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TN gets a "C" on preemie birth report card

7:09 PM, Nov 13, 2012   |    comments
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It's not the end of the fall semester just yet, but the grades are in, at least for moms. The March of Dimes has released its 2012 Premature Birth Report Card and Tennessee has been graded a "C".

According to the report, 12.8 percent of babies born in Tennessee are premature, which is lower than the rate of 12.9 percent in 2010.

The state's rate has decreased six consecutive years. Back in 2006, 14.8 percent of babies were preemies.

"It's been a statewide thing. Obesity has been a campaign from Memphis to Johnson City. The stop-smoking has been from Memphis to Johnson City.," said Dr. Mark Gaylord, with The University of Tennessee Medical Center.

Gaylord said the key to a healthy baby is a healthy mother.

"Mothers that are healthy, that can control their blood pressure, control their weight, exercise, take their folic acid, eat healthy. Mothers that enter pregnancy healthy are much more likely to have a healthy baby," said Gaylord.

Doctors said it's hard to pinpoint the cause of 50 percent of premature cases

"The other most common cause of prematurity is having had a preterm baby before," said Gaylord. "If you've had a preterm baby, you're 25 percent more likely to have a second preterm baby. If you've had two preterm babies, you're 50 percent more likely."

Other factors include maternal illnesses, hypertension, and diabetes.

Gaylord said TennCare has also played a role in lowering the rate by increasing maternal care.

While Tennessee's grade went up, the rate is still higher than the national average of 11.7 percent.

"Oh we've got a long way to go. If you look at other countries of similar development as the United States, their premature rates are in the 4s or the 5s," said Gaylord. "We're striving to get to the "A". And I think in the next five years, if we continue this, we may reach that."

As for the near future, the March of Dimes announced it has adopted an interim goal of an 8 percent reduction in the preterm birth rate by 2014 for the state of Tennessee.

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