Houston Hospitals Will Try To Lower 13.6% Premature Birth Rate

The March of Dimes has tapped three local Houston hospitals to join a campaign against premature birth. The motto of the new program is "Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait."

It seems obvious that parents would wait as long as it takes to have a healthy baby. But some ob-gyns have been scheduling deliveries early, even when there’s no medical reason for it.

Dr. Joanie Hare delivers at The Woman's Hospital of Texas.

“I think over last 10-15 years, women have requested that they want their moms and families to be in from out of town and everything is based on a schedule because everyone has a blackberry and an iPhone and we want to schedule our lives.”

But the medical reality is this: babies should gestate until 39 weeks, at least. Even babies born one or two weeks early can have problems eating or breathing.

The new campaign will study pre-term birth at three hospitals and three clinics in Houston, including Kelsey-Seybold. Women at those facilities will be educated about the importance of waiting until 39 weeks, and so will their doctors.

But the program will also address the other causes of premature birth, such as stress and lack of prenatal care.

June Hanke is a community health planner at the Harris County Hospital District. She says women who lack good prenatal care are at higher risk for delivering early.

“So maybe they haven’t had the opportunity to go to a physician and have some of those chronic conditions under control because if diabetes is well managed and under control, it just makes it safer for the mother and the baby and they can have a healthy pregnancy. Same with hypertension, dealing with it, making sure they have the right medications.”

The hospitals and clinics will each have three years to meet their goals of reducing premature birth.

Harris County pretrem babies map

Statistics for preterm births.
Preterm birth rate: Percent of birth born before 37 weeks
Texas 2009 13.2
Harris County 13.2
Data sources Texas and Harris County: Texas Department of State Health Services Center for Health Statistics.

USA preliminary 12.18
Data source: Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Ventura SJ. Births: Preliminary data for 2009. National vital statistics reports web release; vol 59 no 3. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010.

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Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...