November: National Prematurity Awareness Month

  • 1 in 8 babies is born prematurely in the United States.
  • 500,000 babies are born too soon each year in the U.S.
  • Worldwide, 15 million babies are born too soon each year.


November is Prematurity Awareness Month and the March of Dimes focuses on premature birth and saving lives. November 17 is World Prematurity Day. Increasing awareness is one of the important strategies of the campaign to lower the risk of preterm birth and support parents raising kids in the Richmond area.

Risks of Premature Birth

Premature babies are at risk for serious medical complications, including respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). RDS causes babies to struggle to breathe because their tiny lungs are immature and do not produce enough protein to keep the small air sacs from collapsing.

Premature babies are also at risk for:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Jaundice
  • Anemia
  • Lung complications
  • Infections such as pneumonia, meningitis, and others
  • Bleeding of the brain
  • Heart problems
  • Autism
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Vision and hearing loss

Causes of Premature Birth 

(Source of information: March of Dimes)

There are many causes of premature birth, including idiopathic labor which is ‘labor with no known cause’. Other causes are:

  • Infections/inflammation
  • Maternal or fetal stress
  • Bleeding
  • Stretching of the uterus
  • Previous preterm birth
  • Uterine or cervical abnormalities
  • Multiple gestation (more than one baby)
  • Inductions
  • Cesarean Sections

Some lifestyle factors affecting preterm birth include:

  • Smoking
  • Late or insufficient prenatal care
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Illegal drug use
  • Domestic violence and/or abuse
  • Lack of social support
  • High stress levels
  • Environmental pollutants exposure

In addition, certain medical conditions can lead to increased risk of premature labor:

  • Diabetes
  • Infections
  • High blood pressure (preeclampsia)
  • IVF
  • Being underweight before pregnancy
  • Obesity

There are ways that women can help avoid or delay premature labor and premature birth. One important thing is to seek early prenatal care and continue seeing a doctor once you confirm pregnancy. Also, when possible, prepare for pregnancy ahead of time by avoiding smoking and alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and managing weight (under and over-weight).

March of Dimes Team Youth

Take Action

There are many ways to get involved with the prematurity awareness campaign.

Help increase awareness of the importance of healthy pregnancies and avoiding preterm labor. National Prematurity Awareness Month in November is a good time to become more involved with activities to raise money and awareness for education, research, and support.

Raising kids in the Richmond area includes increasing awareness of premature birth – get involved and make a positive difference.