As parents we hope all babies are born with a healthy start in life, after a full 37 â€“ 40 weeks in the womb. Sadly, every year more than half a million babies are born prematurely in the United States. The rate of premature birth has risen by 30 percent since 1981 according to the March of Dimes. Itâ€™s not clear why some babies are born before full gestation – before their lungs, brains or other organs are fully developed. Thousands donâ€™t live to celebrate their first birthday as a result.
In Georgia more than 400 babies are born too soon each week.Â Dr. William Sexson, a neonatologist and professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign Chair witnesses the effects of preterm birth every day.Â He says, â€œPremature birth is the leading cause of infant mortality. Babies born just a few weeks too soon are at increased risk for newborn health complications, such as breathing problems, can face serious health challenges and are at risk of lifelong disabilities.â€
On Saturday April 30, 2011, a legion of more than 10,000 families and business leaders from across Georgia will band together for the March of Dimes annual â€œMarch for Babies.â€ With more than 30 â€œMarch for Babiesâ€ events planned throughout the state, the annual affair is the nationâ€™s oldest walk fundraiser dedicated to preventing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality.
â€œMarch for Babiesâ€ supports research and educational programs aimed at helping women have healthy babies. Funds raised from the â€œMarch for Babiesâ€ event will support prenatal wellness programs, critical research and community grants, along with local resources such as the Angel II neonatal transport unit at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks. Babies born between 37 and 42 completed weeks of pregnancy are called full term. Babies born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy are called premature. â€œWomen who have hypertension and diabetes are at higher risk to have preterm babies or babies with health problems,â€ says Sexson.
According to the March of Dimes, the most urgent infant health problem in the U.S. today is premature birth. It affects more than half a million babies each year and is the leading cause of newborn death within the first month of life. Last November, the March of Dimes issued a Report Card on Premature Birth, giving the nation a â€œDâ€ and Georgia, the grade of â€œF.â€Â Sexson adds, â€œWe have a long way to go before all babies in America get a healthy start in life and we are committed to working with state health officials, hospitals and health care providers to continue to fight for preemies.â€
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization with its mission to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.
For more information, or to participate in â€œMarch for Babiesâ€ visit marchofdimes.com.