Right now, more than one in ten babies in South Dakota will be born before their due date. But doctors, nurses, and therapists at Avera McKennan are continuing to improve care for the tiniest of babies and are doing their part to lower the state prematurity rate.
"I'm 20 weeks and 5 days!" Said Renee Brooks.
Brooks has reached the halfway point of her pregnancy. While she does have some time to finalize her birth plan, Dr. Annie Siewert is making sure Renee's pregnancy goes full term.
"Parents should definitely be concerned about pre term birth because it's something we absolutely want to avoid in any pregnancy because of the problems it can cause for baby as well as the stress it puts on the family." Said Dr. Siewert.
Renee says she is drinking plenty of water and trying to eat as healthy as possible to help lower her risk of pre term labor.
"It does weigh on your mind when you're pregnant, lots of things, lots of emotions run high and you do want what's best for baby, that's you're number one priority when you're pregnant." Said Brooks.
Many moms like to keep things on schedule, their pregnancy included. But there is a nationwide movement to get rid of elective inductions before 39 weeks. Research has shown that babies born more than a week early tend to have more health problems because they are under developed. It might also be harder on mom.
"If we do an induction prior to 39 weeks often there is an increased risk of C-Section and things not going the way we want them to because we're trying to coax the body into doing something it's not ready to do yet." Said Dr. Siewert.
Most babies born before their due date will also end up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This is where these young and sometimes very tiny babies can be monitored extra closely.
"We really try to walk the delicate balance of simulating the environment from which they just came in the womb, which is the best place for baby to be, but we do that here in the outside world." Said Neonatologist Dr. Justin Sharp.
Dr. Sharp says advances in neonatal technology have helped doctors monitor and treat even the smallest of patients. Despite coming early, their chances of survival and normalcy have significantly increased from just a few years prior.
"It's a team effort, so we have nurses, nurse practitioners, therapists that all go to the bedside to meet the needs of that infant depending on how sick they are." Said Dr. Sharp.
Avera McKennan is just one of the hospitals that are helping lower the premature birth rate in the state. The March of Dimes gave South Dakota a "B" grade on it's 2012 premature birth report card. Only four states received an "A" grade but South Dakota is well on its way to getting under a 10% premature birth rate by the year 2020.
"We're obviously still in that fight and learning how to take care of those babies but overall we're able to take care of babies even if they are born prematurely." Said Dr. Sharp.
Dr. Sharp says raising awareness is key to lowering the number of premature births. Dr. Siewert is also pushing new moms like Renee, to keep up with prenatal exams so doctors can identify risk factors for pre term birth and help reduce that risk.
"Everyday is precious when they can grow inside of you and everyday that they have inside of you is important for afterwards and the rest of their lives. So as uncomfortable as it can get in the last few weeks, it's important to wait until baby is ready." Said Brooks.
A total of 16 states earned better prematurity grades from their previous year. Only three states and Puerto Rico received failing grades. For more information about pre term birth and resources for families just call 877-AT-AVERA.
Click here for a link to the March of Dimes' Premature Birth Report Card.