BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana has received an "F" grade for the rate of babies born prematurely in the state, according to a new report by the March of Dimes. The state has a preterm birth rate of 12.6 percent and was among three other states and the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico to receive the failing grade.
The nation received a "C" grade after preterm birth rates increased for the second year in a row. Preterm birth rates got worse in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and stayed the same in three states. Only four states, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming showed improvement.
East Baton Rouge Parish is second only to Caddo Parish among the parishes with the worst rates of preterm births in Louisiana. Jefferson, Lafayette, Orleans, and St. Tammany Parishes also have high rates of preterm births. However, data from the March of Dimes shows preterm birth rates in East Baton Rouge and Caddo Parishes are improving along with Orleans Parish. Preterm birth rates in Jefferson, Lafayette, and St. Tammany parishes have worsened, the report says.
Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is the largest contributor to the death of babies in the U.S. Medical experts with the March of Dimes say babies who survive an early birth often face serious and lifelong health problems. Babies born prematurely could have problems with breathing, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays. Preterm births account for more than $26 billion annually in avoidable medical and societal costs, according to the National Academy of Medicine.
According to the report, African American women are 49 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women and American Indian/Alaska Native women are 18 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women. In Louisiana, African American women accounted for 15.6 percent of preterm births, 50 percent higher than all other women. Hispanic women accounted for 9.1 percent of preterm births and Asian/Pacific Islander women accounted for 10.3 percent of preterm births in Louisiana. American Indian/Alsaka Native and White women accounted for 10.6 percent of preterm births in the state.
The March of Dimes estimates that more than 380,000 babies are born preterm in the U.S. each year and says there was an increase of 8,000 premature births in 2016. The U.S. preterm birth rate went up from 9.6 percent of births in 2015 to 9.8 percent in 2016, according to final data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
You can see more on the March of Dimes report card by clicking here.