Premature birth rate up slightly in the state

A new report shows the number of premature births in the state inched up slightly in 2012 compared to the year before.

The March of Dimes report released Friday pegs the state’s pre-term birth rate at 10.5 percent, up one-tenth of a percent from 2011.

Babies born prematurely can face serious and lifelong health problems, including developmental delays. Premature birth is the leading cause of infant death. The Milwaukee Health Department says about 54 percent of infant deaths in the city are associated with premature birth.

The Journal Sentinel says the nation’s rate of births before 37 weeks of pregnancy dropped for the sixth year in a row in 2012 to 11.5 percent.