Preterm birth rates high in U.S.

An advocacy group tracking preterm birth rates has given the U.S. a "D" rating on its current slate of state report cards. Not only did no state receive an "A" grade in the report cards, only Vermont received as high as a "B" grade from the March of Dimes, a non-profit which works to prevent premature births as well as lower the rates of birth defects and infant mortality.

Seven states improved their performance on the March of Dimes report card by one letter grade from the group's last batch of ratings. Two saw lower grades than they had the previous time. Meanwhile, a hefty percentage of states received a grade of "F" from the group, including Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia.

States were rated by their adherence--or lack thereof--to an objective of 7.6 percent preterm births or less. One of the states getting an "F" rating, Texas, had a rate of 13.6 percent in 2007, and has hovered at this level for years, the report notes.

To lower rates of preterm births, states can institute a wide range of programs, including smoking cessation efforts, consistent care before and during pregnancy, progesterone supplements and wider use of professional guidelines on fertility treatment and early C-sections and induced births, the group says.

To learn more about the ratings:
- read this UPI piece
- examine the March of Dimes report

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