Spalding County falls short on preterm birth rates and scores even lower on infant mortality rates according to studies and findings presented at a recent Educational Prosperity Initiative (EPI) meeting.
According to March of Dimes, preterm birth is a live birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation.
Infants that are preterm, sometimes also called premature, have a lower rate of survival than full term infants. Those that do survive often have health complications, some of them long term.
Georgia currently has a preterm birth rate of 11.4 percent and scores a “D” on March of Dimes’ 2018 Premature Birth Report Card. To score an “A,” a state must have a preterm birth rate less than or equal to 8.1 percent.
The preterm birth rate in Spalding County for 2014 — the most recent rate found — was 16.6 percent which gives it an “F” on the March of Dimes report card. Preterm births affect all races, but in Spalding County, it affects black mothers more than other races at 20.7 percent.
According to Carl Henry, of Southside Medical Center, who presented findings on preterm birth at the December meeting of EPI, Spalding and Butts counties had an infant mortality rate that is triple the national average.
“Several counties have a much higher infant mortality rate. Among all races and ethnicities, two counties had rates more than triple those nationally, Spalding at 18.6 percent and Butts at 20.3,” said Henry citing studies for 2014 and 2015.
According to Henry, there are several things mothers can do to decrease the likelihood of preterm birth. They should get prenatal checkups, tell their provider about all their prescriptions, take prenatal vitamins, eat well and get appropriate, prenatal exercise as planned with their doctor.
He said they should also avoid alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.
According to local officials, one trend in preterm births in Spalding County, is mothers who hide their pregnancy. They attribute this to very young mothers and mothers who have become pregnant as a result of rape.
“What we have found is that a lot of people aren’t going for treatment or they’re going for treatment late and also showing up at the emergency room when it’s time to deliver,” Henry said. “So they’ve had no prenatal treatment at all.”
Another issue is a lack of affordable health care or a perception by the mother that there is not affordable care available to her.
However, Henry said that once a pregnancy is confirmed, a mother can apply for Pregnancy Medicaid and he suggested visiting the Health Department for a pregnancy test.
The Spalding County Health Department at 1007 Memorial Drive, offers appointments for pregnancy tests. If a mother is pregnant, workers at the Health Department will help get her on Medicaid the same day.
They also help connect mothers with prenatal care providers and services such as WIC which stands for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. WIC helps provide nutrition to low-income women and children.