Premature births are on the rise for the first time in a decade

WHITE PLAINS, NY (NBC News) – A new survey from the March of Dimes finds that after nearly a decade of decline the preterm birth rate has gone up.

The increase last year was slight, from 9.57 to 9.63 percent. Still, that represents 2,000 more babies born too soon, before 37 weeks gestation and before their lungs and brains are fully developed.

The rise earned the United States a “C” grade in this year’s March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.

The four states that earned an “A” are New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Three received failing grades: Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“It’s hard work – getting the preterm birth rate down. We’ve always known that,” says Dr. Ed McCabe of the March of Dimes. “And this year shows us with the uptick in preterm birth rate. So we’ve got to work harder.”

Part of that work will require renewed focus on African American and other women in racial and ethnic minority groups.

That’s where the rise in preterm births was most pronounced.

The March of Dimes also says elective c-sections should not occur before 39 weeks gestation. That’s the point at which the brain is most likely to be fully developed. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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