But what does the future hold for these babies? Many survivors grow up healthy; others aren't so lucky. Even the best of care cannot always spare a premature baby from lasting disabilities such as cerebral palsy; mental retardation and learning problems; chronic lung disease; and vision and hearing problems. Half of all neurological disabilities in children are related to premature birth.
Although doctors have made tremendous advances in caring for babies born too small and too soon, we need to find out how to prevent preterm birth from happening in the first place. Despite decades of research, scientists have not yet developed effective ways to help prevent premature delivery.
In fact, the rate of premature birth increased by more than 20 percent between 1990 and 2006. This trend and the dynamics underlying it underscore the critical importance and timeliness of the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign. The rate fell to 12.3 percent in 2008 from 12.7 in 2007, a small but statistically significant decrease.
We were one of the lucky ones. Our baby came home and has thrived despite her early and tumultuous beginning. Every day I'm reminded of the fear of having a high risk pregnancy and a baby born too soon. Even looking at my full-term miracle reminds me of how hard Emma fought and how lucky we are to have her.