Premature Births

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.

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.

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.