Mississippi State Department of Health

Premature births are a major public health challenge in Mississippi. Prematurity puts newborns at risk for health and developmental problems as they grow, and is a leading cause of early death.

That's why MSDH is working to keep pregnant women healthy throughout a full-term pregnancy to give all children the best start in life.

Premature Births and Public Health

The Problem

About 17 percent of babies in Mississippi are born too early (before 39 weeks of pregnancy). Compared to a national average of about 12%, it puts the state among the top five in the rate of premature births year after year. The problem is even greater for minorities, particularly African-American women, where rates can be greater than 20% — one child in five. The final weeks of pregnancy are important ones for the development of vital organs such as the brain, lungs and liver. It is important for mothers not to rush the delivery of their babies as early elective deliveries before 39 weeks place infants at greater risk of breathing complications and even death. Infants born prematurely are at risk of delayed development and chronic medical problems as they grow into childhood.

The Challenge

Geographic and economic disparities mean that many mothers-to-be find themselves without nearby and accessible health care before and during pregnancy, the first step toward a healthy child. Higher rates of obesity and tobacco use also raise the chance that a child will be born prematurely. The combination of these widespread factors make prematurity a challenging public health problem, but one that must be addressed.

What We're Doing

We're fighting this complex problem in many ways:


Progress in some key areas related to premature birth means that we can expect Mississippi's rate to fall over time.

Giving Babies a Healthy Start

Mothers-to-be can give their babies the best start in life by:

Even women who are not currently planning to become pregnant should stay healthy since half of all pregnancies are unplanned.

Find Out More

Links referenced

Find this page at http://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/index.cfm/index.cfm

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