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More Babies Getting the Benefit of a Healthy, Full-Term Pregnancy, New Report Shows

White Plains, New York — Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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More U.S. babies are getting the benefit of a full- term pregnancy, according to a new government report that shows that 61 percent of births now happen at 39 weeks of pregnancy or later, a five percent increase between 2006 and 2010.

The March of Dimes says this change is very important because even those infants born just a few weeks too soon have higher rates of re-hospitalization, illness, and death than those born at 39 to 41 weeks of pregnancy.

The March of Dimes also believes the decline in preterm births may be associated with better hospital practices and successful programs such as its Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait® campaign to prevent early elective deliveries that can result in premature births. The foundation has been working to prevent prematurity since 2003 and recently entered into a partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called Strong Start.

A new public service ad made by the March of Dimes on the importance of a full term pregnancy can be seen at: youtube.com/watch?v=D4t0oyT3KP8

“Preventing premature birth saves lives,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. “Even babies born a few weeks early have a higher risk of death compared to babies born at full term. That’s why we advise moms, if your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to wait until 39 weeks or more.”

Nearly half a million babies are born too soon in the U.S. each year. Those who survive face an increased risk of life-long health challenges, including cerebral palsy, breathing problems, intellectual disabilities and other problems.

Births at 39 weeks increased from 25.4 to 28.3 percent between 2006 and 2010, and births occurring at 39 weeks or later increased from 58.2 to 61.1 percent during the same period, according to the report issued today, Births: Final Data for 2010 (NSVR vol. 61, no. 1) by Joyce A. Martin, M.P.H., and colleagues at the National Center for Health Statistics. The report is available online at: cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_01.pdf

About March of Dimes
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.

For the latest resources and health information, visit our websites marchofdimes.org and nacersano.org. To participate in our annual signature fundraising event, visit marchforbabies.org. If you have been affected by prematurity or birth defects, visit our shareyourstory.org community to find comfort and support. For detailed national, state and local perinatal statistics, visit persistats.org. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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