A premature baby is any child born before the end of the 37th week of pregnancy. The March of Dimes data shows more than 440,000 babies are born too soon in the U.S. Dr. Sharleta Guillory is the director of the Neonatal Perionatal Public Health Program at Texas Children's Hospital. She says prematurity among African-American women is on the rise and doctors don't know why.
The emotional, physical and financial impact of premature births is nearly impossible to measure. In Texas close to 50,000 babies are born preterm every year and infant mortality is at about six infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Melinda German is the mother of a premature child. Her son Marcus was born at 25 weeks gestation. He weighed just 12.7 ounces and was hospitalized for five months. She says dealing with the repercussions of a premature birth was incredibly distressing.
Doctors and scientists have ideas on what might cause the higher rate among African-American women, but they don't know for sure and that's why the March of Dimes is trying to get the word out through business and community leaders and faith-based organizations. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk is a national trustee for the March of Dimes.
The side effects of premature birth can range from respiratory problems, to cerebral palsy, blindness, organ damage and even death.