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March of Dimes Launches Premature Birth Campaign

Updated - Feb. 10, 2003 at 8:59 a.m. | Posted - Feb. 10, 2003 at 8:57 a.m.



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When Tracy Curry was pregnant, she did her best to do everything right.

"I don't drink and I've never smoked, and I've not done anything I would say that's detrimental to your health," she says. "And I've excerised all my life. I went to my doctor, I went to my regular check ups."

Even so, she delivered her son Britt twelve weeks early.

"His body could fit in the palm of my hands with his legs dangling. So, he was very small," she says.

Tracy's story is all too common. One out of every eight babies born in the United States is born early.

Premature birth. It's the leading cause of infant death and childhood suffering, including cerebral palsy, mental retardation, blindness and deafness.

Doctor Elliott Main, who is an expert on high-risk pregnancy,says it's a growing problem in the United States.

"The rate of preterm birth has increased by 27% over the last 15 years. It is the worst that we have done on any national indicator of health. The great tragedy of this century is that this is the leading problem in obstetrics and yet we're no further along with causes than we were 50 years ago," Dr. Main says.

The March of Dimes hopes to change that with public service announcements and a $75-million campaign to fight prematurity.

It's trying to raise awareness about the problem and fund research into ways to prevent it.

We know lifestyle choices, such as smoking, drugs, and alcohol, increase the risk of premature birth. But there's still a lot we don't know.

Tracy says even though her son is doing well now, she hopes the campaign will help other families avoid the pain she went through.

There's a long way to go. The United States has almost double the rate of premature births compared to France, Canada, and many other developed countries.

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