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Nov-16-2009 22:47printcomments

Oregon Gets a 'C' Ranking for Premature Births

November 17th marks the nation's 7th Annual Prematurity Awareness Day, when March of Dimes focuses the nation's attention on the growing problem of premature birth (birth before 37 weeks gestation).

Premature baby

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - For the second consecutive year, Oregon earned a "C" grade on the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. While the grade remained the same, the state slipped in U.S. ranking and Oregon's preterm birth rate increased by a tenth of a percent.

The grades were determined by comparing preterm birth rates to the national Healthy People 2010 preterm birth objective, which is 7.6% of all live births. Oregon's rate increased slightly to 10.3% from 10.2% and the United States continues to fail at 12.7% with a "D" on the Report Card.

"Although preterm birth is an all too common problem, there are many contributing factors we are still working to understand," said Leonardo M. Pereira, M.D., perinatologist and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, OHSU School of Medicine. Dr. Pereira is one of the national prematurity initiative researchers funded by March of Dimes. "Many women do everything right, yet they still give birth too soon."

Oregon slipped from a ranking of 2nd best in the U.S. last year to 3rd this year. The shift is due to a significant improvement in New Hampshire's rate of preterm birth, decreasing from 10.5% to 9.4%, allowing that state to move from 4th to 2nd best.

The report card focuses on three areas that affect preterm birth and can be impacted by public policy: uninsured women, women of childbearing age who smoke, and late preterm birth. In Oregon, the rate of uninsured women decreased from 22.3% to 21%. Women of childbearing age who smoke rose from 16.9% to 20.2%, but with this year's passage of Senate Bill 734, which expands access to smoking cessation programs, there is cause to believe that number will decrease. Lastly, the late preterm birthrate remained unchanged at 7.6%.

In the 2009 Premature Birth Report card, seven states (Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Utah, and Wisconsin) improved their performance by one letter grade and two (Ohio and Oklahoma) fared worse. Criteria that affect preterm birth improved in many states:

  • 33 states and the District of Columbia reduced the percentage of women of childbearing age who smoke;
  • 21 states and the District of Columbia reduced the percent of uninsured women of childbearing age;
  • 27 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico lowered the late preterm birth rate.

One in 10 babies in Oregon is born premature. In the US, more than 540,000 babies are born too soon each year. Preterm birth is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. It is the leading cause of newborn death and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, such as breathing problems, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, blindness and others. A March of Dimes report released in October found that 13 million babies worldwide were born preterm and more than one million die each year.

November 17th marks the nation's 7th Annual Prematurity Awareness Day®, when March of Dimes focuses the nation's attention on the growing problem of premature birth (birth before 37 weeks gestation). A special Web site – – includes state profiles on prematurity and ways for volunteers to help reduce the premature rate.

For those wishing to do something locally to commemorate Prematurity Awareness Day and support life-saving research, the Greater Oregon Chapter is offering a mission-oriented gift to everyone who donates $20 or more through the Greater Oregon website ( on November 17th. The first 40 people donating $20 or more through will receive a very special deck of cards with heart-swelling images and information about prematurity. Every $20 or more donor after the first 40 will receive a purple wrist band with the message "fight for preemies."

Source: March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

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