Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Good news: Premature birth rate declined across the U.S.

This is why we walk every year for the March of Dimes:

The March of Dimes reported today in its 2011 Premature Birth Report Card that premature birth rates improved in almost every state between 2006 and 2009. The U.S. now has a "C" grade (still far behind countries with more widespread and accessible medical care). As a result, 40,000 more babies were given a healthy start in life, and we saved at least $2 billion in health care and socioeconomic costs.

Other good news (for Oregon): At 9.8 percent, Oregon's preemie birth rate is the second lowest in the nation (after Vermont, 9.6 percent). Three states and Puerto Rico received an F, 11 states and the District of Columbia earned a D, 19 states got a C, 16 states received a B, and only Vermont earned an A. The United States received a “C” based on comparing the nation’s 2009 preliminary preterm birth rate of 12.2 percent with the March of Dimes new 2020 goal of 9.6 percent of all live births.* Overall, the U.S. premature birth rate has declined nearly 5 percent from the 2006 peak of 12.8 percent.

Premature births are declining for a variety of reasons, such as reducing medically unnecessary c-sections and inductions before 39 weeks of pregnancy, education and awareness, and the use of progesterone in high-risk pregnancies.

Premature birth costs our country more than $26 billion a year and is the leading cause of newborn death. Babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetlong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities.

This year, for the first time, the March of Dimes is observing World Prematurity Day on November 17 along with organizations in Africa, Europe, and Australia. Approximately 13 million babies are born prematurely across the world and, of those, one million die as a result.

Even though the rates are improving, it's not yet time to rest on our laurels. The March of Dimes continues to focus on making sure all women of childbearing age get preconception and prenatal care and get help to quit smoking. Thanks to all of you who support the March of Dimes in one way or another...I'm so glad that the rates are going back down after climbing up in recent years. We will continue to do our small part to work to reduce the chance that other families have to go through what we did.

*Premature birth is defined as occuring before 37 weeks gestation. Technically, Kieran and Nicholas were on the cusp of prematurity, because I had medically necessary c-sections with them before I went into labor. The chance of having an extremely low birthweight baby, like Chris, is only about 1 percent. (We hit the jackpot.) Nearly half of babies who are premature are not defined as "low birthweight," but they still are at higher risk for health problems.

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