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Georgia gets C on March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card

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ATLANTA -

The March of Dimes' annual Premature Birth Report Card is out, and Georgia is making some headway.  This year, the state jumped from a D grade to a C, which may not sound like much-- but the March of Dimes says Georgia is taking action to try to buy babies more time to develop.

Nurses in the neonatal intensive care units at Grady Memorial Hospital and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston keep around-the-clock watch on babies who are born too soon, before their lungs, hearts and other organs are fully developed.  Many will spend their first weeks and months of life in the hospital as they struggle with breathing problems, difficulty feeding, as well as cerebral palsy and developmental delays.

But the March of Dimes says Georgia is making some progress in preventing those preterm births.  The state earned a C for 2013, which is the national average, with a preterm birth rate of 12.7 percent.  There are challenges, including 18.5 percent of women in the state who smoke-- which raises their risk of early deliveries.  March of Dimes says 26.5 percent of Georgia women are underinsured, meaning some pregnant women may not have access to care.

March of Dimes' biggest challenge is to convince women that healthy babies are worth the 39-week wait.  As of October of this year, Georgia Medicaid will no longer pay for early elective deliveries, and many hospitals will no longer allow women to deliver before 39 weeks unless it is medically necessary.  

March of Dimes says the goal is to buy babies more time in the womb, giving them the best chance at a healthy start in life.  

About one in every eight babies born in Georgia is born preterm.  March of Dimes says every week and every day a baby has in the womb is a critical chance to develop.  That's why it's important that babies have the full 39 weeks they need.

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