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    Medical Bills Soar With Premature Babies

    Costs Are Much Higher for Babies Born Prematurely
    WebMD Health News

    March 28, 2005 -- Premature babies bring much higher medical bills in their first year of life than full-term babies.

    The costs, reported by the March of Dimes, underscore the challenges facing premature babies, who are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Those infants are more likely to die or have complications and disabilities than full-term babies.

    Prematurity is the No. 1 killer of newborns, says the March of Dimes. Medical advances can help keep young, tiny babies alive. Still, the earlier a baby is born, the more likely they are to face problems.

    No one can completely eliminate the chance of early delivery. However, getting prenatal care and following general guidelines for a healthy pregnancy help reduce the risk.

    Growing Numbers of Premature Babies

    More and more babies are being born early in America. The numbers have notched upwards for more than 20 years.

    The reasons why aren't totally clear. Increases in older mothers and multiple births (such as twins) could have something to do with it. Premature babies are also more common among African-American women and women younger than 17 or older than 35. About half a million premature babies were born in 2003, the journal Pediatrics reported earlier this month. That's 12.3% of all babies, a slight increase from 2002.

    The number is up 16% since 1990, says the Pediatrics study. Since 1981, the number has skyrocketed by 29%, says the March of Dimes.

    Any pregnancy can result in a premature birth. However, risk factors include:

    • Lack of prenatal care
    • Cervical infection
    • Previous preterm labor or premature birth
    • Pregnancy with more than one baby (such as twins or triplets)
    • Age (younger than 18 or older than 40 years)
    • Race (premature births are less common in white women)
    • Poverty
    • Exposure to the medication DES (diethylstilbestrol)
    • Certain structural abnormalities of the cervix or uterus
    • Smoking or using cocaine during pregnancy
    • Becoming pregnant while using an IUD and leaving it in place during the pregnancy
    • Being seriously underweight when becoming pregnant
    • Previous second-trimester miscarriages or three or more elective abortions
    • Extremely physical, strenuous work

    Call a doctor at the first sign of preterm labor. It may possible to delay the baby's birth or improve the outcome of an early birth.

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