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December 16, 2010

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RICHMOND – State Health Commissioner, Karen Remley, M.D., MBA, FAAP, announced today a decline in both premature births and teen pregnancies in Virginia. In the last five years, 1,085 more babies were carried to term, over 39 weeks of gestation, and the teen pregnancy rate in Virginia decreased 22% between 2000 and 2009.

“This success is the result of efforts among doctors, hospitals, nurses and all those who care for and care about women, families and babies,” said Dr. Remley. “Praise also goes to the many women in Virginia who have followed their doctors’ guidance to carry their babies to term, as well as the support of extended family, educators and faith based organizations that have played an important role in empowering families with the tools and knowledge they need to raise healthy, happy children.”

Babies born early face many potential health complications. Brain and lung development are linked to babies born before 39 weeks gestation. They often are not able to suck and swallow well or stay awake long enough to eat. Preterm babies are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital for jaundice, feeding difficulties and other conditions.

Babies born to teenage mothers are more likely to have low birth weights, which is a contributing factor to infant mortality. Compared to women who have children later, adolescent mothers are more likely to drop out of school, remain unmarried, and live in poverty. Teen mothers have higher rates of late entry into prenatal care, post-partum depression and physical abuse.

Organizations like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and March of Dimes have played a significant role in reducing the number of preterm births by urging doctors and nurses to initiate conversations with their patients about carrying their babies to term. Talking to women about the implications of elective induction on the health of their babies help those parents make informed decisions that impact the future of their children.

The State Health Commissioner’s Infant Mortality Work Group, established in 2008, has played a significant role in raising awareness about infant mortality rates in Virginia. Members represent the private medical community, managed healthcare, several state agencies and community groups such as the March of Dimes. Through the collaborative nature of this group, key issues are identified and addressed.

“We are excited by the good news we’ve received, but there is still much to be done to continue this downward trend,” said Dr. Remley. “It is important for public health to work closely with the entire community to better understand the specific challenges we face and how best to prepare new parents for success.”

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Last Updated: 07-30-2011

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