Premature Baby Awareness Month at WVU Medicine Children’s

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 5:27 PM EST
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - For the past couple of decades, March of Dimes has been raising awareness for preterm births, which is observed on November 17th.

According to CDC data in 2021, one in eight babies was born preterm in West Virginia.

WVU Medicine Children’s Dr. Kelly Cummings an OBGYN says, although not all pregnancies are planned it’s important to take measures as early as possible to ensure the health of the mother and her baby.

“Making sure they’re at a healthy weight, making healthy lifestyle decisions -- we do have higher rates of tobacco use in our state so decreasing smoking sensation, that’s a huge factor because that’s one of the number one reasons for preterm birth in our state,” said Dr. Cummings.

Dr. Cummings says telehealth visits have played a crucial role in improving the quality of care in many rural parts of the state. These telehealth visits allow local doctors to increase access to underserved communities.

When becoming aware of signs of potential preterm birth, this information goes a long way to providing the best care possible.

Neonatologist Dr. Samantha Arevalo says building relationships with their patients and their needs is an important aspect of her job.

“We’re able to include them in our system with our prenatal care and OB team which consults us before the baby is born, we include them and tell them what this means and we try to prevent as much as we can with a preterm birth, but of course, once the baby’s born we are able to take care of them,” said Dr. Arevalo.

Premature babies are more at risk of underdeveloped functions requiring surgery.

WVU Medicine Children’s is the states only level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) -- providing life-saving care to babies as early as 22 weeks gestation on top of other advanced surgeries.

Dr. Cummings says the care for their patients goes beyond even after leaving the hospital.

“I feel like it’s my purpose in life too is to continue to give it to the moms that haven’t been able to get those holidays with their kids because I don’t want them to give up hope because there’s still so much hope out there that they can get that baby to take home,” said Dr. Cummings.