Nonprofit organization March of Dimes releases a yearly report to assess factors affecting mothers and their children, including infant mortality, Cesarean births, prenatal care and preterm birth rates. A birth is considered to be “preterm” if it occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Out of the 50 states that were assessed in the latest report, Oregon and Washington were the only ones to receive a preterm birth grade of B for their premature birth rate of 8.9% in 2021.
The two Pacific Northwestern states performed better than most across the country. Overall, the United States had a preterm birth rate of 10.5% in 2021 — which gives the country a D+ grade by March of Dimes’ standards.
The nationwide preterm birth rate had increased by 4% in just a year, and this was also the highest recorded rate since 2007.
“This year’s report sheds new light on the devastating consequences of the pandemic for moms and babies in our country,” March of Dimes president and CEO Stacey D. Stewart said in a release. “While fewer babies are dying, more of them are being born too sick and too soon which can lead to lifelong health problems. Pregnant women with COVID have a 40% higher risk of preterm birth and we know more women are starting their pregnancies with chronic health conditions which can further increase their risk of complications.”
March of Dimes’ report also compared each state’s infant mortality rate to that of the whole country. Oregon’s rate sits at 4.0, while the U.S. is significantly higher at 5.4. According to the report, factors like birth defects, sudden infant death syndrome and maternal complications can contribute to this rate.
Furthermore, the report card’s Maternal Vulnerability Index analyzes maternal health in each county based on six themes: reproductive healthcare, physical health, mental health and substance abuse, general healthcare, socioeconomic determinants and physical environment.
In Oregon, mothers in Malheur County are reported as the most vulnerable with a score of 62.2 out of 100. Washington County mothers are the least vulnerable, with a score of 3.2.
See Oregon’s full report here.
Additionally, March of Dimes examined the racial disparities in maternal health. From 2020 to 2021, premature births reportedly grew from 364,487 to 383,082 in just one year for people of all races. But Black and Native American women specifically, their babies are twice as likely to die in comparison to white women.
“It’s clear that we’re at a critical moment in our country and that’s why we’re urging policymakers to act now to advance legislation that will measurably improve the health of moms and babies,” Stewart said.