According to the March of Dimes, the preterm birth rate has increased in Iowa’s most populated counties and cities, with Des Moines having the highest rate at 11.8%. Dr. Cary Murphy, Pediatrix-affiliated neonatologist at MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center, said the state has three focuses on how to solve this problem. “When it comes to prematurity, they’re looking at socioeconomic status, access to care and pre-existing conditions. All of those things that can increase the risk of premature birth,” said Dr. Murphy. The hospital recently announced a new maternity center and obstetrics program, which includes a Level II NICU that will provide advanced monitoring and clinical services for premature infants and full-term infants requiring specialized care. “We can take care of a greater subset of patients at that location, which is a great satisfier for the parents because the mom and the babies aren’t separated,” said Dr. Murphy. “The other advantage is reassuring the OB providers that if something does unexpectedly happen, they have that specialist there in-house, 24/7.”

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