What Black Women Need To Know About Premature Birth

    New parents in hospital bed looking at their new baby and smilingA targeted research by the March of Dimes might improve chances of the lives of thousands of babies by the prevention of prematurity. The agenda has been published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

    “Preterm birth is a complex disorder, like heart disease or diabetes, with no single cause, and it requires a multi-faceted approach,” says Nancy S. Green, M.D., medical director of the March of Dimes and the article’s lead author. “We need to stimulate more funding for research in six promising areas that may lead to new clinical strategies for identifying who is at greatest risk for premature birth and how to prevent it.”

    Prematurity is the leading killer of America’s newborns, and those who survive often have lifelong health problems, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease, blindness, and hearing loss. As much as half of all neuro-developmental problems in children can be ascribed to premature birth, the authors of the paper say.

    More than 12 percent of all babies in the United States each year – or nearly 500,000 — are born prematurely (before 37 weeks completed gestation), and the rate of prematurity has increased by more than 30 percent since 1981. Babies born extremely prematurely (before 32 weeks gestation) suffer the greatest burden of death, complications and disabilities, so more research studies should focus on them, the authors say.

    Dr. Green, the paper’s lead author, worked with the March of Dimes Scientific Advisory Committee on Prematurity, made up of experts from across the nation in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, women’s health, reproductive biology, nursing, and public health.

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