Group calls for premature birth research

For the fifth straight year, the rate of preterm births rose, hitting 520,000 births completed before 37 weeks, or 12.7 percent of all births, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. An additional 80,000 infants were born before 32 weeks of gestation. In response, advocacy group the March of Dimes is pushing the House of Representatives to pass the PREEMIE Act (HR 2861), which would establish special programs within NIH to study causes of preterm labor and low birthrate. (The Senate has already passed its own version.) Pre-term births have climbed 35 percent since 1981, when the government first began tracking premature birth rates, the March of Dimes report noted. Babies born between 34 and 36 weeks, who account for the majority of pre-term births, are much more likely to develop respiratory distress, feeding difficulties, hypothermia, jaundice and delayed brain development. An Institute of Medicine report has estimated the cost of premature birth to be more than $26 billion annually.

To learn more about this issue:
- read the March of Dimes press release