National Issues on Preterm Birth

Research Collaborative Aims to Advance Understanding of Preterm Birth

What causes preterm birth and how to prevent it remains a perplexing riddle in medical science. One in nine babies in the U.S. is born prematurely, according to the March of Dimes, and this rate has barely budged despite years of investigation. Finding the solutions will require the ingenuity of researchers and physicians at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who are part of a transdisciplinary team established by the new March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

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2015 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card: About 380,000 babies Are Born Too Soon in the U.S. Each Year

preemie baby

The United States earned a ”C” on the 8th annual report card with a preterm birth rate of 9.6 percent in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The nation met the March of Dimes 2020 goal early, avoiding thousands of early births and saving millions in health care costs, the organization’s leaders said. The March of Dimes also announced a new goal for the nation to lower the preterm birth rate to 8.1 percent of live births by 2020.

According to the report, Idaho, Oregon, Vermont and Washington met the 9.6 percent preterm birth rate goal and consequently earned an "A" on their Report Cards. 19 states received a “B,” 18 states and the District of Columbia got a “C,” six others a “D,” and Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico received an “F.”

Portland, Oregon has the best preterm birth rate of the top 100 cities with the most births nationwide, while Shreveport, Louisiana has the worst, according to the report, which for the first time graded cities and counties around the nation and revealed persistent racial, ethnic and geographic disparities within states.

“Reaching our goal ahead of schedule is progress, but it is not victory -- our work is far from done,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. “As our new list of city preterm birth rates highlights, many areas of the country, and tens of thousands of families, are not sharing in this success. No baby should have to battle the health consequences of an early birth. All babies, everywhere deserve a healthy start in life.”

To view the full 2015 Premature birth report cards, click here.

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Hearing Mom’s Voice Helps Preemie Brains Grow

The first sounds we ever hear are the voice and heartbeat of our mothers, and there's some evidence to suggest that exposure to these early sounds helps babies' brains develop, particularly the regions associated with hearing and language. If this is true, then premature babies miss out on some crucial weeks of brain development in this area, which may explain why they're more likely to have problems with hearing and language processing than babies delivered at full term.

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AfPA Welcomes the National Premature Infant Health Coalition

In February 2015, the Alliance for Patient Access took on a new project dedicated to health care access for infants, the National Premature Infant Health Coalition. Under AfPA’s leadership, the coalition will benefit from both AfPA physician advocacy and AfPA’s experience in encouraging comprehensive care for infant patients.

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Fetuses Can Learn Nursery Rhymes At Only 34 Weeks' Gestation

New research suggests fetuses respond to the rhythm of a nursery rhyme by 34 weeks' gestation and can remember that rhyme until birth. In the study published recently in Infant Behavior and Development, researchers looked at pregnant women who recited a rhyme three times a day over the course of six weeks starting at the beginning of their third trimester, the University of Florida reported. "The mother's voice is the predominant source of sensory stimulation in the developing fetus," Nursing researcher said. "This could potentially affect how we approach the care and stimulation of the preterm infant."

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Could a Simple Urine Test Predict Risk of Preterm Birth?

Urine tests help to determine pregnancy. Now, a recent study published in BMC Medicine shows that a simple urine test could also help predict the risk of a preterm delivery or poor fetal development. Researchers from the Imperial College, London, found that certain biomarkers found in urine could help to screen for these conditions--providing hope for earlier treatments to future newborns. The Department of Surgery and Cancer at the university said they decided to get involved in this kind of research after examining the alarming rates of preterm births in many developed countries— nearly a 20 percent increase in recent years.

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Helping Premature Babies Breathe Easier- A little more caffeine goes a long way in improving blood oxygen levels

The caffeine in coffee that might help get you going in the morning can be lifesaving for premature babies. For more than a decade, neonatologists have routinely given premature newborns caffeine as a respiratory stimulant, helping their immature lungs and brains remember to breathe and reducing episodes of intermittent hypoxia (IH)—short, repetitive drops in blood oxygen levels.

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Transitioning Newborns from NICU to Home

Transitioning Newborns from NICU to Home: A Resource Toolkit

A new toolkit from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) provides resources for hospitals looking to improve safety for newborns transitioning home from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The toolkit provides guidance on the creation of a Health Coach Program, tools for coaches, and information for parents and families of newborns who have spent time in the NICU.

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Late Preterm Infants: Near Term But Still in a Critical Developmental Time Period

Late Preterm Infants: Near Term But Still in a Critical Developmental Time Period

This review focuses on the long-term neurodevelopmental and respiratory outcomes, with the main aim to suggest putative prenatal, neonatal, developmental, and environmental causes for these increased morbidities. It demonstrates parallelism in the trajectories of pulmonary and neurologic development and evolution as a model for fetal and neonatal maturation. These may suggest the critical developmental time period as the common pathway that leads to the outcomes. Disruption in this pathway with potential long–term consequences in both systems may occur if the intrauterine milieu is disturbed. Finally, the review addresses the practical implications on perinatal and neonatal care during infancy and childhood.

Read the review here.

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New Therapies Needed to Prevent Lung Injuries in Preemies

A neonatologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is the senior author of a large new study that found that current non-invasive techniques for respiratory support are less effective than widely assumed, in reducing the incidence of severe lung injury in very premature infants.

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Resource Briefs on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Two new resource briefs direct readers to a selection of information about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Resources for Professionals directs readers to a selection of resources about the ACA and its major provisions, policy developments, and implementation efforts. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Resources for Families provides information about the ACA and how it will affect families in each state. The resource briefs were developed by the University of Miami Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND), the University of South Florida College of Public Health MCH Leadership Training Program, the University of Florida Pediatric Pulmonary Center (PPC) Leadership Training Program, and the MCH Library at Georgetown University, all of which are funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB).

Professionals | Families

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AWHONN's "Go the Full 40" Campaign

Don't Rush Me!

The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) is promoting its "Don't Rush Me... Go the Full 40" campaign, encouraging pregnant women who are healthy and well to wait for spontaneous labor.

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Useful Information
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