Progress in the Fight Against Prematurity

By: Gloria Kreps

Finally, there’s some good news about prematurity. For the first time in five years, the March of Dimes reports that the percentage of preemie babies has declined. The change is slight, but it’s welcome news that means more wee ones have a better chance of healthier lives.

Even infants born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. The last few weeks of pregnancy are important to a baby’s health because many important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then.

At UPMC, more than 1,600 babies every year – mostly preemies – need a little more medical attention after birth and are admitted to the Magee-Womens Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU),  Pennsylvania’s  largest.

Magee is an active collaborator and partner with the March of Dimes and many state health officials who are working to lower Pennsylvania’s preterm birth rate 8 percent by 2014.

Magee’s Hyagriv Simhan, M.D., supports these efforts and says women can take these steps to help give their babies a healthy start in life:

  • Get a preconception check-up before getting pregnant. 
  • Go to all prenatal care appointments, even when feeling fine.
  • Remember a full-term healthy pregnancy of at least 39 weeks is best for the baby, so if a pregnancy is healthy don’t ask for an early delivery.
  • Talk to the doctor about preterm labor warning signs and any family risk of preterm birth. 
  • Eat healthy foods, don’t smoke, and stay active.

Tomorrow is World Prematurity Day, a global event designed to raise awareness of pre-term births. To learn more, check out this Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story about prematurity and the March of Dimes 5th Annual Premature Birth Report Card.