Born Too Soon

Today is the first-ever World Prematurity Day, meant to raise awareness about the dangers of premature birth–and to honor the one million babies worldwide who die as a result of it.

Preterm birth is defined as birth before 37 weeks gestation and it’s the leading cause of newborn death. Babies who make it, though, may have lifelong challenges including breathing problems and learning disabilities. A new report out today shows that just under 12 percent of babies in the U.S. are born premature. The figure has been dropping for each of the past four years, but of course too many babies are still at risk.

What’s important to note is that even babies born a few weeks early–say, between 34 and 36 weeks–have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. For anyone who’s nearing the end of her pregnancy, you’re probably so ready to be done. You might even have a doctor who’s willing to induce or schedule an early c-section. The March of Dimes has worked tirelessly to spread this message: If you don’t have any medical reason to have an early delivery, aim for at least 39 weeks. Those last days and weeks are vital to the development of a healthy brain and lungs.

The March of Dimes is asking that everyone change their Facebook status today to share a message of support for prematurity prevention efforts–or your own experience with the issue. At the very least, you might want to Like their page and read the inspiring, heartwarming, and sometimes heartbreaking posts and photos parents have left about their preemies.

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