premature birth | KBIA

premature birth

Taja Welton is ready for her daughter to be born. She’s moved into a bigger house, one with room for a nursery. She has a closet full of pink, Minnie Mouse-themed baby clothes. Her baby bag is packed right down to the outfit she plans to bring her baby home in that reads, “The Princess Has Arrived.”

“I can’t wait to put it on her,” Welton smiles. The princess even has a name: Macen.


On a rainy Tuesday morning in May, social worker Meghan Bragers drove up to Ferguson, Mo. to visit a 23-year-old expectant mother named Marie Anderson.

Anderson, who was 33 weeks pregnant at the time, was having a particularly difficult pregnancy.

“She’s been in a car accident, her car has been totaled, she’s having back issues, she’s having increased depressive symptoms,” Bragers said en route to the visit. “Things have gotten pretty difficult.”

Difficult, or as Anderson herself called it, “a tornado.”


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

In stories about premature birth and premature babies you might have heard the term NICU? But what exactly is a NICU and what goes on there?

To find out, KBIA visited the NICU, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, at University of Missouri Women’s and Children’s Hospital here in Columbia.


Carolyn Allred

Being born prematurely has many immediate consequences for infants – difficulty breathing, bleeding in the brain, and other issues that can affect long-term development. So if being born preterm affects young children post infancy, does it still affect people as they near adolescence?

Jacob Allred was born extremely premature at 25 weeks and 5 days weighing just one pound, 13 ounces. He is now 12 years old, and still struggles with health issues both physical and developmental that are a result of his premature birth.

His parents, Carolyn and Vince, have been on the “roller coaster” of prematurity since the day Jacob was born - one step forward followed by five steps back. They are being constantly surprised by new issues that arise, but, at 12, things are going well and they are all looking forward to Jake’s future. 


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Premature Birth affects about one in 10 infants in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pre-term birth is a major factor in infant mortality and is also one of the leading causes of long-term neurological disabilities in children.

There is a huge range of potential outcomes for premature infants and no two babies have the same trajectory – just like the Mondy twins.

Cauy and Skylee were born at just 24 weeks and one day. Cauy weighed one pound, six ounces and Skylee weighed one pound, five ounces. Though they started life at the exact same place, Skylee with practically no repercussions from their premature birth while complications have left Cauy with a cerebral palsy diagnosis. 


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

We’ve all seen the stories: "Premature baby goes home after spending 100-something days in the hospital," but what happens next? Do babies born pre-term end up just like their full-term counterparts or are there lasting health complications resulting from prematurity?

To explore this questions, I spoke with David Beversdorf and his son William, a four-year-old that was born at 22 weeks and one day and weighed just one pound, three ounces. William was considered extremely premature, and is one of the youngest babies to have survived their birth and their time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 


Rebecca Smith / KBIA

Premature birth is a problem throughout the nation including here in Missouri. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2014, it affected about 1 in 10 infants.

Rebecca Smith, from the KBIA Health and Wealth Desk, sat down with Trina Ragain, the State Director of Program Services for the Missouri March of Dimes to discuss the problem.


Alex E. Proimos / FLICKR

For the second year in a row, the March of Dimes has given Missouri a grade of “C” in its annual state rankings of premature birth rates. Factors including maternal smoking, lack of access to health care, and obesity are to blame.

The Director of Newborn Medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital, Dr. F. Sessions Cole, calls preterm birth a major problem for our region.