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U.S. receives low but improving score for pre-term birthrate

Infants who are born prior to 37 weeks of gestation are considered premature. More than one-half million infants are born prematurely in the United States each year, according to an article in The Nation's Health journal. Pre-term birth is the number one cause of death for newborn infants and can also greatly increase the risk of disabilities that may affect children for their entire lives, including cerebral palsy and learning disabilities.

A recent report indicates that nation-wide rates of premature birth are improving but were still below the governments Healthy People 2010 goal. The goal was to reduce the rate of premature birth to 7.6 percent of all live births. The March of Dimes study gave the grade of 'D' for the nation's rate of 12.3 percent.

While some states fared better than others, no state received either an A or B grade in the report. Vermont had the best score with 9.5 percent of infants being born prematurely. The states with the lowest grades were, Alabama, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia which all had rates of about 15 and-a-half percent.

One potential factor that can increase the percentage of live pre-term births is that more infants born pre-term are surviving. You may have heard that golfer Annika Sorenstam recently gave birth to her son at just 27 weeks. He weighed in at just over two pounds. While birth at 27 weeks presents serious risks the survival rate is now about 90 percent for infants born at that far along.

Source: Journal, The Nation's Health "Online-only: Nation's premature birth rate improving, but not enough to make the grade" January 2011

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