The rate of preterm births in the U.S. has risen over the past four years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A new report card from March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization that works to help mothers and babies in the United States, has given West Virginia an F grade in the percentage of live births that are premature.
Nearly 12 percent of live births in West Virginia are premature. According to the March of Dimes 2019 report card, that’s two percent higher than the national average. The nation as a whole has an overall C rating for preterm births at 10 percent.
The report card analyzed data from 2018.
The earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of death or serious disability, according to the CDC. In 2017, preterm and low birth weights accounted for nearly 17 percent of infant deaths nationwide.
Kanawha County had the highest rate of premature births in West Virginia last year at 15 percent, according to the March of Dimes. In Monongalia County, the rate of premature births went down from 10.8 percent to 9.4 percent.
The analysis found the biggest disparities in premature births among racial lines. The report shows that premature births among black women in West Virginia were 22 percent higher than the rate among all other women in the state.
The average cost of a preterm birth in West Virginia is $52,000.
March of Dimes recommends Medicaid coverage to be extended to include at least one year postpartum. Currently, it only covers 60 days after giving birth, according to the organization.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from Marshall Health and Charleston Area Medical Center.