Wyoming earned a “D” on the 2015 March of Dimes premature birth report card, according to a news release.

“Our state is not doing as well as we should in preventing premature births and too many of our babies must fight to overcome the health challenges of an early birth," said Dr. Shelley Springer, neonatologist with the Casper Children’s Center.

In Wyoming, 11.2 percent of all births were premature in 2014, compared to the March of Dimes 2020 goal of 8.1 percent.

"Premature birth is the number one killer of babies and many of our families still face that fear. There are large gaps in the preterm birth rate between communities in our state, and racial and ethnic disparities persist," said Springer, who is a board member for the March of Dimes Colorado/Wyoming Chapter.

The chapter has been working with the Wyoming Department of Health, the Wyoming Hospital Association, health care providers and insurers to launch a campaign aimed at reducing elective caeseran-sections and inductions that occur before 39 weeks.

Premature babies face serious and lifelong health problems with greater risk for respiratory distress after birth, more jaundice, breathing problems, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays.

The premature birth report card for the first time also graded the state’s counties and revealed persistent disparities between communities and among racial and ethnic groups.

The report card identified rates in these counties:

  • Albany -- 7.9 percent.
  • Laramie -- 9.0 percent.
  • Natrona -- 10.3 percent.
  • Campbell -- 11.2 percent.
  • Sweetwater -- 11.9 percent.
  • Fremont -- 15.4 percent.

Probable causes for higher premature birth rates include inadequate access to prenatal care, high rates of smoking, and lifestyle factors such as obesity.

More state results can be found at marchofdimes.org/reportcard.

Overall, the nation received a "C" on the report card, with Idaho, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington earning an “A. Nineteen states received a “B"; 18 states and the District of Columbia got a “C"; and six received a “D.”

Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico received an “F.”

The U.S. preterm birth rate ranks among the worst of high-resource countries, according to the March of Dimes.

The March of Dimes wants to lower the national preterm birth rate to 5.5 percent by 2030. Reaching that goal will mean 1.3 million fewer preterm babies, which will save about $70 billion.

Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm a year, and nearly one million die due to an early birth or its complications.

For more information, visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org. The March of Dimes also can be found on Facebook and Twitter.