SHERMAN, TX - About 543,000 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. That increased 40 percent since 1980.
The Bryan County March of Dimes is working to create awareness of the growing problem. So is one local mother, who dealt not only with one premature baby, but two. Valerie Crabtree is the mother of twin girls, Ava and Gracie, both born prematurely a few weeks ahead of schedule.
"You know, it's kind of one of those things we had...I had a very good pregnancy. I just went into pre-term labor...and I delivered them 14 weeks early. They were born 26 weeks, she said."
Being born so early, the babies had several immediate medical problems; including low birth weight.
"Ava was sicker, whenever she was born she weighed two pounds and Gracie weighed one-eleven and Ava had a grade 3 bilateral brain bleed so she had to have some surgery, Crabtree said."
Luckily for Ava and Gracie, they didn't suffer any long-term effects. But some premature babies weren’t so lucky. In fact the March of Dimes said 1 in 8 premies will not see their first birthdays.
A baby is considered premature if they are born before 37 weeks, full-term is about 40 weeks. Kari Walker of the Bryan County March of Dimes said premature births are caused by many factors.
"Things that contribute to having premature are unhealthy lifestyle, drinking, drugs, smoking, but sometimes it's a perfectly healthy person and they have a premature baby," she said.
Doctor Jeff Hermann, an OB-GYN, said some of the causes are still a mystery.
"A vast majority of premature labor cases we don't have a reason for why it's happening. We call it idiopathic. And unfortunately, that's still an area of significant research," he said.
One of the biggest problems premature babies could face is potential lack of development of major organs--like the lungs, intestines and the brain. But recovery is possible.
"If it's due to lung immaturity, almost all of those babies we can handle, now, they may require a lot of care, but most of the time they do okay. The brain injuries, on the other hand, depends on the severity," Hermann said.
The March of Dimes distributes information to expectant mothers and the public about how to prevent premature births and raises money for research. They sponsor events including the march for babies and an annual luncheon.
Doctors also said that even if some of the causes of premature births are still unknown, the medical community is taking a pro-active approach to preventing them.
If you want to help out, log on to the March of Dimes: