Premature Birth Report Card: What Grade Did Your State Get?

Would you want to go to hospital that earned a "C" rating? Would you want to send your kid to a school with the same average grade? So why is the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to pregnancy and baby health, pleased that the United States earned a C on their newly-released 2012 Premature Birth Report Card?

That's because the U.S. preterm birth rate dropped for the fifth consecutive year in 2011 to 11.7 percent, the lowest we've seen in 10 years. And Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont each earned themselves an "A" by getting their preterm birth rate to 9.6%. (Last year, only Vermont got that top grade.) And all of this leaves the March of Dimes president Jennifer L. Howse, Ph.D., feeling pretty hopeful: "These results demonstrate that many premature births can be prevented with the right policies and bold leadership," she says.

But there's still more that needs to be done, says the March of Dimes, to help prevent prematurity, which is the leading cause of death in newborns in this country. These changes include:

--Health care providers should avoid scheduling deliveries until at least 39 weeks of pregnancy, unless required because of a medical reason. Here's why

--More women of childbearing age need health insurance.

--The smoking rates among moms-to-be needs to be lowered.

--Researchers need to focus on developing treatments (such as progesterone) which can prevent some preterm births.

Not only will these steps help prevent death, they can help sidestep a number of health problems associated with preterm birth, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, digestive issues and intellectual disabilities.

While the current preterm birth rate is a markedly better than the 12.8 percent our country saw in 2006 when early births peaked, it's still far from the March of Dimes goal of 9.6 percent. And on a global scale, our current numbers aren't too impressive either: The US ranked 131 out of 184 countries in terms of healthy, full-term births, according to a 2012 global report. So, yes, we're getting better, and a big ole YAY to that. But we need to keep making strides in the right direction.

For more on preventing premature births, visit the March of Dimes

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