With one of the highest infant mortality rates in the state, Sampson County health officials are continuing the stress the importance of prenatal care.
According to statistics, Sampson County is eighth in infant deaths from 2010 to 2014. During those years, more than 4,000 babies were born and close to 40 died, resulting in a Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of 8.9 percent per 1,000 births.
“We’re not happy with this,” said Kathie Johnson, director of nursing for the Sampson County Health Department.
In October, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health announced the state’s IMR rate for 2014 was 7.1 per 1,000 live births, which is a slight increase from the lowest rates recorded; 7.0 for 2010 and 2013.
Last year, three babies died in Sampson County and more than 800 were born. For Johnson and other officials, one death is too many.
“We’re trying very hard and I think everyone around the county tries very hard,” Johnson said.
The two biggest factors which attributed to being born premature and birth defects, which can be caused by genetics, drug and alcohol abuse and improper diet. Some of the other results that can result in being born premature is cerebral palsy and blindness.
“There’s a number of things that can cause birth defects,” Johnson said.
To deter the IMR, Johnson said several programs and referral services are available for county residents. Some of them includes Care Coordination for Children , a program for at-risk children up to 5 and their families; Children’s Developmental Services Agency, a state program that works with children with more intense health needs; North Carolina Cooperative Extension; and the Partnership for Children.
Johnson encourages expecting mothers to visit the health department to visit their prenatal, family and child health clinics to receive advice such as the importance of taking a multivitamin with folic acid.
“That has been proven to help prevent birth defects,” she said “That’s one of things that we really push.”
Another step the department tries to push is prenatal care immediately following a pregnancy test.
“The sooner the better,” Johnson said. “A lot of times, the doctors can identify issues that can cause issues with the pregnancy. If they find it early enough, there’s way to assist with that and treat it.”
For mothers who experience problems with premature births, they can get shots of 17P (17‑alpha‑hydroxyprogesterone caproate), a type progesterone hormone, which is produced by the placenta during pregnancy.
“I consider it a miracle drug,” Johnson said about the shot which helped mothers deliver healthy babies, despite having troubles in the past. “It really works well for a lot of women.”
Immunizations such as the Tdap, a combination of vaccines that protect the mother and the baby against serious diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.
“Even pregnant women should get an immunization,” Johnson said. “It’s highly recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that every women get a Tdap.”
It’s also important for parents to have a healthcare provider, so the baby can get regular checkups.
“One of the things we find is that when the baby is born, the mom may see the doctor for a two week checkup and the doctor may not see that baby again until they’re a year old or 2 or they don’t see them at all, unless the child is sick,” Johnson said. “It’s really important that those children get those routine health exam so that if there is an issue, it can be spotted early.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.