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    Connecticut Preterm Birth Rate Improves

    Leigh-Anne Lefurge, March of Dimes, (860) 815-9353, llefurge@marchofdimes.com

    2011 Premature Birth Report Card Released

    Glastonbury, CT, November 01, 2011 —

    Connecticut’s rate of premature birth fell to a rate of 12.2 percent, new 2009 data shows, marking a decrease for the first time in several years. In the March of Dimes 4th annual Premature Birth Report Card released today, Connecticut receives a “B” and notes improving rates in other key areas that can contribute to premature births.

    “Our state’s preterm birth rate has improved this year. We’re proud of this achievement and what we accomplished by working together with our partners for stronger, healthier babies,” said Michael P. Botelho, March of Dimes Connecticut Chapter board of directors chair. “We are determined to continue to find and implement solutions to improve the health of babies, such as improving access to health care coverage, helping women quit smoking, and preventing unnecessary early deliveries, so more babies can get a healthy start in life.”

    Each year the report card also highlights three selected key factors that can contribute to preterm birth: the percentage of women of child-bearing age who smoke; the percent of uninsured women of child-bearing age; and the rate of late preterm births. Connecticut earned stars for its improving rates of the percentage of women of child-bearing age who smoke (down to 14.6% from 18.7% -- 1 in 7 women); and the percent of uninsured women of child-bearing age (down to 12.4% from 12.8% -- 1 in 8 women). The rate of late preterm birth remained unchanged at 7.2% (1 in 14 babies).

    “Late preterm births represent more than 70 percent of all preterm births annually. Often these chubby appearing babies who look like small full-term infants receive the same treatment from families, medical and nursing providers and hospitals as healthy, full-term newborns. Although these infants are only one to three weeks premature, they are at increased risk for breathing concerns, time on a respirator, feeding problems, jaundice and re-admission to the hospital after discharge,” said Dr. Marilyn Sanders, MD, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, March of Dimes grantee, and director, steering committee, Northern CT Neonatal-Perinatal Collaborative. “Down the road they may also have a higher rate of developmental and school problems. If we can decrease the rate of late preterm births, the benefits to the babies, families and our communities are huge since this group represents such a large portion of preterm births.”

    Quality improvement programs are key to lowering preterm birth rates, according to the March of Dimes. In Connecticut, the March of Dimes supports, via community grants, projects such as gestational diabetes education; CenteringPregnancy®, a model of prenatal care that combines the three main components of prenatal care (assessment, education, support) in a group setting; and developing and implementing systematic hospital- based efforts to educate obstetric health care providers regarding the risks of elective deliveries at <39 weeks gestation.

    The United States received a “C” on the March of Dimes Report Card. Grades are based on comparing the state and the nation’s 2009 preliminary preterm birth rates with the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 9.6 percent of all live births. The U.S. preterm birth rate is 12.2 percent, down nearly 5 percent from the peak of 12.8 percent in 2006.

    Preterm birth, birth before 37 weeks completed gestation, is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and others. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. At least 39 weeks of pregnancy are optimal to a baby’s health because many important organs, including the brain, are not completely developed until then.

    The March of Dimes says its 2020 preterm birth goal can be achieved by a combination of activities: giving all women of childbearing age access to health care coverage, fully implementing proven interventions to reduce the risk of an early birth, such as not smoking during pregnancy, getting preconception and early prenatal care, progesterone treatments for women who are medically eligible, avoiding multiples from fertility treatments, avoiding elective c-sections and inductions before 39 weeks of pregnancy, and by funding new research on prevention of preterm birth.

    This year, for the first time, a World Prematurity Day will be observed on November 17 by the March of Dimes, along with organizations in Africa, Europe, and Australia. An estimated 13 million babies are born preterm worldwide and of those one million die as a result of their early birth, according to an October 2009 March of Dimes report on the global toll of preterm birth. More information about World Prematurity Day can be found online at facebook.com/WorldPrematurityDay.

    Prematurity Awareness events in Connecticut are happening throughout November, including:
    * Signature Chefs Auction of Greater Hartford – 11/7 (sold out)
    * State of the State Neonatal-Perinatal Care Conference, Hartford – 11/9 (private mtg.)
    * Fairfield County Signature Chefs Auction – 11/14
    * Elm City Legends, New Haven – 11/17
    * Yale University World Prematurity Day Rally – 11/17

    The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. On November 17, 2011, the March of Dimes and its global partners will observe the first-ever World Prematurity Day to raise awareness that preterm birth is a serious problem worldwide. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  

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