The March of Dimes has named November as Prematurity Awareness Month to focus attention on the serious problem of babies born too soon.
According to the March of Dimes, in the United States, 1 in 8 babies is born prematurely and worldwide, 13 million babies are born too soon each year. In 2011, Florida received a “D” grade on the March of Dimes’ annual Prematurity Report Card.
Prematurity is influenced by poor maternal health, smoking, lack of prenatal care and late preterm births. Non-medically indicated deliveries before 39 weeks gestation have increased significantly in the past 10 years and are associated with increased NICU admissions, breathing and feeding problems, increased risk of infection and increased rates of C-sections and late preterm births. Much of the problem stems back to misconceptions about what constitutes a full-term delivery and the assumption that delivering after 36 weeks is safe.
The Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions (FAHSC), under the leadership of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, is mid-way through a three-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.
As part of campaign efforts, the Association has developed a Prematurity Awareness Month toolkit focusing on the importance of the last few weeks of pregnancy. The toolkit includes handouts on the importance of staying pregnant at least 39 full weeks, a summary of findings from the campaign’s statewide baseline survey, guidance on how to partner with local community organizations to plan a Prematurity Awareness Month activity, advice about working with the media and a variety of sample resources, including editorials, letters to the editor, press releases, social media posts and a proclamation. The toolkit will be available for download at www.39weeksfl.org soon.