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Pennsylvania Gets 'B' for Preterm Birth Rate

The dropping premature birth rate in Pennsylvania has earned the state a "B" on the March of Dimes’ annual report card, one letter grade ahead of the national average.

The grade recognizes Pennsylvania’s 10.7 percent preterm birth rate in 2013, the seventh straight year it has decreased or stayed the same. The state is on pace to surpass the March of Dimes’ goal to lower the national preterm birth rate to 9.6 percent by 2020.

More than 450,000 babies each year nationwide, one in every nine, are born prematurely before the standard 37 weeks of gestation.

Improvements to preterm birth rate in Pennsylvania are a good indication that the state is “doing well compared to neighboring states,” according to Jay Greenspan, board chair of the March of Dimes Program Services Committee and chairman of pediatrics at Nemours and Thomas Jefferson University.

“It’s good news,” Greenspan said. “It does show that we have some room to grow and to do better, but it is a good trend we’re seeing through some of the strong efforts from our hospital partners and the March of Dimes in Pennsylvania.”

Greenspan said hospitals in Pennsylvania, including Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, are taking necessary steps to teach women about preterm birth.

“We’ve also gotten the word out on ways of preventing prematurity for you personally if you’re pregnant, which is healthy eating and healthy lifestyles and really thinking ahead about your pregnancy,” Greenspan said.

According to the March of Dimes, factors such as whether a woman smokes or is insured can contribute to the healthiness of their pregnancy. The rate of women who smoke dropped from 26.1 percent to 22.5 percent, according to the latest report card.

But the number of uninsured women rose from 12.9 percent to 13.3 percent, which Greenspan said is not acceptable.

“We want to get more women to be insured and be able to go to see their providers prior to getting pregnant and during pregnancy,” Greenspan said.

To raise awareness of preterm birth and how to prevent it, the World Prematurity Network is marking its fourth World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17.

“It’s a day that we get to celebrate improvements and look to each other for ways of succeeding in the future, learning from each other and really celebrating the healthy birth of a baby, which is really most important to all of us,” Greenspan said.

The United States as a whole received a "C" on the report card for its 11.4 percent premature birth rate.

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