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Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEWORLEANS- Louisiana fails when it comes to having healthy newborns.

That word from the March of Dimes, that says we lose our most valuable commodity, children's health, when it comes to pre-mature babies.

Louisiana gets an 'F' because last year 15.6 percent of babies were born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. There were two main causes: smoking during pregnancy, a known danger, and the number of mothers-to-be without health insurance, who don't get regular prenatal doctor care.

'Part of what we do is education and we're watching the blood pressure and we're hounding her habits, including smoking cigarettes. We do a drug screen on everyone who starts with us in pregnancy,' explained Dr. John Hevron, the chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at East Jefferson General Hospital.

'In the city of New Orleans, we like to eat and drink and have a good time. And unfortunately, our moms-to-be are falling into that rut. And we need to have good prenatal care, eat the right foods, don't smoke, don't drink (alcohol) and make sure we take our prenatal vitamins, folic acid being the most important, so that our babies can be healthy,' explained Katherine Olivard, Division Director of the March of Dimes of Greater New Orleans.

But a third cause of preterm birth may surprise you. It's by choice. Mother and doctor convenience, or wanting to avoid the last uncomfortable week or so of pregnancy are some of the reasons. So East Jefferson General Hospital and it's OB-Gyns, stopped inducing early.

'In the last four years, we've cut our pre-39-week-delivery-rate from about 22 percent to a fraction of a percent,' said Dr. Hevron.

Studies show for ideal health, gestation or pregnancy should last 39 to 41 weeks. Doctors many years ago thought it was okay to deliver earlier, but they experienced babies having complications in the NICU.

'The brain is developing up until 38, 39 weeks, and we find that babies who are born before 39 weeks have a higher incidence of all kinds of complications, including immature lungs, where they end up in the intensive care unit in the nursery on a respirator. Perhaps their ability to swallow, to feed, is maybe a little be delayed,' added Dr. Hevron.

Some of the complications from premature delivery are to the lungs, ability to swallow, eat, sepsis, which can be deadly, blood sugar problems, cerebral palsy, behavior problems. Complications in a pre-term baby can even last for life.

The March of Dimes also has a free exams in its mobile pregnancy and well baby clinic. To find out its locations call: 504-264-9288.

There are times doctors should induce labor and deliver the baby. That is when there are medical complications that threaten the life of the mother and baby. Also doctors say there can be medical complications if babies go longer than 41 weeks.

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