September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - With the start of September comes the effort to raise awareness to the number of babies who never make it to their first birthday. The goal of Infant Mortality Awareness Month is to increase national awareness of the many reasons why thousands of infants don't survive.

While increased awareness has helped lower numbers in infant mortality rates both in Georgia and in South Carolina, health professionals say that efforts must continue.

"We've made great strides, it's just the rest of the world seems to be doing a little better job and we want to look at ourselves and say how can we do a better job," said Dr. Mark Newton,  the Medical Director of Emergency Services at Doctors Hospital. "Every child deserves a chance to reach their first birthday."

More than half of all infant deaths in the United States are caused from things like babies who are malnourished to those who are born premature.

"Prematurity or being born before 37 weeks seems to be the leading cause of kids who have the toughest times with all the challenges that there can be in your first year of life," Newton said.

Babies born before that period are also more likely to have breathing problems and developmental delays, according to various published studies. While in many cases there is little that can be done to prevent this, education and mothers taking better care of themselves can help.

"That would include not smoking, being careful with alcohol consumption and other drugs," Newton said.