Florida’s Rate of Premature Births Among Worst in U.S.

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reported in Orlando Sentinel (November 2, 2013)

The number of Florida babies born prematurely increased to nearly 14% last year- tying the state for the fourth worst rate of the nation and putting those infants at greater risk for death of lifelong disability.

This increase was particularly sharp in Central Florida. Lake County had the biggest spike with the rate rising 18% to 15.7%. Staff from the March of Dimes pledged to join Florida Health officials to investigate this increase. Recent studies point increasingly to the need for good overall health in women before pregnancy in order to prevent premature delivery.

The only state that fared lower were Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. These states as well as Florida has historically focused on providing care to women only after they become pregnant.

According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half-million babies are born prematurely each year in the U.S. or about 1 out of every 8 infants. One of the most significant problems with premature birth is incomplete brain growth because the brain increases by 50% in the last month of the pregnancy. Babies born prematurely are at risk of death, intellectual disabilities, long term health problems, cerebal palsy, hearing loss and digestive problems.

Premature births are those births that occur  before 37 weeks. The March of Dimes recently has been pushing hospitals to adopt policies against elective cesarean sections before full term pregnancies.

Educating ourselves and others about the importance of getting good medical care before and during pregnancy is essential. Getting the message out there that mothers who smoke, use alcohol and drugs, get inadequate nutrition, are obese and over stressed need to get medical help because they are at high risk for a premature baby.

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