THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

What is Driving the Surge in US Premature Births? $$?

Last week the CDC published yet again a scathing report card for moms and their yet again higher premature delivery rate, the reason the US infant mortality rate is worse than most developed countries both in Europe and Asia. Twenty-one countries rate better than the US.

Premature delivery is blamed on deficient prenatal care, obesity, smoking, early C-section, induced labor and fertility treatments. Even though that’s not the whole story, and all of these are preventable, at least to a degree. Moms low on the socioeconomic scale do not get enough prenatal care.  This could be minimized if health insurance coverage for maternity care was more affordable.

Obesity: absolutely preventable if women exercised more and ate healthier foods. Obesity also starts in the womb for the child if mom eats too much or too little while pregnant. Smoking: definitely preventable! No woman in this day and age should be smoking. No man should be smoking near a pregnant woman. Early C-sections for any other reason than medical necessity should be banned.  Induced labor for any reason other than medical necessity should be banned.

Fertility treatments are a necessity for many women and makes focusing on maternal health so much more important, especially if mom is carrying multiple babies. It is not necessarily the fertility treatments that cause premature birth; it is the lack of good health habits in the mother. However, no woman should be allowed to carry more than three, as the health problems created for the babies are too great. Moms are having a tough enough time carrying one healthy baby, 4 or more is impossible. Our number one priority must be that of the health of the babies.

However, even “high risk” moms can have full term pregnancies if proper care is taken to exercise and eat right. In 17 years, I’ve seen many “high risk” moms deliver full term; twins, placenta previa, incompetent cervix, diabetes, hypertension, sever obesity, etc….with proper exercise and nutrition.

With the preemie rate now at almost 13% and rising, we need to focus on the “Lifestyle Factors” of women to prevent premature babies. A healthy vaginal full term delivery cost about $1,500, a C-section can cost $5,000-15,000. The first year of a healthy child costs about $5,000, and the first year of a preemie can cost up to $1.5 million. Not counting food, clothing, diapers etc…

In the last week, several articles were published on how micronutrients reduce prematurity and infant mortality (micronutrient: all individual vitamins and minerals, macronutrient: carbs, protein and fats) , omega fatty acid fish oils are needed for a healthy baby, Vitamin C, D and B vitamins are needed
while pregnant, moms veggie rich diet helps baby prevent diabetes, prenatal exercise prevents premature delivery, and even the American Psychological Association came out with “A little know epidemic”: Stress may account for many preterm births

Stress can be a big problem in pregnancy and can be minimized with exercise, meditation and proper eating and sunning habits. Exercise, meditation, B vitamins, vitamin D (sunshine) and Omega fish oils all improve stress and possible depression levels.  Both stress and nutrient deficiencies are major causes of preeclampsia and prematurity, and must be addressed. Moms must exercise, eat better and take good complete, prenatal supplements. Unfortunately most women take prescription vitamins that only contain half of the needed nutrients and in synthetic form rather than natural forms as the synthetic versions are less expensive.  Many moms are unduly scared of fish and therefore deficient in omega fatty acids needed for a healthy baby. Vegan sources of DHA are
not as good for baby’s development as fish sources that also contain the important EPA’s.

Processed foods, fried foods, artificial sweeteners, sugar and white carbohydrate foods, rob women and their babies of vital nutrition and harm metabolically, increasing the likely hood of gestational diabetes and hypertension. Personally I would ban all things sugar, fried and cola sodas as they are pure poison for pregnant moms and their growing babies.

Other issues that can be detrimental to the health of a growing baby are environmental toxins, but even with those, getting enough B vitamins like Folate and B6, and Selenium can counteract harmful effects of unfortunate exposure of the chemicals BPA from plastics and/or mercury.  Other consumed toxins can be medications. Such as commonly prescribed anti-nausea drugs, that has a side effect that prohibits absorption of Folate….the most important nutrient during pregnancy.

Even hygiene and especially dental hygiene can have tremendous effect on the health of a pregnancy. Gum disease has been shown to cause premature delivery.

With all this information at our disposal why is the preemie rate increasing in the US? Why is the US number 22 on the infant mortality rate list of developed countries with more than double the mortality rate than most European countries? Why are moms not taking better care of themselves in the US?

Last week, a premature infant summit was held in Los Angeles by MedImmune for doctors, NICU nurses, charity organizations, government entities and other health care professionals in the maternity field. My first concern was that it was FREE. From Valet parking, to breakfast, snacks, lunch and
presentation… all my past conferences needed payment….Listening to presentation after presentation of statistic after statistic on our detrimental prematurity rate and talk of the need for more money to care for these infants without a single hint to the prevention of this problem, I not only got suspicious, I got angry. What was the point of wasting a whole day with all this we already knew…?  Without a solution…. Could all these people that care for preemies deliberately wanting to keep the preemie rate up to stay in business?

A professor of a very well regarded CA University raised his hand and voice for the need of prevention and helping moms to be healthier during pregnancy.  He was ignored, subject
changed…. I raised my hand and voice for more effort on prevention and was met with the same treatment.  During the breaks between sessions, several other like-minded health professionals met with me with the same concerns.   Halfway through, I had enough, left and decided to check out MedImmune. It was not an organization, but a drug company that makes drugs for preemie babies…..with no vested interest in reducing the preemie rate.  
This drug apparently reduces RSV, a respiratory virus that may happen to preemies. Preemies may need this drug, but I’d prefer if there were less preemies…. The drug’s side effects are: respiratory infections, ear infections, fever, sinus problems, abnormal heart rhythms, anaphylaxis, bruising, skin reactions etc…. or generally compromise the immune system of these children, leaving them vulnerable to flu’s and cancer later. But wait…the same company also makes flu vaccine and cancer drugs…..

With all this talk about the need for lower cost health care, our babies need to be born healthier, to reduce health cost of the future. This starts in utero.  Create healthier children and all of our costs will go down.

With drug companies spending 45% of their budget on advertising and the above type of “meetings”, (never did I think I would end up in one), drug prices could be almost halved if drug promotions were banned. Don’t let drug companies fool you with their R&D expense. Apparently they only spend 14% of their budget on R&D, as 90% of all drug research is done by medical schools, private research and the government that the drug companies
then buys and sells…

Women, moms, whether pregnant or contemplating pregnancy, for a healthier baby your lifestyle is of utmost importance. Everything you do or don’t do, will affect the health of your baby. For fertility and a full term pregnancy and the healthiest baby; exercise, eat healthy, take your  vitamins, avoid all chemicals and toxins possible, drink lots of water, get plenty of rest and sleep. Don’t worry, be happy!

Yours in health, Birgitta Lauren www.expectingfitness.com  

Resources: American Psychological Association; Prenatal-health.com
; Mercola.com; Health Day News; Nutra Ingredients Europe;  The
Truth about the drug companies
.  By Marcia
Angell.