November is Prematurity Awareness Month and November 17, 2017 is World Prematurity Awareness Day. Babies born before 37 weeks of gestation are considered premature. In the USA, 380,000 (1 in 10) babies are born before 37 weeks. The last two years, the rate of prematurity has risen, after seven years of decline. The earlier a baby is born, the more likely the complications of premature birth will have a lifelong impact on that child, their family, and society.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “in 2015, preterm birth and low birth weight accounted for about 17% of infant deaths. Babies who survive can have breathing issues, intestinal (digestive) problems, and bleeding in their brains. Long-term problems may include developmental delay (not meeting the developmental milestones for his or her age) and lower performance in school.”

The March of Dimes hosts a Prematurity Report Card page where people can find out how their state is doing compared to other states in the USA. What is very cool, is that visitors to the page can drill down further below the state level and see data at the county and city level. It is sadly no surprise that racial/ethnic disparities and geographic location impact prematurity rates, and families of color are more likely to give birth to a baby prematurely than their white counterparts. For example, the CDC states that in 2016, the rate of preterm birth among non-Hispanic black women (14%) was about 50% higher than the rate of preterm birth among non-Hispanic white women (9%).

The CDC encourages a strategy of reducing preterm births by:

© March of Dimes

You can join other DONA International members and people worldwide by participating in the Thunderclap event hosted by March of Dimes across social media platforms on November 17th. Join me by signing up now on the Thunderclap website, where the March of Dimes has already set up an effective public message. Participants will have this message raising prematurity awareness broadcast on their selected social media accounts in unison with others at the same time on Friday. What a great way to bring the focus on to this preventable situation that affects so many babies worldwide, by joining with other voices to focus attention on this topic. Together we can have a major impact. Sign up now and help raise awareness worldwide!

Birth and postpartum doulas see first hand the consequences and impact of a premature baby as they support families. Long NICU stays, concerns about short and long-term development, the financial implications, the worry and stress, the impact to other family members including siblings, the pressure to return to work when a baby is still in the hospital and so much more. Doulas working with at-risk families can help reduce the likelihood of babies being born prematurely. We make a difference every time we lean in to support all families, but especially when we work with families of color who are most likely to be impacted by a premature or low-birth-weight baby. Thank you for helping to make a difference worldwide. Consider signing up for the Thunderclap March of Dimes event now.  Add your DONA International voice to others working to improve maternal-infant health.