For the second year in a row, the March of Dimes has given Missouri a grade of “C” in its annual state rankings of premature birth rates. Factors including maternal smoking, lack of access to health care, and obesity are to blame.
The Director of Newborn Medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital, Dr. F. Sessions Cole, calls preterm birth a major problem for our region.
Cole said babies born too soon can have serious problems with their lungs, liver, or kidneys. They can have trouble defending themselves against infection. He also said their brains may not be ready for life outside the womb.
“Even though they may not develop acute brain problems within the first month after birth, sometimes these babies can encounter problems with learning, with coordination, with speech and language that may not be noted until they get into kindergarten," Cole said.
Cole says mothers who are able to carry their babies to term should always do so.