Join Atrium Health Navicent in Preventing Premature Births

November 1, 2021

Pregnant women are encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID


Join Atrium Health Navicent in recognizing November as Prematurity Awareness Month, an opportunity to raise awareness about the 380,000 babies born premature in the United States each year, and what we can do to help prevent premature births.

Each year, 1 in 10 babies is born premature, which means they are born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy. These babies miss out on important development that happens in the final weeks of pregnancy. Preterm babies can have short- and long-term health problems, or even die.

“In 2020, the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card gave the U.S. a letter grade of C with a prematurity rate of 10.2 percent. This same year, Georgia’s prematurity rate was 11.7 percent. Prematurity is one of the leading causes of infant mortality,” said Dr. Mitch Rodriguez, a neonatologist and medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and business development officer for Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and doctors at Atrium Health Navicent, risk factors that contribute to premature births include:

  • Delivering a premature baby in the past
  • Being pregnant with multiples
  • Tobacco use or other substance abuse
  • Less than 18 months between pregnancies
  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • COVID-19 illness

Although pregnant women do not have a greater chance than the general population of becoming infected with COVID-19, if they do become ill with the virus, they have poorer outcomes, said Dr. Padmashree “Champa” Chaudhury Woodham, director of the Regional Perinatal Center and director of Atrium Health Navicent Women’s Care Maternal Fetal Medicine.

“Studies have shown higher risk for preterm birth as a result of serious COVID-19 illness in pregnant women. In addition, these women have a greater than 50 percent chance of needing a cesarean section. Over half of their babies end up going to the NICU. In addition, pregnant women with COVID-19 infection are 4 times as likely to require invasive ventilation and twice as likely to die,” Dr. Woodham said.

The CDC encourages all pregnant women, those thinking about becoming pregnant, and those breastfeeding to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19. CDC studies did not find any safety concerns for pregnant women who were vaccinated late in pregnancy or for their babies, and indicated that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant women outweigh any known or potential risks.

Preconception care and prenatal care with doctors at Atrium Health Navicent are key in helping to prevent premature births. Preventative measures include lifestyle modification, supplementation with progesterone during future pregnancies, and management of chronic medical conditions.

“Preconception care is the care you receive before you get pregnant. This period allows for improving access to health care, providing for interventions that are in place to identify and modify medical, behavioral, and social health risks to the woman’s health that could impact pregnancy outcomes with the goal of having a healthy pregnancy,” said Dr. Rodriguez.

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About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent, the leading provider of health care in central and south Georgia, is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Providing more than 1,000 beds and offering care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region, Atrium Health Navicent provides care for health care consumers’ through an academic medical center; community, pediatric and rehabilitation hospitals; urgent care centers; physician practices; diagnostic centers; home health; hospice and palliative care; and a life plan community. Atrium Health Navicent is dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. For more information, please visit