Hinds County has the highest preterm birth rate at 16.8 percent of all the counties in the state, a new March of Dimes report card shows, and the state as a whole received an "F" grade. Photo courtesy Flickr/David Salafia
JACKSON More babies are born prematurely in Hinds County than anywhere else in the state, a new report from the March of Dimes shows. The statewide preterm birth rate is high nationally; Mississippi received an "F" grade for a state average rate of 13.6 percent. The preterm birth rate in Hinds County is 16.8 percent. The March of Dimes has started a campaign and goal of each state reaching an 8.1 percent preterm birth rate by 2020.
Babies born prematurely are at a higher risk for health complications than babies born on time. Several factors contribute to an area's high preterm birth rate, Dr. Charlene Collier, a perinatal consultant and OBGYN with the Mississippi Department of Health, said.
Mothers can go into labor early for unknown reasons, and hospitals that offer early elective delivery between 37 and 39 weeks of pregnancy contribute to the county's high preterm birth rate, but other social determinants play into the rate as well.
Women with chronic medical conditions, like high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as women who use tobacco or drugs while pregnant, are at a higher risk to give birth early. Collier said the health department is studying these factors as well as whether pregnancies are planned or unplanned, which could affect that preterm birth rate as well.
"(We have to) do more research to understand which ones may be at play at this particular time," Collier said. "We do see differences among groups, and racial disparity is a really significant problem. African American women are at a much greater risk of preterm delivery than other races."
In Mississippi the preterm birth rate for black women is 46 percent higher than the rate among all other women, the 2017 March of Dimes report card shows.
Socioeconomics could also affect Hinds County and the state's high preterm birth rate.
"We do see higher rates of preterm births in lower socioeconomic status (regions). ... It's not the entire reason behind that because we do see preterm births in all socioeconomic levels, but we do see a slight decline with higher socioeconomic status," Collier told the Jackson Free Press.
Because preterm births are usually caused by several factors, Collier said trying to help moms be as healthy as possible during pregnancy is important. Previously having a preterm birth is another indicator of preterm birth. Progesterone therapy can help reduce that risk, and the health department and insurers across the state are working to make that therapy accessible to women in the state, Collier said.
Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @arielle_amara.