Prematurity Awareness Month

Prematurity Awareness Month

Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant death in the United States. November is a month for awareness of premature births. CCH wants to raise awareness and education on the high number of premature births in the United States, and how we can help. Almost 1 in 10 babies is born prematurely, or before the normal due date. These babies miss out on a crucial period of growth and development that occurs within those final weeks. Your baby's immune system continues to improve, their lungs become fully developed, and they are beginning to gain dexterity in their fingers. We don't fully understand why some babies are born too soon and how this can lead to health problems. If a woman seems to be doing everything "right," she may deliver prematurely if she is not careful. A few things can increase the risk of preterm birth, including the young or advanced age of the mother, cigarette or substance abuse, stress, depression, and carrying more than one baby. Many factors impact our success in our environment, including poverty, lack of access to quality healthcare, discrimination, and underemployment. Many factors can threaten the health of pregnant women and their families in African-American communities.


A baby is considered to be premature or preterm when they are born before the 35th week of pregnancy. If you are a baby who is born early, you may have a higher risk of serious complications if you are born at an early stage in your pregnancy. Since about 15 million babies are born each year prematurely, the United States has about one in five preterm births.


There are many ways to help people learn and understand important information:

  1. To get involved or donate to your local March of Dimes chapter, find it on the map below and get in touch. Many chapters have fundraisers to share the message and help families of premature babies.
  2. Teach patients, family, and friends about the causes and risk factors for premature birth, so they can better understand and take precautions to avoid this condition:


  • Having a previous premature birth
  • Pregnancy with twins, triplets, or other multiples
  • An interval of fewer than six months between pregnancies
  • Conceiving through in vitro fertilization
  • Problems with the uterus, cervix, or placenta
  • Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs
  • Poor nutrition
  • Some infections, particularly of the amniotic fluid and lower genital tract
  • Some chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
  • Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or domestic violence
  • Multiple miscarriages or abortions
  • Physical injury or trauma
  • The unusual shape of the uterus


  1. Share information about premature infants and how your profession works to save those who are born too soon. Many premature infants suffer long-term effects such as breathing difficulties, impaired vision, and developmental delays.


  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Breathing and respiratory problems
  • Visual problems including retinopathy of prematurity
  • Hearing loss
  • Feeding and digestive problems


Many families and healthcare professionals are not aware of the risks to newborns, or of the advances that have been made in neonatal care to support them. World Prematurity Day is observed on November 17th each year to raise awareness about premature birth and its devastating consequences. While great strides have been made in identifying prematurity risks, there is always more work to be done. Let’s stand together to raise awareness!


What causes babies to be born prematurely?

There is no specific cause for premature birth. Some things increase your chances of having a premature birth. Pregnancy can be risky for several reasons, including previous premature birth, smoking, drinking alcohol, and using illicit drugs. Additionally, some infections can occur during pregnancy that can be harmful to the mother and her baby. Mothers with chronic health problems, like high blood pressure and diabetes, are also at increased risk for complications during pregnancy.


What health risks do premature babies face in the short term?

Babies who are born earlier will need more help and support than babies who are born later. Doctors care for premature babies in a neonatal intensive care unit, where they are closely monitored and receive specialized care. If a person cannot eat on their own, they can be fed through a stomach tube. Since premature babies don't have fully matured bodies or systems, they need help breathing, eating, staying warm, and fighting infection. Often, premature babies have underdeveloped lungs, such the lungs are one of the last organs to mature during gestation. A breathing tube and a ventilator can help a person breathe more easily. The doctor may prescribe additional tests, such as x-rays and blood work, to determine the cause of the symptoms. They will use medications to treat other conditions, including antibiotics.


What health risks do premature babies face in the long run?

The care and support that a baby receives in the hospital don't stop once they leave the hospital. The future looks bright for these young people. The baby’s medical team will work with the family to provide resources that will help parents continue providing support for the baby’s growth and development throughout childhood. In the long run, premature babies are more likely to have a wide range of problems, including cognitive difficulties, motor problems (including cerebral palsy), language delays, a wide range of emotional and behavioral problems, and dental issues. Neonatal doctors will help families transition to a plan that is specifically tailored to their baby's needs. Some health issues that are common in premature babies will require ongoing medical and educational support throughout their lifetime. This will help ensure that their best potential is reached. Babies are growing and develop rapidly during their first few months to years of life. The amount of time a baby spends in the NICU is important for their development. This program provides support for a baby's physical and neurological health in the hospital and beyond. These two are just getting started on their journey and there's a lot still ahead. The baby's medical team will work with the family to provide resources that will help parents provide support for the baby's growth and development throughout childhood.
Back to blog