we’ve seen the nation … have a rise,” Morosky said.
Connecticut was one of seven states to see an increase in pre-term births.
Premature birth is the leading cause of death of babies in the United States, according to the March of Dimes.
Connecticut ranked 31st in racial and ethnic disparity, according to the report. Morosky said “there’s still a large discrepancy” between African-American women and other women. “The pre-term birth rate among African-American women is 36 percent higher than all other women,” he said. That rate is 12.2 percent, compared with 8.6 percent for white women and 10.3 percent for Hispanic women.
Dr. Chris Pettker, chief of obstetrics at Yale New Haven Hospital, pointed out Connecticut did slightly better than the nation as a whole, at 9.4 percent, compared with 9.6 percent.
He said Yale New Haven’s location in a city with a high minority population raises the number of premature births it sees, partly because those groups have higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes than the population as a whole. Also, because Yale New Haven has advanced neonatal services, women are sent there from smaller hospitals.
“To make an improvement to 8.9 percent is terrific, but we’re going to look for ways to reduce the prematurity rate,” Pettker said. (Yale New Haven is the largest hospital in New Haven County but not the only one.)
Pettker also said Gov. Dannel Malloy cut Medicaid rates for prenatal care in 2015.
“Yale New Haven Hospital provides a substantial amount of (prenatal) services to those who aren’t Medicaid-eligible,” Pettker said. “It becomes much more challenging to support those services when the funding we’re getting for our Medicaid patients is reduced.”
Morosky said the March of Dimes has several aims in order to reduce premature births to 8.1 percent by 2020. “One of the big focuses that we have is on child spacing, trying to expand the time that women have between one birth and their next pregnancy” he said. “If you have a short-interval pregnancy, that is, less than 18 months before the next pregnancy, that is a risk factor for pre-term births,” Morosky said.
Another goal is to improve the mother’s health before, during and after their pregnancies, encouraging women to quit smoking, lose excess weight and get control of diabetes, Morosky said.
Call Ed Stannard at 203-680-9382.