The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) officially recognizes September as Infant Mortality Awareness Month and remains committed to continually highlight the improvements made in lowering Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate (IMR).
IMR is defined as the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births; the current IMR in Oklahoma is 7.4, which remains above the national average of 5.9. OSDH and their public health partners have made continual efforts to drive down the IMR and improve overall maternal and infant health. A statewide initiative launched in 2009, Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility, works to positively impact factors that contribute to lower infant mortality in Oklahoma.
“It is important to recognize that each of us has a role in promoting healthy outcomes for Oklahoma mothers and babies,” stated Joyce Marshall, director, Maternal and Child Health Service at OSDH. “Even though we can celebrate improvements in Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate, we still have much to do to reduce disparities and save the lives of Oklahoma’s tiniest and most vulnerable residents.”
As Oklahoma’s IMR continues to decline, premature births are still a leading cause of infant mortality and morbidity. At 10.3 percent, Oklahoma ranked 41st in the percentage of premature births in 2014. Premature birth is defined as a birth occurring before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. Babies born prematurely may experience difficulties after birth including breathing problems, feeding difficulties, trouble staying warm and low blood sugar.
Factors that may increase the risk for women to have a premature birth include:
High blood pressure
Short time between pregnancies
History of preterm birth
Things women can do to promote a healthy pregnancy are:
Plan the pregnancy and take care of health issues before pregnancy, nearly half of all pregnancies in Oklahoma are unplanned
Be at a healthy weight before pregnancy
Take a multi-vitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid every day
Begin prenatal care within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy
Ask about progesterone therapy starting between 16 and 26 weeks for women who have experienced a previous preterm birth
Steps to obtaining and remaining at a healthy weight before getting pregnant include:
Being active for at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week
Eating a variety of foods from all food groups
Making half your plate fruits and vegetables
Avoiding foods high in fat and sugar
Avoiding sugar-sweetened drinks that contain little to no nutritional value
Current activities underway as part of the Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative include: