U.S. Gets a Near Failing Grade on Premature Births Report Card
December 19, 2009
More than half a million babies, one out of eight, are born prematurely each year in the United States, prompting the March of Dimes to give the nation a D on its premature births report card.
The report card did not give an A to a single state. Vermont, which has a preterm birth rate of 9 percent, got a B, while 17 states got F’s, including Mississippi, with a preterm birth rate of 18.3 percent. The prematurity rate in Puerto Rico, at 19.4 percent, was the highest in the country.
The nationwide rate has barely budged in the most recent three years reported -- to 12.7 percent in 2007, according to preliminary figures, from 12.8 percent in 2006 and 12.7 percent in 2005. It was 11.4 percent in 1997.
All babies born before 37 weeks of gestation are considered premature. They are at higher risk for death and for complications that include cerebral palsy and mental retardation.