State health officials hope a new campaign will discourage Minnesota mothers from choosing to give birth early. An estimated ten percent of births in the state are premature. The Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait campaign coordinated with the March of Dimes is aimed at reducing elective deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy.
Historically, some authorities have considered babies to be full term at 37 weeks. But research shows some of the most important development of the brain and lungs -- including a big increase in the weight of the brain -- occur during the last few weeks of pregnancy.
The March of Dimes gave Minnesota a B grade on its Premature Birth Report Card and hopes the campaign will help the premature birth rate fall further. Minnesota's rate is better than the national average of more than 11 percent. But that national figure is falling and is now at a ten-year low.