November: Prematurity Awareness Month

November is honored as Prematurity Awareness Month to focus attention on the serious problem of babies born too soon — one of the leading causes on infant mortality.

In Florida, 1 in 7 babies is born too soon according to the March of Dimes. For the third year in a row, the state received a “D” grade on the March of Dimes’ annual Prematurity Report Card. The report card looks at the rate of uninsured women, preterm and late preterm births, women who smoke and disparities in preterm births.

Prematurity was identified in the recently released 2012-2013 Fetal and Infant Mortality Review report as a contributing factor in 48 percent of the cases reviewed.

The Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions (FAHSC), under the leadership of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, is implementing a multi-year statewide consumer education campaign, “Think 39 Weeks! Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” in partnership with the March of Dimes. The campaign highlights the importance of the last weeks of pregnancy, with the overall goal of reducing elective deliveries prior to 39 weeks gestation. Focus groups done as part of the campaign found that Florida consumers wrongly believe early delivery is safe.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recently redefined “term pregnancy” — a full term pregnancy is now defined as between 39 weeks, 0 days and 40 weeks, 6 days.