OPERALYNN / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
Louisiana received a grade of "F" on March of Dimes' annual Premature Birth Report Card
for its high rate of premature births.
According to the report, 12.6 percent of Louisiana babies were born prematurely in 2016. The national average for premature births in 2016 was 9.8 percent, a number which has risen since 2015.
Babies born prematurely have a higher risk of several medical conditions, some of which are quite serious. According to the Mayo Clinic, premature deliveries can lead to long-term problems including chronic health issues, hearing and vision difficulties and cognitive impairments, in addition to complications immediately after birth.
Louisiana joins Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia and Puerto Rico with the country's highest rates of premature deliveries.
In the most recent local data offered in the report, preterm birth rates were highest in Caddo and East Baton Rouge parishes. In 2015 the preterm birth rate improved in Orleans Parish but worsened in Jefferson Parish, rising from 10.7 to 10.9 percent of deliveries in that parish.
In Louisiana, from the years 2013-2015, an average of 15.6 percent of babies born to black women in the state arrived ahead of schedule. This mirrors March of Dimes' national data, which found wide geographic and racial disparities in preterm birth rates across the U.S.
The organization said black women are 49 percent more likely and Native American women are 18 percent more likely to have premature deliveries, putting children of those backgrounds at risk.
These racial disparities also have widened since March of Dimes began collecting baseline data in 2010.