BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) — A women’s health group has graded Massachusetts with a B for having a premature birth rate of 10.5 percent. March of Dimes says that’s better than the national rate of nearly 12 percent, but they’re working to reduce premature births altogether.
“We have a goal to reduce that to 9.5 percent nationally by 2020,” said March of Dimes Massachusetts Chapter Director Edward Doherty.
Health experts say obesity and smoking are some of the leading factors contributing to premature births. A startling 16 percent of women smoke while pregnant.
“It is stunning because everyone knows that smoking leads to low birth weight and a low birth weight baby, if you know has not fully developed, very often has issues,” said Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset).
Lawmakers and health advocates hope to advance legislation next year that funds quit smoking programs, increases tobacco taxes, and expands newborn screenings for congenital heart conditions.
“The best thing that women can do who are anticipating a pregnancy is to try and have excellent nutrition, stop smoking, and start pregnancy at a normal maternal weight,” said Dr. Adam Wolfberg, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Boston.
Health experts also say there are higher rates of premature birth among Native Americans, African Americans and Hispanics. Lawmakers hope to promote women’s health education to address these disparities.
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