November is Premature Birth Awareness Month at the March of Dimes, part of an effort to bring down the appalling rate of premature birth in this country, where every minute a baby is born before its time — one in every eight babies born — for a total of 543,000 every year. That's almost 1,500 premature babies born every day, 13 of whom die from complications.
Premature birth — any one that takes place before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy — is the leading cause of infant mortality throughout the world. Babies even a few weeks premature can have health problems that will stay with them for their lifetimes.
In the United States, the rate of premature birth has risen 30 percent in the past 30 years. However, after peaking in 2006, the rate has begun to come down. The March of Dimes thinks its campaign, begun in 2003, had a hand in the decrease.
Premature babies can cost 10 times more to care for than babies born after 37 weeks — $32,325, compared with $3,325 for full-term infants. The total cost of preterm birth in the United States is $26 million, according to the March of Dimes.
The organization hopes to bring premature births down with increased education for moms and health-care providers, prenatal care and research through its Prematurity Research Initiative.
On Wednesday, Nov. 17, the 8th Annual Premature Birth Awareness Day, the Empire State Building in New York will shine purple, the color assigned to this effort by the March of Dimes.