MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee gets a failing grade when it comes to the health of new mothers and their babies, according to a new report.
The March of Dimes said nearly 13 out of every 100 babies are born prematurely in Milwaukee, a figure that's climbed a percentage point in just one year landing our city among the worst ten in the country.
"We have a Greta-size whole in our hearts that's never going to go away," said Amanda Gintoft of Wauwatosa.
It's been two years since Gintoft went from what doctors called 'a perfectly healthy pregnancy' to suddenly being rushed into labor at just 23 weeks.
"17 days after she was born we got a call early in the morning that we needed to get down to the hospital," Gintoft said.
Greta came down with an infection leaving the Gintofts with a devastating decision.
"They did everything they could, but in the end we decided to take her off life support because there wasn't anything more that they could do for her," Gintoft said.
Gintoft still doesn't know why Greta was born premature similar to about half of all pre-term cases, according to the March of Dimes.
"They have absolutely no idea," said Marilyn Noll with the March of Dimes. "Everything was going fine, everything was healthy."
Noll says Milwaukee's pre-term birth rate of 12.8 percent can be attributed to a variety of factors, but she feels the biggest is structural racism. Here in Wisconsin, 14.4 percent of black women give birth pre-term which less than 37 weeks along. That's 5.5 percentage points higher than white women.
"That underlies the living conditions that people have in education, incarceration, environmental factors like polution," Noll said.
Noll said it's time to raise awareness and increase access to health care, particularly pre-natal care for African-Americans, which decreases pre-term birth by a third.
"It will take them 50 years more for them to achieve the rate that we have today," Noll said. "It's just unacceptable, it's unacceptable."
Noll says expecting mothers should also avoid smoking and drinking and to space out child birth at least 18 months.