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US preterm birth rate under 12 percent, the lowest level in nearly a decade
Date:11/17/2011

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Nov. 17, 2011 The nation's preterm birth rate slipped under 12 percent for the first time in nearly a decade, the fourth consecutive year it declined, potentially sparing tens of thousands of babies the serious health consequences of an early birth.

The national preterm birth rate declined to 11.99 percent last year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which released its report "Births: Preliminary Data for 2010," today, the first-ever World Prematurity Day. Despite the improvement, still too many babies, one out of every eight, was born too soon.

"As our volunteers and partners across the globe gather on World Prematurity Day to honor the 13 million infants born too soon worldwide, we celebrate the news of this exciting success," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "Four consecutive years of declines in our nation's preterm birth rate is a testament to the combined hard work of researchers, health care professionals, our volunteers, sponsors, donors and others who know that there is no single answer to the problem of premature birth. We are continuing to work together to prevent as many preterm births as possible because we owe our babies a healthy start in life."

Preterm birth, birth before 37 weeks gestation, is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and one million babies worldwide die each year as a result of their early birth.

Babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and others. Even babies born just a few weeksearly have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. If there are no complications that require an early delivery, at least 39 weeks of pregnancy are critical to a baby's heal
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Contact: Elizabeth Lynch
elynch@marchofdime.scom
914-997-4286
March of Dimes Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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