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How Virginia is making sure more babies live to celebrate their first birthday

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RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia’s infant mortality rate fell more than 18 percent from 2007 to 2012. That means nearly 200 more babies a year survived to celebrate their first birthday, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). The VDH released its report on November 17, World Prematurity Day. Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death in the United States.

Premature babies in the NICU nursery at Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital in Richmond were dressed in purple hats and onesies in honor of World Prematurity Day on Monday, Nov. 17.  (PHOTO: Doug Buerlein Photography)

Premature babies in the NICU nursery at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital were dressed in purple hats and onesies in honor of World Prematurity Day (PHOTO: Doug Buerlein Photography)

 

The state credited the drop in Virginia’s infant mortality rate to “strong collaborative networks among public, private and non-profit organizations focusing on evidence-based methods.” One such example the state cited was the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) effort to educate women about potential dangers of electing to give birth less than 39 weeks into the pregnancy.

“Best practice research has shown that babies who are born after 39 weeks of gestation tend to be healthier than those born sooner,” Abraham Segres, VHHA Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety, said. “These babies also tend to have better developed organs, eat and thrive better, and have less difficulty breathing.”

Premature babies in the NICU nursery at Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital in Richmond were dressed in purple hats and onesies in honor of World Prematurity Day.  (PHOTO: Doug Buerlein Photography)

Premature babies in the NICU nursery at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond were dressed in purple hats and onesies in honor of World Prematurity Day. (PHOTO: Doug Buerlein Photography)

The state said its efforts helped to reduce the number of early elective deliveries (EED) that occurred between 37 and 39 weeks of gestation from 4.76 percent to less than 1 percent.

“The increase in the number of thriving babies in Virginia is something to celebrate,” State Health Commissioner Marissa Levine said. “But we cannot rest on these victories while disparities continue to persist. Reducing rates does not happen overnight. It demands persistence, dedication and collaboration. Building upon the milestones we’ve achieved in recent years, we can achieve our goal of being the healthiest state in the nation, starting with our infants.”

To mark World Prematurity Day, Bon Secours Richmond Health System dressed premature babies in its nursery in purple hats and onesies.

Premature babies in the NICU nursery at Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital in Richmond were dressed in purple hats and onesies in honor of World Prematurity Day.  (PHOTO: Doug Buerlein Photography)

Premature babies in the NICU nursery at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond were dressed in purple hats and onesies in honor of World Prematurity Day. (PHOTO: Doug Buerlein Photography)

“This is an international recognition day to focus on the importance of delivering full-term babies,” Bon Secours Richmond Health System wrote in a statement. “Purple is the official color of the March of Dimes, an organization that works for stronger, healthier babies.”

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