Report: Georgia gets 'F' for preterm births

By Don Logana - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -  November was Prematurity Awareness Month and the March of Dimes released its 3rd Annual Premature Birth Report Card to raise public awareness about the seriousness of preterm birth.

Eight states earned a better grade this year on the Report Card and 32 others, including Georgia, and the District of Columbia saw their preterm birth rates improve.

Although Georgia's preterm birth rate improved, the change wasn't enough to earn it a better grade on the Report Card. The state's preterm birth rate dropped to 13.4 percent in 2008, but it still earned a "F" on the report card.

In Georgia, more than 400 babies each week are born too soon before their lungs, brains or other organs were fully developed.

Factors that contribute to preterm birth improved slightly in Georgia earning the state a star for:

  • Reducing  the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke; and
  • Lowering the late preterm birth rate.

In Georgia, the rate of late preterm births is 9.4 percent; the rate of women smoking is 16.7 percent, and the rate of uninsured women is 24.3 percent.

"We hope that this improvement in the preterm birth rate will begin a trend, and we're proud to see that the March of Dimes investment in Georgia is reaping benefits for moms and babies," said Sheila Ryan, March of Dimes Georgia Chapter State Director. "Our Georgia Chapter supports research, local community grants, NICU Family Support programs, education projects, advocacy initiatives that work to prevent preterm birth and help moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies."

The March of Dimes has also launched a new website, as a resource for families on the issue.

Overall, the United States received a "D" on the report card, when the national preterm birth rates are measured against the Healthy People 2010 goals. The United States has a high rate of preterm birth compared to top scoring states and, notably, most industrialized countries.

Following three decades of increases, in 2008 the nation saw the first two-year decline in the preterm birth rate, a 4 percent drop from 2006. The 2008 preliminary preterm birth rate dropped to 12.3 percent, from the 2006 final rate of 12.8 percent. The March of Dimes says 79 percent of the decline was among babies born just a few weeks too soon.

March of Dimes officials say preterm birth, birth before 37 weeks gestation, is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and others. Even infants born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. The last few weeks of pregnancy are critical to a baby because many important organs, including the brain, are not completely developed until then.

On the 2010 report card, 17 states earned a "C," 20 received a "D," and 13 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico failed. However, most states saw improvement in at least one of the three contributing factors the March of Dimes tracks, according to data from the March of Dimes.

  • 28 states and Puerto Rico reduced the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke;
  • 17 states and the District of Columbia reduced the percentage of uninsured women of childbearing age;
  • 37 states and Puerto Rico lowered the late preterm birth rate, infants born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation.

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