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PA Earns a "D" in Preventing Premature Births

December 8, 2008

Philadelphia, PA - Pennsylvania is doing a poor job of preventing premature births, according to the March of Dimes. In its recently issued "Premature Birth Report Card" for every state, Pennsylvania earned a grade of "D," with nearly 12 percent of babies in Pennsylvania born prematurely.

Dr. Vincenzo Berghella, director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University, says part of the problem is elective Caesarian-sections (C-sections). Some obstetricians perform this procedure before 39 weeks, claiming there is minor risk, but according to Berghella, it is a crucial time for the baby.

"Babies born, even at 36 or 37 weeks, can have problems feeding and breathing; they can have problems with their temperature; they can have some jaundice."

Pennsylvania is not alone in its poor evaluation by the March of Dimes. Eight states earned a "C," 23 states earned a "D" and 18 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia got failing grades of "F." The only state to earn a "B" was Vermont. Not a single one got an "A" for preventing premature births.

Berghella has some ideas about why the Keystone State scored so poorly.

"I think in Pennsylvania we have peaks in terms of lack of insurance, in terms of poverty. The rate of women smoking is 27 percent or more; I'm sure it's one of the highest in the country. So, we do have our problems, but I think it's a problem a lot of other states, unfortunately, share with us."

The March of Dimes is asking the federal government to support more research into issues related to premature births, as well as expand access to healthcare coverage for women of childbearing age.

Kelly Glorioso Fodel, Public News Service - PA