GLENDALE, Ariz. - Friday is World Prematurity Day, a day to raise awareness about premature birth.
Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm or before 37 completed weeks of gestation. Premature birth is the leading cause of death for infants and the numbers are on the rise.
After falling 8 percent from 2007 to 2014, the preterm rate has increased for the second year in a row to 9.8 percent.
Here in Arizona, the rate is 9.1 percent.
At Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, doctors are hard at work taking care of premature babies, including baby Elizabeth.
“She is my little miracle baby, she was born Sept.28 at 26 weeks," said Courtney Maroney, mother to baby Elizabeth.
Baby Elizabeth weighed 1 pound, 11 ounces at birth. To put that into perspective, she weighed the same as four sticks of butter.
“She was definitely very tiny but she’s growing appropriately now," said Dr. Erin Tkach, a neonatologist at Banner Thunderbird.
For Courtney, having trouble breathing was the sign that something was wrong. Doctors diagnosed her with preeclampsia. Oftentimes, the only cure is delivery of the baby.
“It was very fast. I checked in at noon and she was delivered around four,” said Maroney.
Baby Elizabeth has a long road ahead but she is healthy.
“In order to go home, she just needs to learn how to eat on her own and get off the oxygen. Then she can go home and just be a baby,” said Dr. Tkach.
"Maybe she will be my Christmas present,” said Maroney.
Premature babies and their families spend many weeks in the hospital, which leads to quite the bond between family and doctors.
“They are usually here a while so we get really attached to them and the family. So we really want to see the best outcomes we can get," said Dr. Tkach.
The exact reason for why babies are born prematurely is still not known.
“Before you even think about getting pregnant, make sure you are staying healthy, I think that plays a big role in it, but we just don’t know. More research needs to be done," said Dr. Tkach.
As for the Maroney family at Banner Thunderbird, they are just thankful to have a new baby girl.
“I’m very lucky and blessed to have this opportunity to be her mom,” said Moroney.
If you’d like to donate to research programs for premature births, today March of Dimes is triple matching your donations. Visit www.marchofdimes.org to donate.