Poor Marks On Preemie Report Card

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - 3:28pm

March of Dimes says pre-term births have dropped in most states, but gives nation a "D" compared to other countries.

A new report out from the March of Dimes finds that after 30 years on the rise America's premature birth rate is improving, but still way too high.

One in every eight American babies is born early.

That's half a million a year more than most other developed countries.

The march of dimes gives the U.S. a "D" mainly because of so many elective C-sections before 39 weeks.

"Pregnancy is not 9 x 4, nine months times four weeks, 36. Pregnancy is full-term at 39 weeks of completed gestation, and that's so important for timing of an elective C-section," explains March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer Howse.

When babies are born even just a few weeks early lungs and brains aren't fully developed.

There's a higher risk of breathing problems, feeding problems and developmental issues later in life.

The government says one of the biggest problems is women smoking.

"One of things immediately that it does is decrease the oxygen in your blood stream and therefore the baby has less oxygen," says U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin.

In recent years doctors have seen huge progress in preemies born months early.

"They had a very, about a 50%, 60% survival rate and about a 50% complication rate as they went out developmental problems, and now that baby has a 90% to 95% survival rate," says Dr. Billie Short, Chief of Neonatology at the Children's National Medical Center.

The report also takes into account how many pregnant women have health insurance in determining the "D" grade.

To see how your state's doing, log onto www.MarchOfDimes.com for a look at a state-by-state breakdown of the prematurity report.

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