The March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card shows the US has reduced the number of preemies, but some states are still failing.
Let's start with the good news: Since 2006, the US' efforts to decrease premature births (babies born before 37 weeks) seem to be working—the number dropped from 542,893 to a little more than 450,000. 27 states saw their grades improve, and while in 2006 only Vermont had an A rating (meaning preterm births were at or below 9.6 percent), in the most recent report card, its ace ranking was joined by California, Maine, New Hampshire and Oregon. The improvements were enough to meet the federal Healthy People 2020 goal seven years early. Hearty news considering a 2012 World Health Organization report lists the US as the sixth worst country for preterm births out of 65 nations studied, with Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo fairing better.
Still, other states continue to struggle. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as Puerto Rico, remain among the worst with premature births towering at 14.6 percent or more. And Florida and South Carolina aren't far behind with D ratings. "Achieving the Healthy People 2020 goal is reason for celebration, but the US still has one of the highest rates of preterm birth of any high resource country and we must change that," March of Dimes president Dr. Jennifer L. Howse said in a release.
The nonprofit's efforts to make a bigger impact focus on the Prematurity Campaign—a push to reduce the entire country's preterm birth rate to 9.6 percent or less by 2020. The initiative includes urging hospitals to eliminate elective deliveries before 39 weeks that aren't medically necessary.
Before you start researching real estate in the 90210, there are things you can do wherever you live to decrease your odds of a premature birth. Although doctors can't pinpoint exactly what leads to preterm birth, according to Howse, the best ways to do it: quit smoking and make sure you're maintaining proper OB-GYN visits throughout your pregnancy.
How does your state match up to the rest of the country? Check out the full list of results here.