November 17 is World Prematurity Day and for the first time in eight years, the U.S. is seeing an increase of premature births.
According to a new report by the March of Dimes, Wisconsin is one of seven states to see an increase of preterm births since 2014.
Despite medical advancements to prevent preterm births, the U.S. currently lags behind some less developed countries.
Preterm births are the largest cause of infant deaths in the U.S. The U.S. earned a C grade.
"There is a wide variety of reasons why babies are born premature. Some of those reasons are preventable, for example, not performing elective deliveries before a baby reaches their due date," said Kate Richmond, medical director of the NICU at Gundersen Health System.
But Dr. Richmond says other reasons are harder to tackle.
"So for example in Wisconsin, a woman of color, has a 44 percent increased risk of having a baby born prematurely, this of course is also related to socioeconomic status, insurability. and access to good prenatal care," she said.
Premature births typically happen when a child is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. In 2015, preterm births in the U.S. increased from 9.57 to 9.63 percent. But Gundersen doctors say there are some things expectant mothers can do to help prevent that number from growing.
"To get prenatal care early, and to provide a good history especially if you had preterm labor in a prior pregnancy, give your physician all of the information that he or she would need or your midwife, provider so that some of those things can be identified certainly a history of a preterm will increase your risk in a subsequent pregnancy," said Mary Kuffel, a physician at Gundersen Health System.
Premature babies born earlier and smaller, are at a higher risk of not surviving and being discharged from the hospital. And doctors say the smaller the baby, the bigger the challenge.
"All of their organ systems are born immature particularly their lungs and their heart, they often need to be intubated, breathe with a respirator, and given lots of medicines to help essentially take them sometimes through their whole third trimester of pregnancy outside the womb," Richmond said.
And to help get rid of this epidemic, providers say different measures have been in the works, but it'll most likely take five to ten years to see results.
"Cervical cancer screening, has become much different now such that we are not intervening as early to do procedures on women's cervixes that can cause preterm labor in a subsequent pregnancy," Kuffel said. According to the March of Dimes, the U.S. should lower the rate of preterm births to 8.1 percent by 2020 to be among countries with the lowest rates.
The U.S. spends 20 billion dollars a year in premature birth healthcare costs.