SOURCE: March of Dimes, California Chapter

March of Dimes, California Chapter

November 06, 2014 00:01 ET

California Preterm Birth Rate Reaches Twenty-Four-Year Low

Heart-Wrenching and Costly, One Baby in Eleven in California Is Born Preterm; March of Dimes Programs in California Lead Nation in Reducing Preterm Births

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwired - November 06, 2014) - California's preterm birth rate dropped significantly to a new twenty-four-year low, moving from 9.6 percent in 2013 to 8.8 percent in 2014. November is Prematurity Awareness month and today, as part of the month-long awareness campaign, March of Dimes released its seventh annual Premature Birth Report Card. California's preterm birth rate, at 8.8 percent, is well below the March of Dimes 2020 national goal of 9.6 percent and the current national rate of 11.4 percent. California earned an 'A' grade for the second year in a row and improved its rate on the report card. California is one of only five states to receive an "A" on the 2014 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. And significantly, of the five states to receive an "A", California is the most populous and diverse.

2014 marks the sixth consecutive year of reducing preterm birth in California. While the state is making significant strides, there is still much work to be done. One in eleven babies in California was born preterm (44,329 preterm babies born in 2013). Premature birth, which is defined as birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, is the leading cause of newborn death in California. 

Karyn DeMartini, March of Dimes California State Director, said, "California is the leader in developing the resources that health care providers across the country are using to reduce medically unnecessary early elective deliveries and to assess preterm labor. The partnerships, programs, advocacy work, and community services March of Dimes has implemented in California make our state a model in preventing preterm birth. Through critical investment in unique, team-based research projects, including the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University, we will continue the important work of discovering the unknown causes of preterm birth so that more babies will get a healthy start in life."

California has demonstrated that even highly populous states with great diversity can make changes that benefit babies. Proven evidence-based interventions are slowly and steadily lowering the preterm birth rate. The 2014 report card for California acknowledges progress in three important factors that are known to contribute to the preterm birth rate:

  1. late preterm births decreased 7 percent to 6.4 percent of births (from 6.9 percent);
  2. women of childbearing age who smoke decreased 27 percent to 8.0 percent (from 11.0 percent);
  3. uninsured women of childbearing age decreased 3 percent to 22.4 percent (from 23.1 percent).

"We will continue to work together to improve access to health care, help women quit smoking and, through our Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait campaign, encourage women and health care providers to avoid scheduling a delivery before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless medically necessary," DeMartini added. "Eighty-seven percent of the hospitals in California now have policies regarding early elective deliveries. These policies have helped us ensure more babies in California are born full-term and healthy. We strongly encourage the remaining hospitals to partner with us."

The heart-wrenching experience of preterm birth does not just have an emotional cost. It is also an expensive health problem that costs California an estimated $2.3 billion annually. Medical care for a premature baby costs, on average, 12 times more than for a healthy newborn. Babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. At least 39 weeks of pregnancy is important to a baby's health because many important organs, including the brain and lungs, are not completely developed until then. 

Supporting materials, including graphics, e-media, and fact sheets with geographically specific information can be found in March of Dimes California news room. Download broadcast quality NICU b-roll and other materials from our online portal.

Each year nearly 4,000,000 babies are born in the United States and March of Dimes touches each one of them through research, education, support, and advocacy. March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit or (Spanish-language site). Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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