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Premature birth rate

It's happening across the country... more and more babies are being born prematurely, at high risk for lifelong health problems. The number is rising at an alarming rate. So what's behind the startling new stats? And what sort of burden does this place on our society? Chief Science & Health Correspondent Robert Bazell has some answers, tonight.

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The definition of gestational viability has become blurred in recent times due to the advent of technological advances that allow healthcare personnel to intervene and maintain babies born prematurely. At one point not too long ago 28 weeks was the cutoff. Most websites today and many neonatologists and hospitals would state the cutoff is 23 weeks with a weight limit of about 1 pound. An article recently released lists a 21+ week gestation baby surviving. At what price do we develop and use the technology? Do we at all costs try to save the life of a baby no matter how small or how early? I am torn by both of these questions. You see, I have a son that was born at 22 weeks 3 days. I use the present tense because my son not only survived but he has also thrived. Rusty is one of two children born this early and this small (birth weight was 1 pound 1 ounce or 480 gms) locally that have no complications. That is the miracle part that medicine or neonatology can promise. There are very few babies born less than 23 weeks gestation without severe problems. When discussing the rescusitation of our potential baby, the neonatologist was very blunt in saying he had a less than 10 percent survival rate with almost a 100 percent chance of severe issues if he did survive. My wife and I chose to try to save him accepting the lifelong effect that such intervention might bring. This is where the conflict arises. During our 5 months in the NICU, my wife and I saw the wide range of results that occur in premature births. We have Rusty on one end with no issues which is unheard of at his gestation and weight. On the other end of the spectrum were babies born 28 to 32 weeks that were blind, had heart and G.I. issues, and showed severe potential for extreme cerebral palsy.

Do I argue that babies below 23 weeks have intervention? NO!! Do I tell parents not to intervene? NO!! Instead I share the story of my son along with the other very special babies I got the privilege to see in the NICU. I share the story of parents that left the NICU either without a child due to death or with a child that would have severe lifelong issues requiring specialized care.
At that point I leave any decision of intervention up to the parents knowing that whatever decision they make will at least be an informed one.
My son is a miracle. My son is the exception.

I am the mother of a beautiful 3 year old little boy and mother to my angel baby Ethan who was born at 22 weeks gestation due to a very bad placental abruption. The doctor's at my military hospital on Fort Lewis, WA kept telling me for weeks that the pains and bleeding i was experincing were normal parts of pregnancy and therefore brushed off my claims until the day I went into labor and almost died. I believe if I would have had better medical care and doctors that my baby boy would be here today. All I want to say is women, trust you instincts and what your body is telling you. Ethan would have been born last week if he went to his due date and I have now stopped blaming myself and saying what ifs and want to get the word out about Placental Abruptions. It is a very serious complication that can cause great medical risks which can include death to both mother and baby.

I have recently had a loss with my twins at 23 weeks. My son and daughter were born alive but only lived for a short time. The midwives didn't seem to know what they were doing with a 'high risk' pregnancy as they thought I was having 'constipation pain' instead of the contractions that I was feeling also the amount of blood that I had wasn't enough to cause concern??? I live in Australia and would love to know if anyone can tell me if they know of a an ob that can deal with high risk pregnancies as I know when we do fall pregnant again I will classify myself as high risk. Or does anyone have any information on 'placental abruption' as apparently that is what I have been told the problem was.

9 months ago I gave birth to a 4 pound 10 ounce baby boy. After two days in labor with steroid shots and medicine for the fever that came on from my waters having ruptured without my knowing it, He endured a 3 week stay in the nicu and had to fight for his life. I had been having contractions for the two months before he was born. When I had told my OB he told me that I was just a crampy women and brushed me off. If he would have listened my son may have been full term. Doctors need to listen to thier patients and not treat them like their crazy. Besides the fact that he is a man and has no idea what it really feels like to be pregnant.

I am from India , and I would like to have your say on "how to avoid" premature birth.My sister had a premature birth last year and went through a painful experience after loosing her baby because of underdeveloped lungs. So , can we know what are the preventive measures we can take to avoid preterm birth ?. Your advice would be of great help to us.
Thanks in advance - Saravanan

I am a 37 year old woman who found out at 20 weeks pregnant that my cervix was incompetent. I had a cervical cerclage surgery (a stitch to keep the cervix closed, like a balloon) and was put on bedrest at home. Already using high risk doctors due to being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, at 22 weeks, I was told (after having a sonogram) that the stitch was not holding and I was sent directly to the hospital for a second cerclage surgery (two more stitches put in place) and a total of 12 weeks bedrest in the hospital. FFN tests came back positive (test to determine pre term labor), I had steroid shots to help development of the lungs, Terbutaline to control contractions that would come from time to time, Progesterone injections every other day to prevent preterm birth and insulin injections to control the diabetes...I was only able to use a commode beside the bed and shower every other day. My excellent group of doctors DID NOT WANT ME TO GET UP. At 32 weeks, they allowed me to go home on bedrest because the FFN test finally came back negative. At 37 weeks, our beautiful daughter, Katherine Faith was born at 7 lbs. 6oz! She spent no time in the NICU and is now a happy and healthy 14 week old girl! All pregnant mothers should have the resources to ensure the best prenatal care needed. I am now in the process of training to be a Sidelines volunteer. Doctors need to know that if these poor women were put on strict bedrest, it just buys them more time for the baby to grow and develop. Women should educate themselves about their diagnosis, search for quality perinatal medical care and ask questions! Bedrest is hard, emotionally and physically...but my daughter is here today because of it and my wonderful perinatal doctors.

My name is Brianna, I just reasently went through the lose of my daughter who was also premature. She was born at 24 weeks gestation. Now pregnant again and going through the anxiety of wondering if this is going to happen again, I too pray that doctors had more knowlege on the subject and that I could find a doctor who would care more about me and my baby.

I am the lucky mother of two beautiful little first was born without complications, so I was shocked when pregnant with my second to find out that I had an incompetent cervix at 20 weeks. I was rushed to an emergency cerclage, at which point the amniotic sac had descended and my baby's feet were in the birth canal...thanks to an amazing perionatologist, 3 weeks in the hospital, 17 total weeks on strict bedrest and lots of drugs, my daughter is now 2 years old. She was born healthy and happy at 37 weeks and never spent any time in the NICU. Without my amazing docs and support system, though, we would have a tragic tale to share. Every high-risk pregnancy deserves every chance to be saved...all of these precious babies deserve their chance. It seems that we research so many healthcare issues, but why do premature births continue to increase? I now volunteer with Sidelines, too.

I am a registered Nurse, After having a son prematurely at 35 weeks, he was 2 1/2 and I got pregnant spontaneously with twins. Thank goodness my current OB treated this pregnancy as hi-risk. At 21 weeks gestation I went back to the Perinatologist for a regular (hi-risk) visit was told my fluid in Baby B was VERY low, she wanted to check again in 1 week. I went back to the Perinatologist @ 22 weeks and the fluid was extremely low, according to the doctor too low for the baby to survive. At this visit I was told that my best option would be to terminate the pregnancy. I changed Perinatologists, OB's and Hospitals (to a Level III NICU). I put myself on complete bedrest and hooked up with a national organization for hi-risk pregnancies called Sidelines. The new doctors saw the glass as half full instead of half empty.Had I not been Pro-Active and maybe beacause of my Nursing background I may not be a mother of 3 today. After 4 months of strict bedrest (1 month was spent in the hospital) I gave birth to my beautoiful twin girls @ 34 weeks. I am now a volunteer for Sidelines and also the President of my local twins club. I have supported several hi risk moms through pregnancy and premature births. You would be surprised how many OB's are not proactive. There needs to be more Inservicing in this Medical Community on dealing with Hi-Risk Pregnancies. And Insurance Companies need to see the benefit to them of approving services via Matria and other home related services and Hi-Risk services. I end all of my emails to my Sidelines referrals with this: STAY POSITIVE!

I've read alot of inspiring stories here and although I'm happy the majority of you still have your premies... it's very difficult for a mother of an angel baby to hear. My daughter was born at 33 weeks gestation and after a very swift and violent battle with Necrotizing Enterocolitis (a primarily premie disease) she passed away in her daddy arms on 4-19-05 at one week old. I was told by my doctors that I have at least a 50% chance of having preterm labor issues in my subsequent pregnancies and will be considered at risk for each of them. Being a childless parent is the most difficult thing I have ever had to live through but it makes it even more difficult knowing that I have a big risk of going through all of this again if I try to have another. I'm going to have to spend alot of time considering the pros and cons to trying again... not just to me but to any future children I have. I can't imagine putting another baby through that but also ache inside with the want and need to be a mother to a living child.

After two IVF cycles, we were thrilled to be pregnant...with twins. But six weeks into the pregnancy, a subchorionic hemorrhage came for a visit and stayed until week 13. Thankfully I had the care of attentive OBs who partnered with awesome Perinatologists who bedrested me at 17 weeks for cervical shortening and contractions.

My OB decided to run an fFn test at 23 weeks, a little early, to give us peace of mind I probably would not go into premature labor....except, the test was positive. She called me and said to get in the bed and not to get out unless I was coming to the hospital. Two weeks later at 25 weeks, I questioned a "gnawing feeling" that maybe I was leaking amniotic fluid -- for two hours -- before calling the doctor. They brought me in, tested me, and it was negative. We were about to go back home when they decided to do one more in-depth test. It was positive. Baby A had ruptured membranes, and delivery was most likely within 48 hours. A whirlwind of tests, ultrasounds, antibiotics, steriods, and neonatologist consultations followed, and we prayed. Thanks to God, the fFn test, the in-depth amniotic fluid test, and the care of an amazing OB, perinatologists and staff, we made it 6 more weeks in the hospital before delivering the twins at 31 weeks due to preeclampsia. The boys are healthy now at 8 months old.

I can't imagine how tragic our story would have ended without access to these amazing doctors and hospital. How devastating a parallel situation would have been with less educated doctors, less experienced hospitals, or lack of access to either.

Sidelines really encouraged me to ask questions about my "gnawing feelings". And the fFn test heightened our watchfulness for possible preterm labor. Thank God for resources like this to provide the best outcome for our premature delivery. We should do more to ensure this access for all women and maybe we'll see the prematurity rate fall again.

I have three healthy babies, after three high-risk- bedresting-pregnancies and preterm labors. The high caliber care I received from the hospitals and docs in Boston are the reason my children are alive. We need more skilled care like this in other areas of the country. I am a volunteer counselor for Sidelines National Support Network for women with high-risk pregnancies. I can't begin to tell you how many women I work with, especially in the Southern states, who's doctors dismiss their symptoms and instincts - - with grim results. Lets promote a nation-wide campaign to inform and educate - - not only mothers and fathers - - but physicians and clinicians as well!

I am the mommy of a healthy 3 year old son and healthy 1 year old triplets. My triplet pregnancy was high risk and premature labor was always our main precaution. I had the help of A Home Uterine Monitoring Device, weekly doctor appointments, too many medications to list to stop preterm labor, and 6 months of bedrest. We need more diligent doctors and more services to provide Home monitoring nurses and equipment. I was lucky to have all these advantages and because of them I had 3 healthy triplets last 4th of July at 35 weeks who never spent an hour in the NICU!

Upon the discovery that I had no amniotic fluid at 22 weeks into my pregnancy, I was given some very grim statistics and pretty much sent home to miscarry by the perinatologist.The next morning my O.B. called and said that he felt in order to give this baby every chance he wanted me in the hospital, hydrated and on strict bedrest.It was clear to me that their were nurses and doctors who felt this was a waste of time and money because the chances were so slim that he would make it.(15%survival)There was a sense that "I shouldn't be put through this" But to me no matter what happened I knew it would be worth it to know that I did everything I could for my child.Josh made it to 32 weeks! He is now 7 years old ,perfectly healthy,and overflowing with a zest for life.I believe there are many stories like mine that don't make it into the statistics.this is a shame,cause families going through this need to hear that their is hope in the midst of the darkness.

To Cherith Salazar, What defines a premature birth?

Premature birth is on the rise. The fact that technology has improved over the years has nothing to do with statistics being skewed. Vital statistics are kept in every state, for all births and are broken down into gestation. With technology, we are able to keep track of these statistics where 50 years ago, we were not.
We are NOT saving babies earlier than 23 weeks. But we are beginning to save babies born at 23 weeks. The odds are very slim and the life long problems and health consequences are devastating.
Any baby born prior to 37 weeks is considered preterm. The earlier the birth, the more severe the health issues are likely to be.
The technology is great now a days, but the question is not about saving them. These babies that are saved do not always grow to adulthood without severe complications. There are illnesses that have no cure but to NOT be born premature. There are illnesses that can only be prevented by NOT being born premature and there is no technology that can help them afterwards.
The issue is a concern for society. Society needs to be aware of the problem. Every 1 out of 8 babies born is born premature.
I am the mother of three premature children. Two of which were severely premature. My oldest, who was born at 26 weeks, was born 12 years ago. We are lucky that he is alive. He is a wonderful child and has undergone 22 surgeries to date because of being born premature. He is now almost blind because of being born premature. There is nothing we can do for his vision loss. He has a condition only known to premature babies. It is also the leading cause of blindness in premature children.
My middle daughter, who was born 6 years ago, was born at 24 weeks and passed away because of complications after her birth. The is a time when technology had come along way from 12 years ago.
Many reasons why babies are being born premature are not known. That is why research and society education is so important. If we as a society and community of premature infants do not help spread the word, we will never be able to find a cause and way to end the rising problem of prematurity.
By the way, there are premature babies from over 50 years ago. So saving babies is nothing new. The stats are increasing each year, with roughly 500,000 babies born premature every year.
Many people are highly misinformed that being premature is not a problem and because of technology these babies grow up with no problems at all. This is incorrect, many of these children grow up with at least some underlying medical condition.

I had never heard of incompetent cervix until I was diagnosed with it last year. I was 22 weeks along, carrying a healthy boy when my doctor informed me that I was 3 cm. dialated and the sac was bulging. I was rushed to surgery to have a cerlage placed. Unfortunately, after a week in the hospital on full bedrest with terbutaline shots it was clear that labor could not be stopped. I delivered my son, Joshua and we decided to not have medical intervention and risk a difficult life for him. The doctors told us that a few babies born that early do make it, but most have severe complications. There are the miracle babies, but that is just what they are miracles.

I got pregnant with my daughter, Hannah 8 weeks later and had excellent preventative care. I had a cerclage placed and was given weekly progesterone injections. I was placed on complete bedrest at 16 weeks until the end of the pregnancy due contractions. I am fortunate to have had excellent medical coverage, disability from work, a supportive family and wonderful friends who brought dinner several nights a week.

My daughter is now just over 3 months and I am a volunteer for Sidelines.

I went into preterm labor on Mother's day, 6 weeks before my due date. Luckily the hospital was able to stop the contractions. I had to stay on bedrest with all sorts of meds to stop the contractions. I had contractions the whole time I was at bedrest, but they increased when I got up and moved around. If I had not stayed at bedrest I feel I would have lost my now beautiful girl that is 10 years old. She did receive birth injuries from the doctor, torticollis, a broken left arm and nerve damage on her right arm and neck. A c-section would have prevented all of the injuries from occurring. Doctors should also realize that a baby will get bigger as a result of bedrest and precautions should be made at delivery.

I had an 18 week loss followed by a high-risk pregnancy shortly after. I delivered my son at 34 weeks. However, if I wouldn't have been proactive and fought to be considered high-risk and demanding about the type of treatment I felt my baby deserved I'm sure I would have had two 2nd trimester losses. It shouldn't take that much effort to get the kind of treatment our babies deserve.

I had a condition known as placenta previa with my second child. This is often a cause of premturity. I was lucky--with lots of bedrest and an attentive OB and perinatologist, I did NOT deliver prematurely. My daughter was full term and weighed over 9 lbs.
However, many women do NOT get the appropiate prenatal care. As a teacher, I see the possible long-term effects of prematurity everyday. Surely better funding for prenatal care would be far more cost-effective than the long-term care and education of children who could have been carried closer to term with proper medical intervention.

Several national organizations, who have great influence on the obstectrical community as well as research in prevention of premature births, protest that bedrest has not been proven to help prevent preterm births; therefore, some doctors are not attempting to prescribe this course of treatment out of fear of not following national research recommendations. I personally take issue with this belief as I have experienced bedrest twice for preterm labor, spending a total of 7 months on bedrest, and found bedrest, as well as medications and home unterine monitoring, very successful treatment in preventing my children from being born prior to 36 weeks (as have many other expectant mothers). While many OB/GYN's will prescribe bedrest and medications in hopes of preventing preterm labor, some will not; therefore, leaving little treatment options available. My hope is that physicians will take a stance and say "we are seeing good outcomes with women who are treated with bedrest and medications when in preterm labor." The pitfalls of bedrest pale in comparison to having a baby die or born with many physical complications.

As a mother of 4 children, going through 2 High Risk pregnancy's was very hard on me as well as my family. I went into labor at 24 weeks with my son (now 4yrs) and was on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy, with 2 small kids at home this was very difficult. I did have a good outcome and my son's only long term medical condition was asthma. We lucked out. I then had my 4th pregnancy, diagnosed with gestational diabeties, and low amniatoc fluid, which can cause many problems in newborns if undiagnosed. I was one of the lucky ones. My highrisk pregnancy's led me to the wonderful online network for highrisk moms, Sidelines, a support network for women going through the same conditions, along with everything else that can go wrong, I was helped so much with my first pregnancy, then volentereed until my last pregnancy, when I needed them again..My daughter was born healthy, thank god..and I will now go back to supporting..
I had MANY problems with my insurance during this terrible time in my life, which should of been a happy time, we had a happy outcome, but what a trying time to cope with the medical hartships and not have support from your employer or your health care company, always having to make sure all the test were "NEEDED"..I believe without all the stress, more moms would have happier outcomes and less preterm babies..
Lisa, Mom to CJ, Hunter, Mitchel and Isabelle

I am an attorney and the mother of 4 premature children (32-35 weeks). I consider myself extremely lucky in that I found a very proactive perinatologist. The drs. in my own city refused to treat me as high risk so I traveled 3.5 hours away from my family for treatment. I was hospitalized for 3 and 4 months at a time.

But I am one of the lucky ones. I had the means to educate myself and the financial ability to seek out top notch care. Many women are not so fortunate. I strongly believe there out to be a more thorough gold standard for diagnosis and treatment of all pregnancy complications. There is too much variance among physicians and many so-called "high-risk" doctors simply do not have the training or experience to handle many complications.

The other problem as I see it is how premature children are treated by our society. Many insurance companies refuse to recognize many of the common diagnoses that accompany prematurity (i.e. PDD-NOS, sensory integration disorder, and more). While severely affected children have access to services through the state, county and school districts, a large percentage of premature children do not meet the criteria. Learning disabilities and social problems of all shapes and forms are more prevalent in premature children yet these are the very children that are denied access to the therapy services which ultimately help them become higher functioning members of society.

It is time for the finger pointing to stop. Every state needs to reconsider the rights and needs of high risk mothers and their premature children.

I got pregnant with twins and at 21 I found out that my daughter's organs were all on the outside of her body and attached to the placenta. And to top that off, my bags of water we hanging in the cervic, due to permature dialation. I was dialated to a 3. They were unable to stop my labor and I delivered my daughter and son at 22 weeks. They passed shortly after birth. I was diagnosed with an incompetant cervic.

I got pregnant 2 months later with my son Sebastian. I had a cerclage put in at 14 weeks and then started to go into premature labor at 18 weeks. At 24 weeks after my thrid time in the hospital I recieved steroid shots, for the baby. And even though I kept going into labor and they stoped with medications. I delivered my son at 31 weeks 5 days. He only spent 11 days in NICU. I believe because of the medical care that we recieved with him. He didnt have to spend much time in the hospital or be on any oxygen. He is 20 months now and is small for his age, but is a very happy and healthy child.

I gave birth to a healthy boy in 2000 at 36 weeks after two hospitalizations for preterm labor and polyhydramnios.

I was fortunate that my insurance paid for my hospitalizations, medications to prevent further contractions as well as home utarine monitoring with Matria during my 10 weeks of required bedrest. I credit Matria, my doctors, and the emotional support I received from a sidelines volunteer for the the wonderful outcome I enjoyed. I think it is a crime that in this day and age, so many women in this country do not have access to the medical and emotional support I had in my pregnancy.

As a mother who experienced 2 losses - twins at 20 weeks (my precious Joshua and Sarah) and a boy at 23 1/2 weeks (Caleb), this is an especially important topic to me and my family.
While viability is becoming earlier in pregnancy and treatments options are becoming better, I sincerely believe Dr.s need to be more informed on this subject as well. Nothing was done to prevent our losses or stop my preterm labor. This is unacceptable in this day and age.
I now have a happy, healthy 20 month old thanks to a wonderful Dr. who did EVERYTHING in his realm to keep me pregnant as I started to experience symptoms of preterm labor at 22 weeks. My daughter was born at 36 weeks after 6 months of bedrest and the help of anti-contraction medicines (terbutaline and also magnesium sulfate).
Become informed, find quality medical care and don't be afraid to speak up for yourself!

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