COLUMBUS — Hundreds of Ohio babies don’t reach their first birthdays, but there are ways to help make an impact.
In honor of National Infant Mortality Awareness Month, Buckeye Health Plan is spotlighting the need for moms-to-be to focus on prenatal care and the health of their babies. This focus is critical given Ohio’s infant mortality statistics.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, 938 Ohio babies died before their first birthday in 2018. Within that figure, at-risk populations are hit harder. Black infants are dying at nearly three times the rate of white infants, and rates are significantly greater in Ohio’s urban areas.
And while the number of infant deaths is declining, Ohio has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Ultimately, more needs to be done.
“Even one death of a baby is one too many,” said Dr. Brad Lucas, Chief Medical Officer with Buckeye Health Plan. “While Ohio has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, there are preventable risk factors and opportunities for intervention to help at-risk women improve their health and the health of their babies. And that starts with early prenatal care.”
According to the report, premature birth and related conditions are the leading causes of infant death in Ohio, and many of the risk factors are preventable.
“Of the infants who died, one in three were born to mothers who received no first-trimester prenatal care and 20 percent had a mother who smoked,” said Dr. Lucas. “Buckeye is committed to helping women get access to the prenatal care they need along with programs and education to give their babies a strong start to a healthy life.”
One way Buckeye does this is through its Start Smart for Your Baby program, which provides special assistance for women before, during and after pregnancy. The program encourages and supports:
- Early notification of pregnancy.
- Member education.
- Prenatal care.
- An ongoing physician’s treatment plan for pregnant women and their delivered babies.
“Through our Start Smart program, we help at-risk pregnant moms plan their prenatal care and understand why these appointments are critical to their overall health and wellness,” said Dr. Lucas. “We are excited to see that rate of babies requiring an intensive care neonatal admission is at its lowest over the past three years. Further good news is that our rate of low birth weight births is at its lowest over the past four years.”
Buckeye advises all pregnant women to take these important steps to help reduce their risk of preterm birth:
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Get prenatal care as soon as you think you may be pregnant and throughout the pregnancy.
- Seek medical attention for any warning signs or symptoms of preterm labor.
- Talk with your doctor or other healthcare provider about the use of progesterone treatment if you had a previous preterm birth.
- Wait at least 18 months between pregnancies.