November is Prematurity Awareness Month

March of Dimes helps parents whose bundles of joy show up too early

Becky Price knew she wouldn’t have a full-term pregnancy. After three kids and scarring on her uterus, she didn’t think she could have another child and was told she would have a difficult pregnancy. But she never expected her daughter, Isabelle, to arrive 16 weeks early.

Isabelle, who everyone calls Bella Grace, weighed 1 pound, 9 ounces when she was born 24 weeks into Price’s pregnancy Dec. 11, 2011, at St. Mary’s Hospital. She was on a ventilator for several weeks. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus, a condition that prevented her brain from absorbing spinal fluid. Sometimes her little body couldn’t handle the sound of a human voice or the touch of a human hand.

Price, her husband Matt and their three other children got through the experience with help from their faith and a flight of angels in the form of neonatal intensive care unit nurses. But the experience was scary.

“We knew she would be born early because of my complications but we were hoping to make it to 34 weeks,” Price said. “That first glimpse of her was something I’ll never forget. Nothing prepares you for how tiny they are.”

Price hopes sharing her story, which has grown to include surgeries, moments of joy and struggle, and a growth of compassion and love in the family, will inspire other parents of premature babies to know there are successes to celebrate and resources available to help people who experience a premature birth. They can be reminded, along with others, of Isabelle’s journey every time they look at her on the cover of the March of Dimes 2013 calendar, which came out in time for November, which is National Prematurity Awareness Month.

Seventy-four years into its existence, the March of Dimes is a nonprofit organization focused on helping moms-to-be get to at least the 39th week of pregnancy in order to decrease medical costs and reduce short-term and long-term problems in premature children. Colorado received a “B” in the March of Dimes state-by-state report card ratings released Nov. 13 for getting closer to the organization’s goal of a 9.6 percent pre-term birth rate by 2020. Colorado currently has a pre-term birth rate of 10.3 percent.

Mesa County had an average pre-term birth rate of 10.2 percent between 2006 and 2009, according to the March of Dimes. March of Dimes Western Slope Division Director Terri Jones said the county has seen a recent surge in premature births.

“Twenty-six out of 30 beds were full the last time I was at St. Mary’s NICU,” she said.

The organization is hoping to crack down on the premature birth rate through education about the potential dangers of scheduling C-sections too early or ignoring prenatal care. March of Dimes plans to fund education and staffing to help Hilltop Community Resources offer a newly developed curriculum for expectant moms who may not be seeing a physician and may be in high-risk situations.

The group hopes to raise awareness and funds with the 2013 calendar as well, which features Western Slope babies photographed by Casey Dittmer at Legacy Photography. Calendars can be purchased online at http://www.marchofdimes.com/colorado.


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