Updated: Aug 18, 2022
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. One in ten babies in the U.S. are born before 37 weeks and considered premature. Premature birth is the number one cause of infant death in the U.S. and worldwide (March of Dimes, 2021)
The financial and emotional strain that is put on families due to premature birth is part of the premature baby crisis. Many moms don’t have quality health insurance, paid maternity leave or the support of their family and community. For too many moms every day spent with their baby in the NICU results in financial loss. This means that some women must work instead of being with their baby, which results in premature babies being separated from their mother in their time of greatest need. These harsh realities are heartbreaking.
Even after a premature baby has been sent home, their health complications could continue for the rest of their lives. Many families cannot afford the cost of a long-term stay in the NICU and all the doctor appointments and medical treatment afterwards. The societal cost for premature birth in the U.S. is $26.2 billion each year, a cost which impacts women of color the most.
Women of color are twice as likely to deliver a preterm baby, three times more likely to die in labor and their children can face 130% higher infant death rate (March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center, 2018). There has been much research as to the cause of this shocking data, but more research is still needed.
Worldwide, more than 75% of babies who die due to premature birth could have been saved, even without intensive care. Lack of care, medical equipment and education contribute to preterm birth and health complications associated with preterm birth.
Saving preterm babies is very possible, so is preventing preterm labor. Here are a few ways that our nation and our world can prevent preterm labor, save babies born preterm and narrow the health equity gap: (March of Dimes, 2021)
Affordable access to quality health care
Investments in jobs and housing programs
Education on proper care before, during and after pregnancy
Promotion of kangaroo care and skin-to-skin contact
Better access to medicine to develop baby’s lungs
Community empowerment through inclusion, social activism and advocacy
Improved social and economic conditions
Bonsie Skin-to-Skin Babywear is donating 100% of all profits from preemie sales to March of Dimes this month to help reduce premature births and improve infant and maternal health outcomes. Bonsie clothing is created specifically for skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin contact is essential for the healthy development of premature babies because it regulates their temperature, heart rate and breathing patterns.
It also releases oxytocin, a hormone that improves breastfeeding success and leads to greater weight gain and attachment to the primary caregiver. The promotion and education of skin-to-skin contact can save lives, starting with the 380,000 babies born prematurely each year.
Visit March of Dimes to learn more about how you can help with their Prematurity Campaign.
Fighting Premature Birth: The Prematurity Campaign. March of Dimes. (2021). https://www.marchofdimes.org/mission/prematurity-campaign.aspx.