Premature birth rate up slightly in Wisconsin

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The number of premature births in Wisconsin inched up slightly in 2012 compared to the year before, according to a report released Friday.

The state’s pre-term birth rate at 10.5 percent, up one-tenth of a percent from 2011, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/Hs2NNF).

Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks’ gestation, can face serious and lifelong health problems, including developmental delays. Premature birth is the leading cause of infant death.

The Milwaukee Health Department says about 54 percent of infant deaths in the city are associated with premature birth.

Last year, 10.6 percent of babies born in Milwaukee were premature, down from 11.3 percent in 2011, according to the city’s preliminary data. The percentage of premature births went down among whites and blacks, but inched up for Hispanics and other minorities.

About 100 babies die in Milwaukee each year before their first birthday.

Premature birth costs the United States more than $26 billion a year, according to the Institute of Medicine. A premature birth costs businesses about 12 times as much as an uncomplicated healthy birth, according to the March of Dimes.

“We believe a focus on preventing premature births and promoting healthy birth outcomes should continue to be a top priority not only for our city, but for our country as a whole,” Milwaukee Commissioner of Health Bevan Baker said Thursday, in advance of the report’s release.

The national preterm birth rate peaked in 2006 at 12.8 percent after rising steadily for more than two decades, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The nation’s rate of births before 37 weeks of pregnancy dropped to a 15-year low of 11.5 percent in 2012, the sixth consecutive year the rate dropped. The 2012 rate reported Friday by the March of Dimes is a 10 percent improvement since the 2006 peak, and it’s the best rate since 1998.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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