The premature birth rate in the Carolinas is on the rise. These cities fare the worst.

The premature birth rate in the Carolinas is on the rise. These cities fare the worst.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (LaVendrick Smith | The Charlotte Observer) - The number of premature births is increasing in the Carolinas, according to results from a study by the March of Dimes.

North and South Carolina were among the 43 states where the premature birth rate got worse in 2016. They were also two of the 11 states to receive a D grade on the report, which looked at how each state fared with premature births compared to 2015. The report card compares a state's rate — 10.4 in North Carolina and 11.2 in South Carolina — to the organization's national goal of 8 percent by 2020.

Charlotte got a D in the study's review of 100 cities. The city's premature birth rate is 10.4 percent, according to the study.

Durham, at 10.5 percent, is also considered a D city. Raleigh, which has a 9.9 percent rate of premature births, got a C.

Forsyth and Cumberland counties have the worst premature birth rates in the state, with Fayetteville's rate at 12.6. That's a failing grade, according to the study.

In South Carolina, many major counties got low grades. Richland County got an F, with a 11.2-percent rate. Greenville, Spartanburg and Charleston counties each received a D, with rates above 10 percent.

Some other notable facts from the March of Dimes study:

  • Only four states received an A: Washington, Oregon, New Hampshire and Vermont.
  • Four states received an F: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia. Puerto Rico also received a failing grade.
  • The national premature birth rate is 9.8 percent, earning the country a C.
  • Premature births particularly impact women of color, with black women 49 percent more likely to have a premature birth than white women, and American Indian women 18 percent more likely than white women.

The organization released the results of their study Wednesday, and announced areas of focus it will take action on to work toward their goal for 2020. Ideas include increasing the number of women who don't smoke during their pregnancy, and persuading women to not get pregnant again for at least 18 months after having a baby.