Preventing Prematurity

11.03.08 Campaign shines light on rising preemie births


Did you know that November is Prematurity Awareness Month? Prematurity is the leading cause of infant death and the March of Dimes wants to do something about it.

The March of Dimes is shining a spotlight on the issue with its Petition for Preemies, which calls for more attention to the growing problem of premature birth in the U.S. It's asking doctors and hospitals to stop inducing labor in healthy women and delivering babies before 39 weeks of gestation.

Of course, some preterm births occur for unknown reasons and can't be prevented. But many others can be prevented.

More than 28,000 infants younger than 1 year old die each year, federal statistics report. Premature births now account for 12.7 percent of all births and are a major contributor to the death rate. Premature babies are at risk for serious lingering health and developmental issues as they grow up, experts said.

The U.S. has among the highest rates of infant mortality and premature birth among all industrialized countries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last month. The federal agency found that infant deaths have declined slightly since 2006 but remain unacceptably high considering what the U.S. spends on health care.

In addition, a new Kaiser Permanente study has found that pregnant women with symptoms of depression are at a higher risk for premature delivery, The New York Times reports.

Nov. 12 marked Prematurity Awareness Day in the U.S., and the March of Dimes released its "report card" on the state of this issue. The U.S. earned an overall D grade for its efforts. The odds of having a premature baby are highest in Mississippi and lowest in Vermont, the report said.

For an overview on how you can reduce your chances of having a premature birth, read some tips at our "Born Too Soon" feature. And for more information on preemies, you can also visit the nonprofit PreemieCare.

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.