African American women are at higher risk to deliver preterm, or premature, delivery is the most frequent cause of infant mortality, accounting for more than one third of all infant deaths during the first year of life. The infant mortality rate among black infants is 2.4 times higher than that of white infants, primarily due to preterm birth. In the United States, the risk of preterm birth for Non-Hispanic black women is approximately 1.5 times the rate seen in white women.

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A major challenge in decreasing the rate of preterm birth is the lack of knowledge about the causes and effective strategies for prevention. No screening tests exist to accurately identify women who deliver preterm; and approximately one-half of preterm births occur in women with no known risk factors.

Important Steps Women Can Take to Get Ready for a Healthy Pregnancy:

• Take a vitamin with 400 micrograms (mcg) folic acid every day.

• Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs.

• Keep hands clean by washing them often with soap and water to prevent infections.

• See a health care professional regularly. Talk with the health care professional about any medical problems (such as obesity, diabetes, seizures, etc.) and medicine use (both prescription and over-the-counter).

• Ask about avoiding any substances at work or at home that might be harmful to a developing baby.

• Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

• Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it.

• Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.

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