The 2017 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card was published on Nov. 1 and someone has to call Ohio’s baby ugly. The state has a 10.4 percent preterm birth rate, earning a “D” grade. Even more shocking: Cleveland has the highest preterm birth rate (14.9 percent), among the 100 U.S. cities with the greatest number of births. Yes, Cleveland, Ohio. Sounds like Ohio needs to go purple for Prematurity Awareness Month and World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17.
As a mother of a former micro-preemie, I hate to hear so many Ohio mothers share my preterm birth experience. I reflect on the fear and shattered expectations my husband and I shared in 2012 when our daughter was born at 23 weeks and 2 days weighing only one pound, one ounce. Before we knew it, we were moving into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for what ended up being an eight-month stay. Our faith got us through each day, and I’m forever grateful for everyone who cared for my daughter. Still, there were certainly days I wished I never had to know them. Days I so badly wanted to hold my daughter on my own time, in my own space, doing what families with new babies do.
Not every premature baby is a micro-preemie or has a NICU stay. However, it’s little consolation to the parents and baby, who may face an increased risk of short-term and long-term health issues. When my daughter was finally discharged, she still required oxygen for seven more months. Because she was on oxygen, she couldn’t enroll in daycare. We were urged to keep her isolated because of her compromised immune system. Lung specialists, dietitians, optometrists, and her pediatrician all “followed” to make sure she was progressing as planned. That’s not an ideal start for any parent or child. We need to do better by my daughter and the more than 380,000 American children like her, born prematurely each year, according to March of Dimes.
Many factors can contribute to premature birth; lending your support can help with research and prevention. If you’re looking for alternative gifts this holiday season, or just want to help Ohio babies thrive throughout the year, here are national and local options supporting prematurity awareness and the families of those children:
1. The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio (RMHC): RMHC provides free housing for families of seriously ill children being treated in hospitals around Columbus. I stayed at RMHC for nearly two months while my daughter was in the NICU. It has been our privilege to help other families by participating in their meal volunteer program every year. We enjoy volunteering together, but it could also be a great activity for your office or a group of friends. Check out the website for volunteer opportunities and donations.
2. Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH): My daughter couldn’t have been in better hands than the specialty NICUs at NCH. It was easy to see why the families we met came from all over the nation and world to get the care we had right in our backyard. You can help NCH “give kids a someday” by donating to help fund research and care. You can even specify the NICU or other area to designate your gift.
3. March of Dimes: You may be most familiar with the March of Dimes’ March for Babies, but the work doesn’t stop there. Determined to “give every baby a fighting chance,” the March of Dimes focuses on “improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.” There are many ways to get involved, starting at the elementary school level. This time of year, you can also be on the lookout for temporary Facebook frames for prematurity awareness.
4. Bottoms Up Coffee Co-Op: You read that right, your coffee beans can help the babies. This local, women-owned business uses coffee and coworking to reduce infant mortality in Columbus. With 10 percent of their coffee sales going to local nonprofits, your morning coffee seriously never tasted this good.
5. Amazon Smile: If you give an adult a coffee, he/she will probably want strong Wifi to go with it for online shopping. I’m going to make a general assumption said shopping will involve Amazon, so sign on through Amazon Smile. A portion of your purchase will be donated to the charity of your choosing. March of Dimes, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Ronald McDonald Charities of Central Ohio are all participating charities!
Despite her scary start, I’m proud to say my daughter is an independent, soccer-playing, swimming kindergartener. For the sake of our precious babies (and parents), let’s do what we can to bring awareness to Ohio’s preterm birth rate and give babies the best start possible.
Article data source: March of Dimes, “U.S. preterm birth rate on the rise for second year in a row”