Medical professionals look to improve state’s high preterm birth rate


LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Louisiana is failing when it comes to the state’s pre-term birth rate. According to the latest March of Dimes annual report, Louisiana has an ‘F’ rating when it comes to the amount of premature births.

Medical professionals at Women’s and Children’s hospital in Lafayette said they’re doing all they can to help save babies’ lives.

“Each day we round and we take care of the sickest and smallest babies. Our bed number here at Women’s and Children’s is 50 so we can take care of 50 babies at any given time,” said Dr. Amy Zeringue, a neonatologist at Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Women’s and Children’s has the only level three regional neonatal intensive care unit. A transport team brings in babies all the way from Alexandria to Lake Charles to Morgan City.

Neonatal nurse Alicia Carpenter joined the transport team in 2005.

“We pretty much take care of the baby via the neonatologist on the phone. When we get there we assess the situation, take care of the immediate needs,” Carpenter said.

Out in the field, the transport team tends to baby’s respiratory problems, congenital heart problems or any brain injuries.

The team arrives in Airmed or Acadian Ambulance, brining their own equipment, such as ventilators and cooling blankets.

The cooling blankets help slow down brain injuries the baby may have because of a lack of oxygen.

“It [cooling blanket] just hooks up a little mattress that it runs water through and it cools that water and the baby actually lays on that little mattress,” Carpenter said.

The state of Louisiana has an ‘F’ ranking with a 12.3 percent premature birth rate.

Lafayette Parish has a ‘D’ rating with a 10 percent premature birth rate.

Dr. Zeringue says the high premature birth rate is a multi-factorial issue.

“One is quick access to prenatal care is very important, having babies very close back to back, such as less than 18 months apart puts you at a higher risk for preterm births, as well as having other types of chronic medical problems like diabetes or high blood pressure,” Zeringue said.

It’s problems doctors and nurses are hoping to combat.

But for now, they are continuing to treat the region’s premature babies, saving one little life at a time.

The March of Dimes will send out the latest report on premature birth rates in November.

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