March of Dimes

M. Spencer Green / AP

Pennsylvania was one of only four states that saw a decrease in premature birth rates last year compared to 2015, according the March of Dimes’ annual Premature Birth Report Card.

Last year 9.3 percent of babies in Pennsylvania were born before 37 weeks gestation. In 2015 the rate was 9.4 percent. Nationally the rate increased from 9.6 to 9.8 percent.

Flickr user UNICEF Ethiopia

Scientists are clear on the effects of preterm birth, that is, babies born before 37 weeks. Breathing, hearing and vision problems, difficulty feeding, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays are some of the challenges facing babies born too early.

But on the causes of preterm birth, researchers are less certain.

Pennsylvania Gets 'B' for Preterm Birth Rate

Nov 10, 2014

The dropping premature birth rate in Pennsylvania has earned the state a "B" on the March of Dimes’ annual report card, one letter grade ahead of the national average.

The grade recognizes Pennsylvania’s 10.7 percent preterm birth rate in 2013, the seventh straight year it has decreased or stayed the same. The state is on pace to surpass the March of Dimes’ goal to lower the national preterm birth rate to 9.6 percent by 2020.

More than 450,000 babies each year nationwide, one in every nine, are born prematurely before the standard 37 weeks of gestation.

Every year 40,000 babies are born in the U.S. with congenital heart defects, and parents might not be aware of their infant’s condition. 

Pennsylvania law requires hospitals and birthing centers to test newborns for six genetic disorders, including maple syrup urine disease and Sickle Cell Disease, as well as 23 other disorders.

The state Legislature is getting ready to add one more to the list — congenital heart defect — which according to the March of Dimes, claims thousands of lives annually before the child is a year old.

Pennsylvania’s preterm birth rate dropped from 11% to 10.8%, earning another “B” on the March of Dimes Foundation’s annual report card.

The state also earned a gold star for bringing late preterm births, babies born between 34 and 37 weeks, down to 7.4% and reducing the percentage of uninsured woman of child-bearing age and the number of female smokers.

But this isn’t something to run home and hang on the fridge.