Premature Birth on the Rise


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — A normal pregnancy usually lasts 40 weeks. Babies born before 37 weeks run the risk of developmental problems including difficulty breathing, poor vision, and cerebral palsy. Now, for the first time in eight years, the number of preemie births is increasing.

Zoe Sky Rodriguez entered the world much earlier than anyone expected. Just 25 weeks.

Zoe’s mother, Natalie Rivera, confessed to Ivanhoe, “I was upset. Honestly I didn’t think she would make it.”

Zoe spent 102 days in the neonatal intensive care unit. Her parents spent hours by her side.

“One picture that resonates with me, and I remember actually, is a picture under the ultra violet lights because of her skin. I have my hand in there and she actually kind of grabbed my pinky,” shared Peter Rodriguez, Zoe’s father.

Zoe’s family is not alone. According to the March of Dimes, for the first time in years, premature births rose nationwide in 2015 from 9% to just fewer than 10%.

Susan Bowles, DNP, a clinical nurse specialist at Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando, Florida, who works with preemies said experts aren’t sure why the numbers are climbing but they want to make sure women know they can reduce some risks.

Bowles advised, “First and foremost, when mom has her baby, start planning for the next one.  There should be 18 months between pregnancies.”

Baby spacing allows the mother’s body to fully recover. Also if you smoke, stop. Finally, make and keep prenatal doctor’s visits.

“I’m passionate about reducing the prematurity birthrate because for me the day that there’s not a premature baby in the NICU, is the day I retire,” Bowles confessed.

Today, Zoe is a spunky two year old who loves taking walks with her parents and baby brother, Nico, and shows no signs of her very early start in life.

The March of Dimes recently released its premature birth report card and gave the nation a “C” grade because of the increase. The organization works with prematurity research centers around the country as scientists look for the cause of preterm birth, and develop specific intervention programs.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.


REPORT #2399

BACKGROUND: A normal pregnancy usually lasts 40 weeks. When birth occurs before the normal time period, it is considered a premature birth. The earlier the baby is born, the more birth complications they may experience. After birth, a premature baby will usually stay for a long period of time in the hospital since they may not be completely formed or are unable to breathe on their own. Furthermore, premature babies may have additional health problems later in life. Nevertheless, thanks to advances in medical care, babies born prematurely now have a greater percentage of survival than what they had in the past. 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely in the United States. Some signs of a premature labor are: contractions every 10 minutes or more often, leaking fluid or blood, pelvic pressure, dull backache, cramps similar to those of a menstrual period, and abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea.

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COMPLICATIONS: The growth of a baby is in stages, and in the final weeks of pregnancy the brain, lungs, and liver are fully developed. Therefore, when a baby is born prematurely, they don’t have the time to fully develop these organs, which can cause the following complications:

  • Breathing problems
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Developmental delay
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing impairments
  • Apnea
  • Anemia
  • Infections

Other than actual physical complications to the baby, premature births cause emotional and financial burden to the parents and family. According to the March of Dimes organization, every year preterm birth accounts for 26 billion dollars in medical and societal costs in the U.S.

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NUMBERS ON THE RISE: The rate of preterm births increased after eight years when in 2015 the percentage went up from 9% to just under 10%. Although experts don’t know the reason for this increase, there are factors that can increase the risk, like:

  • Social, personal and economical characteristics: the age at which the mother is pregnant, if the mother is black, and low income and socioeconomic status.
  • Medical and pregnancy conditions: infections, prior preterm birth, carrying more than one baby (twins or triplets), and experiencing high blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Behavioral: smoking during pregnancy, drinking or using drugs, late prenatal care and experiencing high amounts of stress.


* For More Information, Contact:

Sue Bowles, DNP, CNS, RNC-NIC

Clinical Nurse Specialist, Neonatal Services

Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies


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