Initiative’s goal: Decrease premature births across Ohio

OVMC/EORH part of effort to aid at-risk expectant moms

T-L Photo/CRAIG CAMPBELL Staff members at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling pose outside the Labor & Delivery Department. They include, from left, Jill Heller, charge nurse; Lynette DeBertrand, nurse manager; Anita Shelek, staff nurse; and Lois Harris, charge nurse.

MARTINS FERRY — Ohio, and neighboring West Virginia, rank poorly compared to the national average when it comes to premature births, but health care centers, state agencies and the March of Dimes are trying to change those figures across the Buckeye State.

The overall rate of premature deaths for the United States is 9.6 percent, which gets a C grade on the March of Dimes report card. Ohio also received a C for its rate of 10.3 percent. Local Ohio counties fared slightly better with rates ranging from 84 percent to 10.1 percent.

West Virginia’s 11.3 percent rate garnered a grade of D, and was only 0.2 percent away from an F.

Lynette DeBertrand is the nurse manager of the Labor and Delivery Department and the Mother-Baby Care Unit at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling. She said the phrase “Go the full 40” is something health care professionals preach to expectant mothers.

Births that are premature by even one week can cause lifelong, chronic health problems such as respiratory issues, as well as immediate concerns like poor feeding, slow weight gain, poor temperature control and jaundice, according to DeBertrand.

A preterm delivery is one that occurs before 36 weeks, and the late preterm label applies to any delivery between 36 to 39 weeks. These early induction deliveries are a combination of cesarean sections and vaginal deliveries.

DeBertrand said issues such as not having transportation or no one to care for their children often prevent expectant moms from making it to their appointments with doctors. But she wants these women to realize their health care facility can assist them with nearly all of the obstacles to carrying to full term.

During the first trimester of pregnancy, the appointments are typically once per month; in the second trimester they occur every two weeks, and during the third trimester the appointments are weekly.

Before moving into her current position, DeBertrand was a nurse manager in the labor and delivery department at East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry for 10 years. That birthing facility merged with OVMC’s last October.

When she first started at Belmont Community Hospital in Bellaire in 1987, DeBertrand said most babies delivered at 28 weeks didn’t make it. Now their survival rate is above 95 percent.

According to the March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, babies born more than two months premature account for more than half of all infant deaths in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Medicaid and the Ohio Department of Health have partnered with the Ohio Perinatal Quality Collaborative to help expectant moms with the highest risk of premature death starting in 2014.

EORH/OVMC was among 20 large maternity hospitals across the Buckeye state to work with OPQC on the initiative.

“The goal of our project is to reduce premature births in Ohio by 10 percent by assuring that progestogen supplemental therapy is available for every woman at risk,” said Dr. Jay Iams, professor emeritus in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and obstetrics clinical lead of OPQC.

DeBertrand said progestogen is a hormonal replacement therapy that has shown results for expectant moms at risk for preterm deliveries.

Minority races, women of low socioeconomic status, teens and those over 35 years of age are at a higher risk for premature births. Tobacco and alcohol use, low or high body weights, and mental and physical health issues are all risk factors for premature births, according to the Centers for Disease Control.