The preterm birth rate has worsened nationwide for the first time in eight years, according to the March of Dimes.
As part of World Prematurity Awareness Day, the March of Dimes and UT Medical Center are hoping to educate women about the risk factors that can lead to a baby being born before 37 weeks.
"One of the greatest things to prevent prematurity is to have early and frequent prenatal care," said Dr. Mark Gaylord, director of the NICU at UT Medical Center. "And access is critical and with all the changes in healthcare, with the financial changes we've known that we are losing obstetrical units throughout our state."
In Tennessee, one in nine babies is born prematurely. The March of Dimes says that number was worse in 2015 than in 2014.
Here locally, the March of Dimes is working to bring more awareness to the issue in hopes of seeing the numbers improve.
"We really try to get out in the communities that do not have the access to healthcare or education that they need and really help them understand why it's important not to smoke while your pregnant, why it's important not to drink while your pregnant, and all the different factors that tie into premature birth," said Director of Development Kelsie Crittendon.
Even with good prenatal care, Dr. Gaylord said doctors don't know the reason for half of preterm births.
"Whether that has to do with genetic causes, probably. Whether that has to do with long term stress, living in cities, living in poverty that then affects the genetic makeup of mothers, but 50 percent we don't know," said Dr. Gaylord.
On Thursday, Nov. 17, you are encouraged to wear purple to help raise awareness.
For more information about the risk factors and how Tennessee's numbers compare to other states, you can head to the March of Dimes website.
(© 2017 WBIR)