Preterm births at 15-year low in US

Premature births have been a big problem in the United States, however, there's good news for concerned moms-to-be. According to the March of Dimes 2013 Premature Birth Report Card, instances of preterm birth are now at their lowest rate in 15 years.

The March of Dimes has placed emphasis on the importance of healthy term births in baby development and proper growth even after birth. The goal of the organization has been to decrease the rate of preterm births in the U.S. to 9.6 percent. In 2006, the rate of these births had peaked at an unhealthy 12.8 percent - a number that had been rising for almost two decades, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Several states, including Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont, reached this goal, earning an "A" on their report cards. However, the country as a whole earned a "C," which means, according to March of Dimes officials, we still have a long way to go.

"Although we have made great progress in reducing our nation's preterm birth rate from historic highs, the U.S. still has the highest rate of preterm birth of any industrialized country. We must continue to invest in preterm birth prevention because every baby deserves a healthy start in life," said March of Dimes president Jennifer Howse, Ph.D.

What are the risks associated with preterm births?
One unfortunate trend that has recently shown signs of reversing is mothers electing to have preterm births by inducement. In most cases, the reason is convenience. Doctors caution that this may have negative effects on baby development, with side effects lasting even into adulthood.

The risks associated with preterm birth include both short-term and long-term complications. In the short term, babies may experience heart and blood problems, brain damage, issues with breathing, immune problems, difficulty with temperature control, metabolic problems as well as complications with the gastrointestinal tract. Long-term complications may include dental, hearing or vision problems, impaired cognitive, behavioral or social skills, psychological issues and even the risk of related diseases like cerebral palsy, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In a 23-year long research study conducted by the University of Rhode Island, medical researchers found that those who were born premature were generally found to be less healthy, have more trouble in work or school and experience a higher number of heart-related complications. The 2011 study, which was led by URI professor of nursing Mary Sullivan, also found that support of parents and other influential figures, and even therapists, could mitigate the behavioral and social effects of premature birth on the child.

Because of these issues, doctors have been encouraging women to wait until their term date in order to give birth, as doing so presents the best chance for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Even so, every mom knows that the latter stages of pregnancy are no fun. Would you blame someone for inducing a preterm birth? Let us know what you think in the comments section.