The March of Dimes has released a report revealing the rate of premature births are on the decline, but experts still believe the rate is too high. In the United States, premature birth rates dropped by 4% between 2006 and 2008. The March of Dimes published the report on Prematurity Awareness Day.

Despite the drop, according to the Healthy People 2010 goals, the United States still receives a “D” grade for premature births. The grading system is based on goals for a healthier population. If the goals are not met, the United States receives a bad grade. The impact of premature births is even greater when the numbers in the United States are compared to other industrialized countries – the United States is not reducing premature birth rates fast enough.

Researchers noted that ¾ of the total premature  births were attributed to infants born just a few weeks shy of full-term. While the effect of the Healthy People 2010 goals may not have been met, there is at least a positive change toward fewer premature infants being born in the United States.

The effect of premature delivery is two-fold. Medical costs for the 500,000 premature deliveries in the United States each year tops out at around $26 million. In addition, the physical and mental effects of premature birth can last a lifetime, increasing health care costs and decreasing quality of life. In some cases, premature delivery ends in death of the infant.

Source: March of Dimes.