Washington does better than most states in premature survival rates

SEATTLE -- One in every 10 babies born in Washington state is premature. Those preemies are born with more serious health problems.

But according to new numbers, Washington state outperformed all but four states in preterm birth rates, and the trend is cause for celebration during November, which is recognized as Prematurity Awareness month.

"I could pretty much cup him in my hands, so it was a miracle," Eric Thomson said of his and his wife Andi’s baby, Bruce, who they can now cradle in her arms.

Born at just over two pounds, Bruce was nearly three months premature.

"I had a perfectly normal pregnancy up,”  Andi Thomson said, “until it wasn’t normal anymore. I didn’t have any cramping, I didn’t have any ultrasounds, everything was going along smoothly.”

But after just 26 weeks, Thomson’s water broke. Doctors told Andi and Eric Thomson that their baby was in a fight for his life.

"You look in there and see that little baby in there with, you can see more wires and tubes than skin, and you`re going, there`s just no way this is going to turn out good," Eric Thomson said.

Premature births -- or babies born before 37 weeks -- are the leading cause of newborn deaths.  Babies who do survive often face a lifetime of health challenges.

The preterm birth rate in Washington state is the fifth lowest in the country.  In places like Seattle's Swedish Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit, experts, along with the March of Dimes, are working to improve the odds for babies born too early.

Nurse manager Chantel Johnson said the hospital’s NICU has an expert for everything that comes up for families with preemies.

"We have an outstanding team of providers: Our neonatologists, our nurse practitioners who are really directing the care, and we have a full complement of additional support from pharmacists and nutritionists, social work, case management, unit secretaries, physical therapy who are really here to make sure the care of the baby and the family are ideal."

She said they cover every need that babies and families have along the long road.

And Eric and Andi Thomson said they’re looking forward to the day they'll take their baby home. "We hope to be going home soon ... definitely before Christmas," Andi Thomson said.

Doctors say they don't always know the exact cause of premature birth. Some of the major risk factors include the age of the mother, chronic illness like diabetes, and lack of proper pre-natal care.

For more information on preterm birth, go to www.marchofdimes.com