Friday, November 14, 2008

One change

Probably the biggest change we are making between the 2007 legislation and the 2009 legislation is what is defined as a still birth in New Mexico.

Currently, fetal deaths are required to be reported to the state only if the fetus weighs more than 500 grams. If you look at a growth chart for fetuses, an average 500 gram fetus is somewhere between 23 and 24 weeks gestation.

To our knowledge New Mexico is the only state in the nation to use 500 grams as the requirement for a stillbirth. The CDC recommends 20 weeks gestation or 350 grams if the gestational age is not known.

By adopting the CDC recommendation, we are changing our state's basic definition of a stillbirth. There is a bill in the Congress to adopt the CDC recommendation nationally, thereby standardizing what our country considers a stillbirth.

In addition, by using the CDC recommendation we are closing what appears to be a statistical gap. How could it be that New Mexico has a higher than average birth rate, but a lower than average stillbirth rate? Prenatal care here is not *that* great. Simple, we aren't counting all of the stillbirths that occur here. Some of them are being classified as miscarriages instead.

Making this change is a good thing. Having accurate, consistently reported numbers will help researchers find out why so many babies are dying before birth and will then help us prevent more losses and more families who have to suffer this pain.

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