Kentucky Among List of States with High Premature Births

Kentucky Among List of States with High Premature BirthsAmerica is seeing an all-time high of premature births, which is an unfortunate sign of the nation’s overall health. Premature babies face many risks in the short term and long term, which can decrease their quality of life and increase morbidity. The genealogical and medical history of the mother can increase the likelihood of delivering a child prematurely, and that is the crux of why the US is seeing more preterm births than ever.

If preterm babies survive past infancy, they are at a high risk of developing cognitive, behavioral, and physical conditions. With this in mind, it is crucial that the nation take steps to lower the increasing rate of preterm deliveries by providing better education and healthcare to the population, with increased focus on impoverished communities. We should also focus on training more medical professionals in how to treat and care for mothers at risk of delivering preterm infants, as well as how to treat the premature babies themselves.

A March of Dimes report shows the shocking rates of preterm deliveries

In a report published recently by the March of Dimes, the rates of premature births have reached a 15-year high, the highest the organization has ever recorded. In other words, one in 10 deliveries were preterm in the US last year. The report gave the nation a D+ grade ranking when it comes to premature births.

With women of color being 60% more likely to experience a preterm delivery, minorities from impoverished communities proved to be most at risk for delivery prematurely.

Poverty-stricken states tend to have poorer overall health, which leads to an increase of preterm deliveries. The states with failing grades as ranked by the organization (with a preterm rate of at least 11.5%) are not only the poorest states in the nation, but also those with the highest rates of diabetes, a common risk factor in preterm births. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, and our very own state of Kentucky, which received an “F” grade from the March of Dimes for preterm births.

What are the risk factors that lead to a preterm birth?

The overall health of a mother is important to having a healthy delivery, but there are other risk factors that can increase the chance of premature delivery. As per the Mayo Clinic, these include:

  • Some chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Having a previous premature birth
  • Pregnancy with twins, triplets or other multiples
  • An interval of less than six months between pregnancies
  • Conceiving through in vitro fertilization
  • Problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta
  • Smoking cigarettes or using illicit drugs
  • Some infections, particularly of the amniotic fluid and lower genital tract
  • Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
  • Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or domestic violence
  • Multiple miscarriages or abortions
  • Physical injury or trauma

No one would say that having a baby is easy, but it’s clear that when considering having a child, you need a medical team which can explain these potential risks and help you take steps to address those which can be addressed. It is also important to have contingency plans in place in case something does go wrong.

Can preterm birth be the result of medical negligence?

While there are ways in which a mother herself can prepare for having a child, such as adopting a healthier lifestyle and avoiding stress as much as possible, there are some things for which she cannot prepare. Some of these risks, the obstetrician or medical professional leading her through her pregnancy can help prevent. When the physician fails to take the proper steps to lower the mother’s risk for preterm delivery, this can be considered medical negligence. Examples of medical malpractice that increase the risk of, or can cause, a premature birth include:

  • Failing to identify the risks the mother already faces that might lead to a preterm delivery (such as high blood pressure/preeclampsia).
  • Failing to diagnose, or misdiagnosing, fetal or maternal distress.
  • Failing to identify or treat prenatal issues such as infections.
  • Failing to identify or treat issues during pregnancy such as preeclampsia or placental issues.
  • Improperly following up or failing to follow up with the mother throughout her pregnancy.

Failing to provide the proper care during labor and delivery of a premature baby may also be acts of medical malpractice. For example, many preterm babies must be placed in an incubator right after delivery, to help regulate their body temperatures. They may exhibit signs of transient tachypnea of the newborn (TTN) because of fluid in their lungs. Failure to address these immediate concerns can lead to long-term complications later.

Doctors, obstetricians, and other healthcare physicians have a duty of care in their profession. When they fail to properly care for their patients, causing undue harm and suffering, there must be repercussions. A mother who has the assistance of a medical malpractice attorney can seek financial compensation for the pain and suffering of both her and her child.

What are the complications of a preterm birth?

There are many health problems a premature baby faces post-birth. The first struggle is surviving the early delivery. A 2019 paper published in The Lancet explains:

[P]reterm neonatal deaths could be related to either preterm-related complications (specific to the fact that the neonate is born preterm) or the deaths could be due to conditions such as congenital anomalies, asphyxia, or sepsis, which could also cause death in term infants. Common preterm causes of death include respiratory distress syndrome, necrotising enterocolitis, and intraventricular haemorrhage.

A premature infant is at risk for both short- and long-term complications. Short-term complications include problems involving the child’s:

  • Breathing
  • Heart
  • Brain
  • Temperature control (thermoregulation)
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Blood
  • Metabolism
  • Immune system

Once (and if) the child survives past the early stages of their life, they also face long-term complications and conditions that they may have to deal with for the rest of their life. These can include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Learning problems
  • Poor vision
  • Hearing loss
  • Dental issues
  • Behavioral/psychological issues

These, along with other chronic health issues, are what the child may have to struggle with as they age; however, it is not necessarily guaranteed. A premature baby can still grow to be happy and healthy.

If you have suffered a premature delivery and you think that your healthcare team failed to prevent it or make you aware of the risks you faced, you should contact a Kentucky medical malpractice attorney. At Wilt Injury Lawyers, we specialize in this field of the law, and we have secured millions in settlement awards for our clients. We understand how stressful and heartbreaking it can be to experience a difficult pregnancy and delivery.

Worrying over whether your child will survive their first few days or weeks of life, and then further to worry about their future, is something that no one should have to experience, especially if it is wholly or in part due to the failures or your healthcare team. Let us help you. To schedule a free consultation, please call us or fill out our contact form. We maintain offices in Lexington and Louisville, and proudly serve clients throughout Kentucky.