March of Dimes gives Georgia, 5 other states an 'F' over premature births

ATLANTA — It's a grade that the state of Georgia hopes to change.

The March of Dimes gave Georgia and five other states an "F" for women having premature babies.

The group says 11% of children in the state are born early.

Channel 2's Linda Stouffer went to Northside Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit where she found out how local families are getting support through a difficult process.

Premies can spend weeks, even months in the hospital.

"(They usually are) super sick. They can't have any clothes. There's nothing that feels normal around them," said Lauren Forkel with Northside Hospital.


Jennifer Shipe's twin boys, Guy and Calvin, were born three months premature.

"They were 3 pounds when they were born," Shipe told Stouffer. "The team in the NICU, they are superheroes. I always say like they would save my babies' lives every day."

The March of Dimes said 15,000 babies are born too soon every year in Georgia and the pre-term birth rate for black women in the state is 45% higher than all other women.

The nonprofit said Georgia needs to do a better job with medical care, education and insurance coverage.

"We're really trying to prevent premature birth and what it does to families and those long stays in the NICU. So, it's very important to have these partnerships," said Victoria Stamps with the March of Dimes.

The March of Dimes is now partnering with Atlanta-based Carter's to work with NICU nurses on a preemie clothing line.

Shipe told Stouffer the company gives the special outfits to 60,000 families a year. But she can also share something else: hope. Both of her premature twins are now strong and healthy 4-year-olds.

"They're so, so little. But those babies, they're so much stronger than you know," Forkel said.

Each year in the United States, the March of Dimes says more than 22,000 premature babies die. That's two babies every hour.