Being born too soon can cause long-term disabilities in children including cerebral palsy, developmental delays, respiratory problems and vision and hearing problems. According to the March of Dimes, 380,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the United States. The health of babies in the U.S. has taken a step backward as the nation’s preterm birth rate worsened for the first time in eight years.

We’re working hard with our partners, especially the March of Dimes and the Arizona Perinatal Trust to make a change in Arizona’s prematurity rate. Our goal is to decrease the prematurity rate, and to do so we’ve implemented several strategies . We support woman learning about pregnancy and baby Arizona through our Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program and through the Health Start Community Health Workers program.

There are things that women can do to help their health and lower the risk of having a premature baby such as:

  • Get regular dental checkups before and during pregnancy
  • Quit smoking and avoid substances such as alcohol or drugs
  • See your health care provider for a medical checkup before pregnancy
  • Work with your health care provider to control diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes
  • get prenatal care as soon as you think you may be pregnant and throughout the pregnancy
  • Discuss concerns during pregnancy with your health care provider, and seek medical attention for any warning signs or symptoms of preterm labor.

Once you’re pregnant, and if your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to let labor occur on its own and stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks. Many hospitals in Arizona have stopped doing elective C-sections and inductions before 39 weeks, because the baby’s brain and other vital organs are not yet fully developed. A baby’s brain at 35 weeks weighs only two thirds of what it will weigh at 39-40 weeks. Healthy babies are worth the wait.