Drivers traveling along Campbell Avenue may do a double-take Tuesday evening when they pass University Medical Center, which will be aglow with pink and blue lights to bring attention to the perils of premature birth in the United States.
Tuesday, Nov. 13 is Prematurity Awareness Day, conducted annually by the March of Dimes. All over the country, from Hoover Dam to the Empire State Building to Tucson’s own UMC, more than 100 sites are hosting lighting ceremonies to put a spotlight on pre-term birth, the number one killer of American newborns.
Each week, more than 200 babies are born prematurely in Arizona. Babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy (a normal pregnancy is 40 weeks) are at risk for blindness, hearing impairment, learning difficulties, respiratory illness and other health problems, said Melissa Perillo, RN, manager of UMC s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Preterm labor and delivery can affect any pregnant woman. Prematurity is increasing in the Untied States and physicians are not sure why. In the past 20 years, premature birth has increased by nearly 30 percent.
The rate of preterm birth in Arizona is highest for Black infants, followed by Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Whites.
UMC and the March of Dimes encourage pregnant women to make regular visits to their doctor and dentist. Recent studies suggest that women with periodontal disease in their second trimester are seven times more likely to give birth prematurely.