Nearly half of all births in Hawaii are the result of unintended pregnancies. That’s one of several eyebrow-raising findings in a study released this week by the state Department of Health (DOH).
In an average year, 18,000 babies are born in Hawaii. Of those, 45 percent are “accidents” (or “surprises,” depending on how you look at it). Eighteen percent of pregnant women receive no prenatal care in the first trimester, when some of the most important fetal development takes place, and that number spikes higher among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Meanwhile, about one in five women binge drink in the three months before getting pregnant and 8.5 percent smoke during pregnancy, despite strong evidence linking both activities to birth defects and other problems.
Infant mortality in Hawaii stands at 6.3 percent, while 9.4 percent of babies are born prematurely. DOH notes that these rates are in line with the national average, but that they haven’t improved in the last decade. In fact, both figures have gone up slightly.
Of course, as DOH Director Chiyome Fukino pointed out after the study’s release, these are “complex issues” with no easy solutions. But, added Fukino, “Identifying and analyzing [the] areas of greatest need is the first step.”