Yakima's infant mortality & low birth weight higher than state average

Yakima's infant mortality & low birth weight higher than state average »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Pregnancy is tough enough, but having to worry about complications is something else entirely. Yakima County's annual report shows Yakima has a higher infant mortality rate than the entire state. And the same goes for babies born underweight. Nearly 70 of every 1,000 babies are born weighing at less than five and a half pounds. The figures may seem frightening, but local health experts say it's not automatically cause for concern.

“The numbers being small makes it look very significant when in fact there isn't a real trend that say Yakima has this always high rate of infant mortality. We'll have years where we'll have a little spike and then we're actually very similar to the state of Washington,” said Yakima Memorial Hospital’s Maternal Health Services Director Mary Hart.

Some of the leading causes of infant death include physical defects, sudden infant death syndrome, short gestation and low birth weights. But Mary says all these conditions are related.

The latest Washington health report also has Yakima County tied for fifth in the state when it comes to preterm deliveries. So, why are moms here more at risk?

"About 75% of our births are paid for my Medicaid, which by itself isn't a risk, but being very low income is a risk. Women on Medicaid tend to get into prenatal care later than other women. They tend to have higher rates of smoking during pregnancy and possibly poor diet. So there are just a number of things about poverty that put women at risk," said Hart.

That makes it even more critical for local moms to not smoke, eat a balanced diet, and to get prenatal care as early as the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Hart hopes these numbers will help moms-to-be take better care of themselves, and ultimately, their babies.

The Maternal Health Services says preterm delivery is unpredictable and can happen to anyone. So the best thing to do is be prepared, take your doctor's advice and know the warning signs of preterm labor.