While most babies are not fully developed until 39 full weeks in the womb, too many babies are born early. November is Prematurity Awareness Month, when the March of Dimes focuses the nation’s attention on the high premature birth rates.
Prematurity — and conditions related to it — is one of the main causes of infant mortality. In Northeast Florida, 12.4 percent of babies are born premature, before 37 weeks gestation. One in four babies (26 percent) is born late pre-term — between 37 and 38 weeks.
In the 2013-2014 Fetal & Infant Mortality Review Project IMPACT report, prematurity was a contributing factor in 46 percent of all cases reviewed between 2011 and 2013. However, it does not apply to fetal deaths so nearly all infant deaths reviewed had prematurity identified as a contributing factor. FIMR reviews cases with the worst outcomes to identify gaps in maternal and infant services and to promote future improvements.
Too often, babies are born just a week or two early for non-medical reasons. Important developments of their brains, lungs and eyes occur in the last few weeks of pregnancy. If a pregnancy is healthy, women should wait for labor to begin on its own.
The Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait campaign is implemented by the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions in Florida. The campaign has been made possible by funding from March of Dimes, with the purpose to increase the understanding of the importance of the last weeks of pregnancy and the contributions of this period to healthy fetal development and reduced health complications for mothers and babies.
World Prematurity Day will be held November 17 to bring awareness to the issue. Wear purple on that day to honor all of the babies that are born too soon.