November is National Premature Awareness Month


From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale Burstein

November 13, 2013

CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/ Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov

Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925

November is National Premature Awareness Month

Babies Born before 37 Week Gestation Period Face Risk of Lifelong Health Issues

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Every year in the United States more than half a million babies are born prematurely[i] and the rate of premature births has risen by 36 percent over the last 25 years. In Erie County just over 1,000 babies, representing 11.3% of all births, are born prematurely[ii] (before the 37th week of the mother’s pregnancy).

 “Prematurity can cause health and learning problems for babies and throughout their lives. The earlier a baby is born, the more likely he or she will have health problems.” states Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health. “Some of these problems may not show up for several years, even into adulthood. By taking actions to educate pregnant women and their families about the need to prevent premature births, their babies will lead longer, healthier lives.”

Dr. Burstein continues: “It is very important to follow up with prenatal care and eat healthy. Women who smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs should quit at least until after delivery. Also, if at all possible, it's best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks to give your baby's body all the time it needs to grow. If your pregnancy is healthy, wait for labor to begin on its own.”

Babies born just a few weeks early are at risk of severe health problems and lifelong disabilities. In addition, premature birth is the number one killer of newborns. Premature babies can have breathing problems, low blood sugar and other complications that often result in longer hospital stays in neonatal intensive care units. As these premature babies grow, they are more likely to develop significant health problems such as cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, vision and hearing problems, and learning difficulties.

World Prematurity Day, observed on November 17, 2013, recognizes that more than one in 10 of all babies born worldwide are premature. World Prematurity Day aims to raise awareness the health concerns affecting preterm babies and the significant healthcare costs associated with those infants. More information is available at

For more information

[i] March of Dimes web site; The impact of premature birth on society

[ii] New York State Department of Health web site; Erie County Percentage of premature births with <37 weeks gestation

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