March of DimesA decline in preterm birth rates was reported, for the first time in three decades by most states. A March of Dimes report claimed that, this fact indicates strategies implemented over the past seven years, have begun to pay off. In spite of improvement, the United States apparently, has more than half a million infants born too soon. This birth before 37 weeks gestation is a very serious and crucial health problem. It costs the United States, more than $26 billion, annually.

Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant death. Also, babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, including breathing problems, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and others. Alan Fleischman Medical Director of March of Dimes discussed about preterm birth and infant mortality. The discussion comprised preterm birth’s effects, on child health and development, interventions to stop unnecessary c-sections and early inductions and other recommendations for reducing preterm birth.

Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes explained, “In 2003, we began a national campaign to reduce the terrible toll of premature birth because every baby deserves a healthy start in life. In every state, our volunteers are working with policy makers to improve the quality of perinatal care, and determine best practices for reducing preterm birth. We are thrilled with this sign of sustained progress.”

A decline of four percent was reported in the United States, between 2006 and 2008 from 12.8 to 12.3 percent of live births. A decline in preterm birth rates has been noted in 35 states. Apparent decline, of the rates for late preterm from 34 to 36 weeks gestation and early preterm births that is, before 34 weeks gestation has been registered. The report further claimed a decline, among the major racial and ethnic groups, for mothers under the age of 40, irrespective of the method of delivery.

The NCHS report highlights, that between 2006 and 2008 there was a decline of five percent, in the preterm birth among both non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black mothers’ rate. Hispanic mothers also experienced a slight decline over the two-year period. For babies delivered by a cesarean section, a four percent decline of preterm birth rate was declared. Also, among vaginal deliveries, preterm birth rates declined not considering whether labor was induced or no. Though, there had been a larger decline in induced vaginal deliveries.

The study will be presented before the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.