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Florida Gets a "D" in Premature Birth Report Card from March of Dimes

PHOTO: Itís World Prematurity Day, and efforts are under way in Florida to raise awareness about the frequency of prematurity, its consequences and the need for continued research. Photo credit: Northeast Florida Health Start Coalition
PHOTO: Itís World Prematurity Day, and efforts are under way in Florida to raise awareness about the frequency of prematurity, its consequences and the need for continued research. Photo credit: Northeast Florida Health Start Coalition
November 17, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Premature birth is the leading cause of infant mortality, and with more than 13 percent of Florida babies being born premature, the state gets a "D" from the latest March of Dimes report card on premature births.

About one in eight infants is born prematurely, and the rates are higher in the United States than in many other parts of the world.

Dr. Louis Muglia, a professor of pediatrics with the Center for the Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, says says they are working with local and state groups to build better understanding and prevention.

"There are things we can do to minimize the likelihood of a pregnancy ending early," Muglia says. "There is an obvious need for further understanding of the mechanisms of preterm birth so we can devise even better methods of prevention."

A premature birth is a delivery before 37 weeks of gestation. Muglia says these infants face a multitude of issues, including problems with lung development, cognitive impairment, gastrointestinal issues and hearing loss. Preterm birth also is linked to problems in adulthood, such as hypertension and diabetes.

Muglia says mothers who had a previous preterm birth are more than two times more likely to be preterm in their second pregnancy. He adds, ethnicity also appears to play a factor.

"There is about a twofold increase rate of preterm birth in African-American moms, even when you take into account their relative level of wealth, their education level and other health behaviors," he says. "So it's unclear really what the drivers of that are."

There are interventions now that were not available a decade ago to prevent premature births. Muglia says the use of progesterone supplements in women who had a prior premature birth can cut down the risk of a second by almost half. He says current research efforts continue to help identify new ways to optimize pregnancy outcomes.

"Relatively new genetic studies show association of specific genetic variance with risk for preterm birth," says Muglia. "There is some exciting new data on the role of bacteria that colonize our bodies in shaping our risk for preterm birth that is just beginning to emerge."

Adequate prenatal care and the health of the mother are believed to be two key factors in whether a baby is born prematurely. Today is World Prematurity Day.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL