Central Valley preterm birth rates represent worst in state

FRESNO, Calif.

In the Central Valley, the rates are the worst in the state and health officials are doubling their efforts to educate families.

"Preterm labor is shocking and scary," said Sarah Yenser, who gave birth to a premature baby nearly four months early.

Yenser is speaking out about her experience in hopes to educate young mothers like her and reducing the number of preterm births in the Central Valley.

"I didn't know what to think. I didn't know what to expect, I just tried to focus really hard on what the doctors and nurses told me," Yenser said.

The former personal trainer said she was doing everything right by eating healthy and exercising, when she was rushed to the hospital with unusual pains just five months into her pregnancy.

"As soon as I got to the hospital, they checked to see if I was dilated and I was dilated to a 10," Yenser said.

"And your due date wasn't until December, right?" asked reporter Linda Mumma. "Right, December 2nd and this was in August, so very scary."

Turns out little Rayne required an emergency C-section and weighed just one pound eight ounces when she was delivered.

"They said she's one of the youngest, and one of the smallest babies that they had seen and treated," said Yenser.

Every year, nearly 50,000 babies in California are born too soon, according to the march of dimes. Often before their lungs, brains and other organs have a chance to fully develop.

"While there are many unknown causes of premature birth, there are known factors that can make an immediate impact, Healthcare coverage of women of child-bearing age, late preterm birth rates and smoking rates among women," said Associate State Director Leslie Kowalewski.

The March of Dimes is now partnering with the state legislature and other healthcare organizations to tackle some of these issues. The nonprofit announced more needs to be done in the central valley to give babies a healthier start in life.

"Although our rate in California is 9.6 percent, we have disparities amongst ethnic groups and geographic regions in our state," said Kowalewski.

A preterm birth is one that takes place before 37 weeks of pregnancy, while a full-term pregnancy is typically 39 to 40 weeks.

Kowalewski said, In the U.S. one in nine babies is impacted by preterm birth with a rate of 11.5 percent.

Grades were determined by comparing state preterm birth rates to the March of Dimes goal of lowering the U.S. rate to 9.6 percent of live births by 2020.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.