1 In 8 Babies Is Premature

Premature birth is the No. 1 killer of newborn babies and a major cause of serious health problems. On Prematurity Awareness Day, friends at the March of Dimes visited The Early Show with their pink and blue buses to spread the word about the dangers of premature births.

Here are some statistics:

  • Preemie births are up 30 percent since 1981
  • One in eight babies is premature
  • 1,367 preemies are born every day
  • 13 babies die every day

March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer Howse tells co-anchor Hannah Storm the prematurity rate is so high because so little is known about the causes and how to prevent premature births.

"That's why we have to invest in research," she says. "We are speaking to all women of child bearing age, women thinking about getting pregnant, in early stages of pregnancy. You can do everything right and still have a premature baby."

Genetics, biological problems, nutritional problems and oftentimes multiple births cause premature birth, Howse explains. And if you've already had a premature birth, you're more likely to have another one.

That is why she stresses it is very important for women to see a doctor early and often, and learn the signs and symptoms of pre-term labor.

"Risks need to be assessed early in a pregnancy so that work can be done to reduce those risks," she says.

The March of Dimes Web site lists questions women should ask their doctors.

"We've given women nine questions to ask their doctors so they can really focus when they go in for their preconception visit or prenatal visit, nine questions to ask that are related to the health of their pregnancy and how to reduce risks," she says.

Even thought there are many stories of premature babies who end up thriving thanks to the advances in medicine and technology, Howse says: "Some thrive and some don't. The ones who don't thrive have lifelong health consequences, which is why March of Dimes is going to fight this problem."

The March of Dimes is also trying to get the Preemie Bill through congress to "focus federal attention on a research agenda that is much needed," says Howse. To find out more about it, click here.

"The purpose of Prematurity Awareness Day is to alert the public, generate interest, and provide a resource for women to go to, to find out about pre-term birth and what they can do to try to prevent it," Howse says.