Percentage of babies born prematurely decline in state, nation the past five years
New statistics show the percentage of babies born prematurely declined in the state and nation the past five years, a sign that increasing numbers of babies are likely to have better health during their lifetimes, a Pittsburgh maternal-fetal health expert said Monday.
”It's important to point out that this is the first five-year period in the U.S. and in Pennsylvania where we've seen a flattening out of the pre-term birth rate,” said Dr. Hyagriv N. Simhan, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of obstetrical services at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.
Pregnancy and baby health nonprofit The March of Dimes released statistics Monday showing the preterm birth rate in Pennsylvania fell to 11 percent this year from 11.8 percent in 2006, putting the state slightly ahead of the nation, where the rate was 11.7 percent, down from 12.8 percent in 2006.
“Pennsylvania's progress means that more babies are being born healthy, health care costs are being reduced and families are being spared the heartache of having a baby born too soon,” said Dr. Jay S. Greenspan, chair of the March of Dimes Program Services Board.
Doctors consider 39 weeks to be full term for pregnancies. The March of Dimes report found the greatest declines in preterm births nationally occurred among babies born at 34 to 36 weeks of pregnancy.
The improvement is critical, Simhan said, because prematurity often carries lifetime medical issues, ranging from severe handicaps among the most premature to asthma and obesity among late-term preemies.
Indeed, the Institute of Medicine estimates that births before 37 weeks of gestation add $26 billion a year to health care costs in the United States.
Simhan attributes part of the improvement to the publication of effective surveillance and prevention guidelines for physicians serving mothers at risk of pre-term births as well as a growing awareness of the importance of the final weeks of pregnancy.
“I'm optimistic because for the first time we've seen some of the fruits of our labors,” Simhan said.
But he warns that research on the causes of prematurity must move forward if improvements are to continue.
“It's an area of research that affects a vulnerable population and it is massively underfunded,” Simhan said.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Photo gallery: Steelers 1st-round draft picks
- Rossi: Steelers should corner the market at NFL Draft
- Pittsburgh CLO-produced ‘American in Paris’ tops Tony nominations
- Riots in Baltimore raise questions about police response
- Most talent in NFL Draft play at Steelers’ positions of need
- Water main break disrupts Downtown traffic
- Arnold, New Kensington drug busts net 2 arrests, heroin, cocaine, cash
- Steelers receiver Brown attends workouts despite previous comments
- Penguins’ Pouliot learns from rookie season
- Plum officials: District won’t inhibit ‘constitutionally protected speech’
- Man found dead in Lower Burrell