Tennessee receives 'C' on March of Dimes report card

Tennessee receives 'C' on March of Dimes report card

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A March of Dimes study released today concerning premature births across the nation gave Tennessee a "C" rating.

While the grade is considered average, it is an improvement over a "D" grade in 2011. It is also seen as significant improvement over 2010's "F" grade.

The advancements in premature births are especially a relief to mother's who bear children earlier than expected, like Nahaylia Carmack.

Carmack gave birth to her son, Corbin, on Halloween. Since that October night, the University of Tennessee Medical Centers Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has been the only home Corbin has known.

Carmack, a high school teacher, said she isn't sure why her son arrived a little over a month early. Doctors never considered her pregnancy "high risk."

"I don't think there was really a reason," she said. "My mom blamed it on the full moon."

While Corbin made his debut earlier than expected, the trend of premature births has lowered in Tennessee, leading to the improved March of Dimes grade report. Pre-term births now occur 12.8 percent of all pregnancies in the state, down from 14 percent last year.

Tennessee is part of a nationwide trend. According to the March of Dimes, 40 states saw improvement in pre-term birth percentages, and a total of 16 states improved their grade report.

Neonatal care is also improving on a wide scale, but doctors hope the ratio of premature babies receiving adequate care to those who do not will continue to improve. According to the March of Dimes report, 27 percent of premature children do not receive they care they need in order to survive those first critical weeks of life.

Doctors are happy premature births are dropping, but explain taking a few simple steps before becoming pregnant can decrease the likelihood of early labor.

"Mothers that are healthy, that can control their blood pressure, control their weight, exercise, take their folic acid, and eat properly are much more likely to have a healthy baby," Dr. Mark Gaylord of UT Medical Center's NICU unit said.

For those who do have a child prematurely, the only concern is when their babies can make the journey to their forever home, surrounded by loved ones. But Carmack said that decision is out of her hands, and in some ways, isn't even her physician's choice.

"It's all up to him," she said. "At least that's what they keep telling me. It's all up to him."

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