TUESDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The United States is doing a poor job of reducing preterm births, according to a new report, which found Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have especially high numbers of early, life-threatening deliveries.
Vermont and New Hampshire were the only states with a preterm birth rate under 10 percent, while in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, the premature birth rate ranged from 16.5 to 18.3 percent.
Each year, the March of Dimes ranks each state according to its rate of premature births -- babies born before 37 weeks of gestation. Preterm births contribute to infant mortality and can put children at risk for lifelong problems, including cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities.
The U.S. premature birth rate was 12.7 percent in 2007 (the year the birth data was collected), nearly twice the goal of 7.6 percent set by the federal government's Healthy People 2010 campaign.