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Prematurity, defined as a birth prior to 37 weeks gestational age, is one of the most challenging public health issues in America.

Nearly 12 percent of all babies born in the United States are born preterm.

In North Carolina 10.4 percent of births, 12,750 babies, were born preterm in 2011. Preterm birth may be preceded by early rupture of membranes or preterm labor. This leads to hospitalizations of days or weeks for mothers as doctors attempt to try and prevent an early delivery.

In the case of a very preterm birth (VPB), defined as an infant born at less than 32 weeks gestation, hospitalizations from 4-16 weeks can be expected.

While keeping vigil at the bedside, many mothers will see their baby have a breathing tube placed, live on a ventilator for days to weeks, intravenous lines inserted in the belly button and veins, and feedings delivered through feeding tubes. A mother may watch helplessly as her baby develops life-threatening infections or conditions requiring surgery.

After days or weeks of struggling, this heroic infant may be one of the 20 percent that does not survive.

As staggering as the emotional and social toll of this epidemic is, equally devastating is the financial impact.

The estimated annual cost for care attributable to preterm birth in the United States is $26 billion.1
Over the last two decades, the percentage of preterm deliveries has risen 20 percent.2

Annually in the U.S., 80,000 births are classified as VPB. VPBs constitute two percent of all births 3, and in developed nations, VPB is the leading cause of death in newborns.

While medical advances have allowed infants as young as 22 weeks gestation to survive, the chances for survival diminish with decreasing gestational age.

The VPB infants that do survive are at risk for lifelong complications, including breathing problems, cerebral palsy, autism, blindness and mental retardation

[Dr. Martin McCaffrey (U. North Carolina) 2013 article entitled "Abortion's Impact on Prematurity"
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