tv Beyond the Headlines ABC January 8, 2017 4:30pm-5:01pm PST
it's a no brainer. >> now, from abc7, "beyond the headlines" with cheryl jennings. >> welcome to "beyond the headlines." today we're talking about the dangers of premature birth. babies born even a few weeks early face serious risks of death and long-term disability, including possible respiratory problems, cerebral palsy, and underdeveloped organs. according to the march of dimes, 1 in 10 babies in the united states is born prematurely, making it the leading cause of newborn death. that is nearly 380,000 babies, a staggering number with a devastating impact on the family. prematurity costs the nation more than $26 billion every year, and sadly there is no clear cause in nearly half of all premature births. but hopefully, that is going to change dramatically and soon, thanks to the creation of march of dimes prematurity research centers across the country. doctors and scientists are
working to solve the mysteries of preterm birth. joining me in the studio right now is wendy armstrong. she and her husband volunteer with the march of dimes board of directors, and their family has been a march of dimes mission family. their daughter london was born premature at 25 weeks. we are very, very happy to have you here today. and you and i -- we're both fans of the march of dimes, so tell us a little bit about that. >> sure. the march of dimes is a leading organization that is trying to fight the battle against prematurity. as you mentioned, 1 in 10 babies is born premature. my daughter london was born premature, as well. >> a mircopreemie, right? >> right, she was a mircopreemie. she was born under two pounds. i had a really easy pregnancy, and then all of a sudden at 23 weeks, which is roughly halfway through your pregnancy, my water broke. we were stunned. cheryl, we didn't realize that babies could come that early, much less survive. >> and she's so tiny there.
>> and so -- you said something about "much less survive" -- the doctors didn't really offer you much hope in the beginning. >> they didn't. in the beginning, they recommended that we induce labor and provide comfort care and let london die in our arms. the statistics just were not in our favor, and we called all our family in from the east coast to have an opportunity to meet our daughter. >> and then, so what happened? how did go forward, turn into such a positive thing? >> well, we decided that we were going to move forward with the pregnancy and... >> no matter what. >> ...love london no matter what, no matter what disability she might face -- that we wanted to give her a chance. and when i was 25 weeks pregnant, we had exhausted all our options. she was born 25 weeks. she weighed 1 pound, 15 ounces. >> wow. >> she was about the length of a ruler. she was just this tiny, tiny little thing that didn't even look like a human baby. >> now, you have a little doll here... >> i do. >> ...that's sort of a sample of
what she might have looked like back then? >> this is pretty close to what london looked like when she was born. in fact, this my ring. we put this on london when she was about a week old. it fit over her arm. it also fit over her leg. so that's just to give you a sense of scale of how tiny she truly was. >> so she was in the hospital for more than three months. i mean, that alone must have been terrifying, because you couldn't even see her, and then you finally got her home, and so that was another journey. >> right, exactly, cheryl. she was in the hospital for 102 days. we call her the "million dollar" baby. the medical bills were in excess of $1 million for her nicu stay. but when we got home, the second part of our journey started. she was in isolation for the first year. we had to make sure that her lungs had the chance to fully heal and fully develop. she had countless hours of therapy. it started with physical therapy to literally teach her how to roll over. we moved on to speech therapy,
as well as occupational therapy. so that's hundreds of hours of therapy that she needed just to catch up to her peers that were born full term and healthy. >> i got a chance to meet her before the show started. >> she's adorable. she looks fantastic. how is she doing now? >> she doing great. she's four and a half. she's super spunky. she's very feisty. the nurses told us the second she was born -- they said, "you know, we have a good feeling about her. she came out and she's just feisty right off the bat. she loves life. she has this joy for life that is just contagious, and i attribute it to her early start. she chose to be here, she fought to be here. >> and you got a lot of support form the march of dimes through this. >> we had a lot of support from the march of dimes, cheryl. they funded the development of a drug called surfactant, which was administered to london shortly after she was born, and it enabled her lungs to develop. and it helped get us off the ventilator as quickly as
possible, and i think that is the reason why she has healthy lungs today. >> it's a miracle. >> truly is a miracle. >> but a lot of science behind it, as well. >> there is. >> well, congratulations. i know you have a second child, as well, and that child is healthy, and thank you for being the parent who is sharing this message, you and your husband both. >> oh, thank you for having us. we appreciate it. >> all right. we do have to take a little bit of a break right now. when we come back, we're going to learn about some of the specific medical breakthroughs that have helped save countless infant lives. so stay with us. we'll be right back.
>> welcome back to "beyond the headlines." we are talking about healthy babies and the dangerous risks of preterm birth. one of the world's smallest surviving premature babies was able to go home after many months in the intensive care. baby e'layah faith was born 14 weeks early at just 10 ounces. she was born in november 2015. now that is lighter than a can of soda. she faced months of blood transfusions and a very careful diet and was up to nearly six pounds when she left the
hospital. doctors aren't sure what health problems she may face down the road, but they said that getting to this point was nothing short of a miracle. joining in the studio right now from santa clara valley medical center is dr. balaji govindaswami. he is the chief of neonatology and director of neonatal intensive care unit and a volunteer with the march of dimes. and we're here to thank the march of dimes for all the good work they're doing. and you've helped be a leader in that field, as well. some of the history, first. i don't think people realize march of dimes has been around for a long time. >> as you probably have heard, cheryl, march of dimes was founded by president roosevelt to conquer the disease of polio, and that was eradicated a few decades ago. and then the march of dimes went on to fighting for the cause of birth defects and preventing birth defects in newborns by a variety of interventions in including folic acid supplementation and the national food and grain supply and in florida orange juice and more recently in bean flour. and in the last couple of
decades, there's been a greater and growing focus on the health of pregnant women and the outcomes for infants at birth, healthy babies at birth and preventing the epidemic of babies born too soon. >> the preterm birthrate -- we read some of the numbers earlier, and i just can't believe they're so high. i mean, it's shocking to think that in this day and age, with all the modern medicine we have, that it's still so high. >> yeah, it's almost 10% nationwide and recently, for the first time in eight years, we've seen a slight uptick of the preterm birthrate from 9.57% to 9.63%. this means 2,000 more babies were affected by being born too soon at a tremendous cost to babies, their families, and to society. nationally, we estimate that about $26 billion a year is spent on the medical and the societal costs of taking care of babies born too soon. >> we had heard that -- wendy was concerned that there might be some sort of disability, and the disabilities are really severe.
>> sure, the major groups are cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, and learning disability at school age. and luckily there is some preliminary data that may be -- not just are preterm births declining overall compared to prior decades, but some of these disabilities are on the decline, as well. >> well, that's the good news. >> that is, indeed. >> what are some of the risk factors and some preventive measures that mothers can take? >> so, we usually worry about -- the majority of women who have babies born too soon have done nothing wrong and are -- it's just a biological phenomenon that's little understood in the majority of cases. but risk factors include extremes of body weight. if women are too skinny preconception or too overweight, they might have a higher risk of preterm birth. also smoking may result in higher risk. and of course, multiple gestation's a risk factor for preterm birth. the world health organization recommends a three-year interpregnancy interval, so that's generally healthy for the
mother to recover. it's also healthy for future babies. >> we heard a little bit from wendy about how horrible her journey was and how scary that was for her. what is it like from your vantage point, and you see this all the time, unfortunately for those parents. >> yeah. luckily, i think we've become better at having more support for families such as wendy's in the neonatal icu. we usually have parent advocates that have often gone through the same issues themselves and have walked a mile in their shoes. >> mm. >> so, at our hospital, we have two mothers who have had babies in the nicu that are around to support the families in addition to all the staff, physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists that these babies and families need. so, a lot of it is sort of expectations management. >> now, you're deeply involved with the march of dimes. so what is your role, and what do you want people to know about it? >> well, what i want to know is it's important to support the march of dimes because we are an organization that truly has
invested a lot of dollars in the prevention of prematurity and research for the betterment of health of women and children. and we're the only organization to have conquered the initial mission that was set out, which was the polio. and most foundations are still battling or trying to conquer the disease that they were established. so, the march of dimes has a great track record of success in fulfilling its mission, and i'm hoping that with more support from the public and awareness we can make things better for women and children. >> well said. thank you for all your good work. i appreciate it, doctor. >> thank you, cheryl. >> all right, we do have to take another break. when we come back, we're gonna learn about some of the exciting research that is helping to reduce preterm birth, so stay with us. we'll be right back.
>> welcome back to "beyond the headlines." we've been talking about reducing premature births and increasing the number of healthy babies. in a wellness report on abc7 news, every day in the womb boosts a baby's brain development. here's a message from jane king. >> carrying a baby as close to full term as possible is better for the baby's brain development. researchers at the children's national health system say in the final trimester of pregnancy, the fetal brain grows exponentially. the brain increases four-fold in size during that time. >> carrying a pregnancy to full term is ideal, of course. but unfortunately, it just isn't possible for many people. joining us now to talk about her
research at stanford university is dr. virginia winn. she is associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, and director of perinatal biology research. [ chuckles ] lots of hats that you're wearing there. >> yes. >> so, dr. winn, the work is transdisciplinary, and we heard that word earlier. what is does that mean? >> mm-hmm. so the march of dimes has done a tremendous job in pioneering, funding, these transdisciplinary research centers. and stanford was the first one, which was established in 2011. "transdisciplinary" means taking specialists and people with different perspectives and bringing them together to tackle a problem, a common problem. and so, the march of dimes has provided the ability to take the brilliant minds at stanford and the technologies that are being developed at stanford, and bringing that to the problem of
understanding preterm birth. >> i think when we talked earlier before we started this segment -- you talk about how we just don't know that much, which is really fascinating. >> right, right. >> you think we have all the answers, and we don't. >> no, no. it's amazing how little we know about labor, about preterm labor. there's certain things we certainly do know but clearly we don't know enough to be able to fully prevent all preterm births. >> i want to talk about your research. it deals with the placenta. now, that, of course, for people who don't know this, it's the organ that nourishes the fetus, and along with that comes something called preeclampsia. >> yeah. so, every pregnancy has a placenta, and the placenta does really sustain the pregnancy and provide for the growth and nourishment of the baby. sometimes when that placenta develops abnormally, women can develop conditions, one of which is preeclampsia. and my interest in preeclampsia is because it accounts for 15% to 20% of all preterm births.
so it's one of the reasons we know that leads to preterm birth, because once a woman develops preeclampsia, really, the only cure is to deliver. and so if they develop preeclampsia in the preterm period, that will lead to a preterm birth. >> can you explain what preeclampsia is, please? >> yeah. so preeclampsia is where the woman develops an increase in the blood pressure and spills protein in her urine. it can also affect other end organs like the brain, the kidney, the liver, and her ability of her blood to clot. and so if these things start to develop, it's really important to deliver, because the placenta is what's driving the disease, so you have to get rid of the placenta for the disease to go away. >> now, we talked about some of the risk factors and things that women can do to from dr. govindaswami. are there some things you'd like to add to that? >> so, in terms of preeclampsia, there's very little that we know
prevents it. in some very high-risk women, a baby aspirin has been shown to decrease the risk to some extent but not nearly to the extent that, you know, you would hope as an obstetrician to be able to provide to your patients. >> right. >> so we really need to understand not only preeclampsia but what causes just pre-term labor, so that we can develop strategies and better preventative and therapeutic measures. >> so, you're doing that at these centers. we have a graphic that we want to show folks where they are. and so what is your hope -- what is being worked on right now? so, what's being worked on now -- there's actually a lot of areas that are being worked on. what's great about a transdisciplinary center is that projects that are looking at the microbiome or the bacteria that are on our bodies, projects that are looking at molecules in the bloodstream that may give a clue as to what's happening at the placenta and other parts of the
body, work that's working on taking the huge california databases and understanding risk factors that can be impacted there and putting those all together and seeing how they interplay, to truly get to, hopefully, being able to really make headways in decreasing preterm birth. >> and i hope that all of that works very quickly. thank you so much. >> yes. >> appreciate your time here. unfortunately, we have to take another break. we could talk all day about this. and we're gonna talk a little bit more about some of the research. we're gonna learn about how some communities struggle with higher rates of preterm birth, so stay with us. we'll be right back.
only at a sleep number store, right now, the best buy rated c2 mattress is only $699.99 learn more at sleepnumber.com know better sleep with sleep number. >> welcome back to "beyond the headlines." we've been talking about the risks of preterm birth and what is being done to help mothers have healthy babies. a prenatal program at oakland's highland hospital is credited with reducing premature births by more than a third. abc7 news reporter laura anthony filed this story in august.
>> it's a program that's proving the value of shared experience -- moms-to-be at oakland's highland hospital undergoing their prenatal care together. it's called centering, and it's credited with reducing preterm deliveries by 33% to 47%. >> when babies are newly born, do they have a lot of head support? >> in centering, you bring it all out in the open. everyone gets to share their experiences and their fears and their hopes, and they learn that they're not alone, that everybody's having similar experiences or, if they're having different experiences, they can determine what's normal, what's of concern. >> besides the usual blood pressure and weight checks, centering includes group sessions in the late stages of pregnancy -- 8 to 12 women with similar due dates. >> they said that the milk is -- for the first six months -- is the best. >> elicia alvarez is expecting her third child but is getting valuable, new information this time. >> i was a lot younger when i
had my first son, so now it's just different learning, like, the techniques to better breastfeed and better care for the baby. >> of course, the ultimate goal of the centering prenatal program is this -- a healthy, full-term baby and healthy, happy mom. besides all the health risks, the cost of a premature delivery ranges from $22,000 to $55,000, an added expense the centering program seeks to avoid. in oakland, laura anthony, abc7 news. >> right now, we have a satellite-remote interview with erica alexander. she is march of dimes maternal child health program impact leader, and she's talking to us from our sister station kfsn in fresno. erica, thank you so much for being with us. tell us about your community programs. >> so, we have a couple of community programs. one is looking at quality improvement. so we work with local hospitals on antenatal corticosteroid implementation for women who are gonna deliver preterm and
helping that baby survive by doing the steroid injections to help survivability after that baby is born. we also work with hospitals in doing the preterm labor assessment tool kit, a way of assessing women and implementing interventions to help them when they're coming into the hospital with preterm labor. the other part of our community programs is looking at reducing racial and ethnic disparities. so we have our healthy babies are worth the wait program, which is a multidimensional intervention -- that communities with high preterm birthrates can look at certain interventions that will help in their community, and it takes the whole, entire community to implement. >> erica, you talked about some of the risk factors. i'm talking racial groups, native and african-american populations with higher rates of preterm birth. can you talk a little bit about that, please? >> we know that african -- the preterm birthrates in african-american communities are nearly 48% higher and an american-indian, alaska-native populations for women, it's about 15% higher than whites.
so we really have to do -- we've done a great job so far, but we really have to start implementing more interventions across the country and across california so every baby has a fair chance of surviving. >> erica, i'm looking at some numbers that say that you want to get to 8.1% by 2020 of the preterm birthrate, and 5.5% by 2030. that's a very ambitious goal. >> yes, it is, but knowing these road-map interventions and some of the community work, we can get down to 8.1% by 2020, definitely. >> and can you talk a little bit about the road map, please. >> so these are eight emerging interventions that if you bundle them together or even separately, we're looking at reducing preterm birthrates across all jurisdictions, across all population groups. one of them starts with reducing a nonmedically indicated delivery. so women who aren't induced or given cesarean sections without a medical reason before 39 weeks. also, the increasing use of 17p, or progesterone, which is ideal
for women who have had a history of or a preterm delivery beforehand. the other thing is also reducing tobacco use among pregnant women, but also encouraging women to birth space. so we know that having pregnancies too close together increases her chances of having a preterm birth. also expanding group prenatal care. so, one of the things that we do is community grants, and one of them is in alameda county. we have two. the alameda health system is actually implementing centering, which is supported by the march of dimes. and then alameda county department of public health is actually doing a project to reduce preterm birth with pacific islanders in alameda county. so, we talked about earlier expanding group prenatal care, and then, of course, increasing the use of low-dose aspirin for preeclampsia. we know that the only way to cure preeclampsia is by delivering the baby, so if we can get women started on low-dose aspirin, it might help reduce -- studies have shown it'll help reduce preterm birth. and then advancing some of the
interventions for women with a short cervix, which can include cerclages or 17p. and then reducing multiple births through assisted reproductive technology. so we know if you're carrying multiple babies, it increases your risk. this data right here, these interventions are some effective strategies to reduce preterm birthrates across all our geographic and racial-ethnic groups. >> erica alexander, thank you so much for all of your work and all of your knowledge. and for people who want to know more about all the things that we learned about on this program today, you can go to the march of dimes website. you can also go to our website, abc7news.com/community. we're on facebook at abc7communityaffairs as well as cherylabc7, and you can follow me on twitter @cherylabc7. thanks so much for joining us. have a great week. we'll see you next time.
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