The following post was written by Joy Marini, Director, Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month, a chance for organizations like the March of Dimes to educate communities and expectant parents about the issue of premature birth, and just how important it is to the health of our children and our nation.
More newborns in the United States die of premature birth than from any other cause. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks – that’s how long a baby needs to develop and mature fully to be ready for the world, to use his eyes and digestive system, to breathe air and fight off germs. But one in eight babies is born prematurely, and those last few weeks can make a tremendous difference to a newborn: At 35 weeks, an infant’s brain weighs just two-thirds of what it will weigh at 39 to 40 weeks.
The health and developmental impact of being born too soon can last a lifetime. Premature babies may need hospitalization for respiratory distress or bleeding in a brain that is not fully developed. They are at increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, slow growth, and problems seeing and hearing. And it doesn’t end with infancy – a child born prematurely is more likely to develop heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes as an adult.
The causes of premature birth are not always fully understood, but there are many actions that individuals, health care providers and communities can take to help reduce the risk. In Kentucky, the March of Dimes has partnered with the state department of health and the Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute on a program called Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait. Through this partnership, expectant mothers have access to a network of community-based health and support interventions that extend outside the doctor’s office. Together we are spreading the message throughout Kentucky about the importance of prenatal care for mother and baby, the warning signs of premature labor, and how to prevent it.
We all benefit from a healthier community, so we all have an interest in preventing premature birth. Whether you are pregnant or know someone who is, I urge you to learn more about preventing premature birth and share this knowledge with the people you love. You can do it right now, by visiting the March of Dimes website and downloading a “Fight for Preemies” badge for your blog, or linking to the website through Facebook or Twitter.
More people need to know about how a few weeks can make all the difference in a child’s life, and you can help.