Texas has contributed to the six-year national improvement in pre-term birth rates by lowering the number of babies born early, according to the March of Dimes.
Premature birth, or birth before 37 weeks, is considered a serious health problem that costs the United States $26 billion every year, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of infant mortality and those infants who do survive often face myriad health problems and lifetime complications as a result of their early birth. Babies born at 39 weeks and later have a fully developed brain and lungs as well as other organs, and are hospitalized less frequently.
On the 2013 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card, 31 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia saw an improvement in the number of pre-term births between 2011-12. Nationwide, the largest decline of premature births came between 34-36 weeks of pregnancy, and each racial and ethnic group saw improvements.
“Partnerships with the Department of State Health Services and local hospitals have helped us make newborn health a priority and lowered our pre-term birth rate, making a difference in babies’ lives,” said Dr. Charletta Guillory, Prematurity Campaign Chair for the Texas Chapter of March of Dimes, in a news release. “We will continue to work to give all babies a healthy start in life because too many are still born too soon, before their lungs, brains or other organs are fully developed.”
The nation saw a peak in the number of pre-term births in 2006; since then, nearly every state has noted improvements.
“Pre-term birth is one of the leading causes of neonatal mortality so obviously doing what you can to reduce that risk is pretty important,” said Mary Gockenbach, a certified professional midwife with Edenway Birth Center. “Texas has a pre-term birth rate that is lower than the national average.”