LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas is getting a failing grade in how the state takes care of pregnant mothers and infants. At least, that’s according to the latest report card released by the March of Dimes. 

Arkansas joins six other states in having the highest number of babies born prematurely. 

The rate is only getting worse in most of the state’s largest counties. 

Erin Gildner with the March of Dimes says Arkansas’s failing grade should be a call to action since the state is consistently falling short of serving mothers and their babies. 

“People need to come together to tackle this problem because it’s been long enough.” 

Gildner says it’s a very complex problem driven by environmental and social factors including racism, poverty, and quality of care. There are also maternity care deserts across the state, as well as a shortage of nurses and certified nurse-midwives. 

“We really just need more providers,” Gildner said. 

While she works for the March of Dimes, Gildner also knows first-hand the heartbreak that can come with having premature babies. 

“It was very traumatic,” Gildner said. 

In 2004, she gave birth to twins 15 weeks early. One of them, her daughter, Annora, passed away just three days later. 

“We had one son in the NICU on a ventilator and had to plan a funeral for our daughter.” 

For her, prenatal care wasn’t the issue. It was what didn’t happen after her twins were born. She says there was a lack of support while she was going through all of it. Now, Gildner is determined to make sure Arkansas mothers and their babies have everything they need to make it. 

“I think that’s very important. That’s something that we didn’t get that opportunity to have.” 

Right now, March of Dimes only has a NICU support program available at Arkansas Children’s. The March of Dimes says in general, statewide, more labor and delivery hospitals, education, and even just access to telemedicine would help.