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Arizona health groups work to combat premature births

Several health organizations in Arizona are teaming up in an effort to lower the state’s premature-birth rate.

“Prematurity is the leading cause of infant death in Arizona,” said Arizona Department of Health Services’ Sheila Sjolander.

“It’s extremely important for people to be healthy before there’s a pregnancy, before that inception occurs.”

Sjolander said a baby’s brain is not fully developed before 39 weeks and that’s why many state hospitals already stopped doing cesarean sections before then.

Sjolander said smoking and drinking prior to pregnancy increases the risk of premature births. She also recommends taking a folic acid supplement daily to prevent birth defects.