Today more than 1,400 babies in the U.S. (1 in 8) will be born prematurely. Many will be too small and too sick to go home. Instead, they face weeks or even months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). These babies face an increased risk of serious medical complications and death; however, most, eventually, will go home.
But what does the future hold for these babies? Many survivors grow up healthy; others aren't so lucky. Even the best of care cannot always spare a premature baby from lasting disabilities such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and learning problems, chronic lung disease, and vision and hearing problems. Half of all neurological disabilities in children are related to premature birth.
Although doctors have made tremendous advances in caring for babies born too small and too soon, we need to find out how to prevent preterm birth from happening in the first place. Despite decades of research, scientists have not yet developed effective ways to help prevent premature delivery.
In fact, the rate of premature birth increased by 36 percent between the early 1980s and 2006. This trend and the dynamics underlying it underscore the critical importance and timeliness of the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign. In 2007, a small but statistically significant decrease occurred: to 12.7 percent.
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© 2009 March of Dimes Foundation. All rights reserved. The March of Dimes is a not-for-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3). Our mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.