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Oklahoma scores D-grade on early birth report card

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Bad news for babies in Oklahoma: Preterm birth rate is on the rise.

In Oklahoma, one in 10 babies are born too early.

When these tiny babies come early, they are at risk for lifelong health issues and even infant death.

According to the March of Dimes, moms and babies face higher risks based on race and zip code.

The annual March of Dimes report card scored Oklahoma a "D" for preterm birth.

"We know our patient population is not nearly as healthy as they once were," said Dr. Chad Smith, Medical Director for Oklahoma Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative. "There's a multitude of factors for that."

One of the biggest challenges in Oklahoma is access to care.

Race is also a factor.

Preterm birth rates are highest among black and native families.

"Nationwide, almost 50% of African Americans and Native Americans are at higher risk than Caucasian Americans for preterm birth," Dr. Smith said.

One of the most effective treatments for preterm birth is a weekly progesterone injection called 17P Hydroxy Progesterone.

The treatment is free for moms on Medicaid which means 60% of Oklahoma's pregnant mothers are eligible.

Oklahoman Karrie Kelly believes those 17P treatments helped her carry her baby full term after three preterm deliveries.

State health care programs are facing reductions and cuts, including potential cuts to vital healthcare services for pregnant moms and babies.

"If that funding goes away, there's a lot of people who are going to be left without healthcare and that puts more of a stress on our hospitals and our health structure in general," said Dr. Smith.

A healthy pregnancy is the biggest factor in ensuring a full term birth.

Click here for a nationwide preterm birth rate map.