Each year, one in 10 babies in Northeast Florida is born too soon and too small. While prematurity rates have slowly declined across the country, the news locally isn’t good: Jacksonville ranks near the bottom quarter of the 100 largest cities in the United States for premature births.
In their annual premature birth report card, released during Prematurity Awareness Month in November, the March of Dimes gave Jacksonville a “D” grade and Florida a “C” grade for the first time. While the state has improved, the 2015 report card showed significant disparities: black babies are at an increased risk for premature birth and a breakdown by large, urban cities shows geographic disparities.
In the 2014-2015 Fetal & Infant Mortality Review Project IMPACT report, pre-term labor was a contributing factor in 82 percent of all cases reviewed in 2014-15. FIMR reviews cases with the worst outcomes to identify gaps in maternal and infant services and to promote future improvements.
Among all infant deaths in 2014, prematurity and low birth weight were the cause of death in 1 in 5 deaths.
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.
Prematurity Awareness Month continues all month, while 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.
**Top photo courtesy March of Dimes Foundation.