OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma’s 2022 March of Dimes Prematurity Report Card found the state received an “F” grade in caring for infants who are born preterm.  

According to March of Dimes data, 11.9% of all infants are born preterm. That’s one in every nine babies born in Oklahoma.

On Tuesday, advocates for mothers and babies were at the capitol with lawmakers to push for change. 

“The March of Dimes Oklahoma chapter is joining us today here at the state capitol to advocate to advanced health for moms and babies and end the preventable crisis of maternal and infant mortality,” said Senator Carri Hicks, (D) senate district 40. 

March of Dimes leaders stressed to Oklahoma lawmakers Thursday, that the state does a poor job of providing maternal and infant care to mothers. 

“We know it’s a huge issue. If you’re not having access to prenatal care, the chances of having a pre-term baby, you know, are so high. And so, we know that that’s a big issue. And another one for Oklahoma is we know that the rate for black moms is 45% higher of having a preterm birth than those of any other mom and race in Oklahoma,” said Laurie Applekamp, March of Dimes Director of Maternal and Infant Health.  

Research from March of Dimes found 41 out of the 77 counties in Oklahoma are in Maternity Care Deserts, meaning there are no hospitals providing OB care and there are no obstetricians available.  

“I think we also have 50% of our moms that are on Medicaid coverage as well. So, we have some very young moms as well in Oklahoma that are giving birth. But I do think just the awareness and education around the importance of prenatal care can really make a difference on the health of the baby and being able to catch any signs of anything that might be wrong,” said Applekamp.  

Data from the March of Dimes revealed the percentage of births born preterm continued to increase from 2011 to 2021. Now in 2022, Oklahoma at 11.9%.  

In Oklahoma City alone, 12.4% of births were born preterm in 2022, which was also worse than the year before. 

“We are one of the highest, but we’re not the highest, but we are one of the highest in our surrounding states for sure,” said Applekamp.

Advocates said a step in the right direction happened on the Senate floor Thursday morning. Senators approved SB193, which would provide six weeks of paid maternity leave for state employees. That bill now will go to the House.  

“I think it’s incredibly important that we acknowledge that we should be taking positive steps in the direction of reversing this crisis,” said Hicks.  

Senator Carri Hicks is supporting March of Dimes in hopes to make a change for mothers who have preterm babies.  

“So, when we’re looking at the data, what it consistently shows is that our kids are living in poverty. They’re hungry. If you are also carrying a baby and you don’t have access to nutritious foods, we know that that lends itself to poor health outcomes, not only for the mother, but also for the child,” said Hicks.  

Moving forward, Hicks said they are looking at providing some incentives to baby friendly certified hospitals that would make it easier for mothers to get holistic care regardless of where they live.