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Premature Births Rates Are Going Up

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Premature birth rates are up again after nearly a decade of decline, a new survey from the March of Dimes states.

Last year’s increase seems small, from 9.57 to 9.63%. But the number represents around 2,000 babies born ahead of time, before 37 weeks gestation – and before their brains and lungs have fully developed.

This increase in preterm births earned the United States a grade of “C” in the 2016 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, NBC New York reports. The only states that got an “A” are New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Three states received a dismal “F:” Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Dr. Ed McCabe of the March of Dimes says,

It’s hard work – getting the preterm birth rate down. We’ve always known that.

He adds, “And this year shows us with the uptick in preterm birth rate. So we’ve got to work harder.”

Premature births, or preterm births, are those that take place more than three weeks before the baby’s due date, before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. Normal pregnancies last around 40 weeks, so premature babies have had less time to develop.

The causes of preterm births are often unknown, and are almost always delivered via cesarean section. Premature babies are at a high risk for complications such as cerebral palsy, hearing and sight problems, and developmental delays. The earlier a baby is born, the greater the risk.

The rise in preterm births was most prevalent in African-American women, and in women in other racial and ethnic minorities.

Elective c-sections should not be carried out before 39 weeks, as much as possible, as this is when the brain is most likely already fully developed.

The March of Dimes is a foundation that focuses on preventing birth defects and infant mortality across the country, leading programs in genetic research of birth defects, promoting newborn screening and raising awareness and educating the public on healthy pregnancy practices.


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