Premature births continue to decline in the U.S.
The March of Dimes released today, November 5, their 2015 Premature Birth Report Card. In the study, they found that in 2014, 9.3 percent of all babies born in the U.S. were premature, according to the National Center for Health Care Statistics. This is more than 2 percent fewer babies born premature compared to 2013, earning a “C” grade on the report card.
“Research has been done looking at the possible cause of prematurity, and it is often multifactorial,” says Dr. Eric Culp, neonatologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Some lifestyle factors place a woman at greater risk, such as limited prenatal care, smoking, drinking alcohol, and illegal drug use. Medical conditions also play a role in premature labor in some cases.”
In Chicago, 10.4 percent of all babies were born prematurely and 13.9 percent of babies born to black mothers were premature. With just 7.2 percent of babies born premature in Portland, Oregon, the city has the lowest rate of premature births among the top 100 cities with the most births in the U.S. Shreveport, Louisiana, came in last with 18.8 percent of babies born preterm.
“A small amount of research has been done looking at the effects of geography on preterm delivery,” says Dr. Culp. “Women living in socioeconomically deprived areas have an increased risk of premature birth, above other underlying risk factors, likely secondary to poor access to health care.”
While the U.S. achieved the previous March of Dimes 2020 goal early, the organization has set a new goal of having the preterm birth rate at 8.1 percent of live births by 2020.
According the the March of Dimes press release, despite this trend of better rates, premature birth is the leading cause of infant death and the number one killer of babies; and, within states, serious gaps exist among racial and ethnic groups, as well as between communities.
“Reaching our goal ahead of schedule is progress, but it is not victory — our work is far from done,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes, in the release. “As our new list of city preterm birth rates highlights, many areas of the country, and tens of thousands of families, are not sharing in this success. No baby should have to battle the health consequences of an early birth. All babies, everywhere deserve a healthy start in in life.”
Dr. Culp agrees and adds that premature babies are not only living, but more are living with excellent outcomes.
“Neonatologists as a whole have come to appreciate the importance of the details when taking care of these tiny babies,” says Dr. Culp. “In order for an extremely premature baby to survive and be neurologically normal, everything has to go perfect. It is like pitching a perfect game, and it starts as soon as the baby is born in the delivery room, and continues through discharge. We have come to appreciate the importance of nutrition in maximizing outcomes, and stress the importance of breast milk for the most premature babies.”
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Follow #PrematurityAwarenessMonth on Twitter for more information.
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