How to Observe Prematurity Awareness Month

According to the CDC, “each year, preterm birth affects nearly 500,000 babies—that’s 1 of every 8 infants born in the United States.  It is the most frequent cause of infant death, the leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children, and costs the U.S. health care system more than $26 billion each year.”

To most, that should be enough to explain why Prematurity Awareness Month is important.

To me, however, prematurity awareness month is also to help the world understand the individual stories of prematurity.  It’s to help people understand that prematurity doesn’t mean the baby just needs to stay in the hospital until he gets a little bigger and then he’ll, magically, by two, catch up to everyone else who had a birthday around his.

Last week as I was walking out of Kellen’s school with Owen, a special needs mother I had never met before mentioned that she’s been noticing Owen over time and was happy to see how big and strong he seems to getting.  We talked briefly, bonding as special needs moms who share a school that specializes in special needs and then she said, “he’s just a preemie?”  I know it was an innocent question, but what it felt like was another mom questioning my son’s special needs-ness.

Prematurity Awareness Month is helping people, like this woman, understand all of our stories.  It’s a month to help the world understand that each premature birth is different with different outcomes.  There are some 23 weekers that go on to have very few issues.  At the same time, there are some 35 weekers that go on to have significant issues.  The only assumption you can make is all premature births face risks.  Each year, 12 percent of newborns in the United States face those risks.  That is too many.

To put it into perspective, in the United States, each year 1.9 Million people are diagnosed with diabetes (American Diabetes Association); 900,000 people have a heart attack (CDC), there are 500,000 premature births (only includes live or considered viable births) and 230,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer (CDC).  Premature births are one of the BIG health care concerns for this country.  However, too many people do not understand the risks and very real outcomes of premature birth.  Please be a trumpet for the cause and help the world understand that research to help prevent premature births is necessary.  Help them understand each of our stories.  Make everyone aware that there is no such thing as being “just a preemie”.

In honor of Prematurity Month, please participate in spreading the word.  Here are ways you can participate.

  • Keep the message up all month, but be loudest on November 17, World Prematurity Awareness Day.  I will be posting facts and statistics about prematurity on Facebook and Twitter throughout the month, feel free to share with your community.
  • Stay connected with the community on the World Prematurity Facebook page
  • In support of the month, March of Dimes is launching their new campaign “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” share the information with your community.  Follow the national and your regional (MN in link, there is one for each state) March of Dimes pages on Facebook and Twitter.  For those of you in MN, tag your tweets with #39WeeksMN.  If you live in another state, ask your regional office what their hashtag is.

Let’s unite as one big voice so we can help the world better understand each of our children’s journey and work to help reduce the number of premature births.

Why is Prematurity Awareness month important to you?