Survey: Preterm birth rate increasing after decade of decline

(NBC News Channel)

(NBC News) A new survey from the March of Dimes finds that after nearly a decade of decline the preterm birth rate has gone up.

The increase last year was slight, from 9.57 to 9.63 percent. Still, that represents 2,000 more babies born too soon, before 37 weeks gestation and before their lungs and brains are fully developed.

The rise earned the United States a "C" grade in this year's March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.

The four states that earned an "A" are New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Three received failing grades: Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

"It's hard work - getting the preterm birth rate down. We've always known that," says Dr. Ed McCabe of the March of Dimes. "And this year shows us with the uptick in preterm birth rate. So we've got to work harder."

Part of that work will require renewed focus on African American and other women in racial and ethnic minority groups.

That's where the rise in preterm births was most pronounced.

The March of Dimes also says elective c-sections should not occur before 39 weeks gestation. That's the point at which the brain is most likely to be fully developed.

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