Preterm births rise 36 percent since early 1980s

Jan 07, 2009
Nearly 543,000 babies were born too soon in 2006, according to new government statistics release Wednesday. The nation's preterm birth rate (birth before 37 completed weeks gestation) rose to 12.8 percent in 2006 -- that’s a 36 percent increase since the early 1980s. Credit: March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center

New government statistics confirm that the decades-long rise in the United States preterm birth rate continues, putting more infants than ever at increased risk of death and disability.

Nearly 543,000 babies were born too soon in 2006, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which today released "Births: Final data for 2006," National Vital Statistics Reports; Vol. 57, No. 7. The nation's preterm birth rate (birth before 37 completed weeks gestation) rose to 12.8 percent in 2006 -- that's a 36 percent increase since the early 1980s.

The report attributed much of the increase to the growing number of late preterm infants (those born at 34 to 36 weeks gestation), which increased 25 percent since 1990. The report also noted an increase in preterm births to Hispanic women, while rates were unchanged for non-Hispanic whites and blacks. However, black women continue to have the highest preterm birth rate, at 18.5 percent.

The preterm birth rate continued to rise despite the fact that multiple births, a known risk factor for preterm birth, have begun to stabilize. The rate of twin births was unchanged in 2005 and 2006, and triplets and higher order multiples declined 5 percent in 2006.

"The health consequences for babies who survive an early birth can be devastating and we know that preterm birth exacts a toll on the entire family - emotionally and financially," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.

"We are committed to raising public awareness about premature birth, and we believe there are concrete steps we can take to solve this problem, including ensuring that all women of childbearing age have access to health insurance and expanding our nation's investment in research into the causes and strategies to prevent preterm birth," Dr. Howse continued.

Preterm birth is the leading cause of death in the first month of life and a contributing cause in more than a third of all infant deaths. Babies who survive an early birth face the risk of serious lifelong health problems and even late preterm infants have a greater risk of breathing problems, feeding difficulties, temperature instability (hypothermia), jaundice, delayed brain development and an increased risk of cerebral palsy and mental retardation.

Last month, the March of Dimes issued its first-ever Premature Birth Report Card, which gave the United States a "D" -- and not a single "A" to any state -- by comparing 2005 preterm birth rates to the national Healthy People 2010 objective of 7.6 percent. The report card is online at www.marchofdimes.com/petition .

Source: March of Dimes Foundation

Explore further: AMA examines economic impact of physicians

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Preterm birth rates improve in most states

Nov 17, 2010

Eight states earned a better grade on the 2010 March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card and 32 others and the District of Columbia saw their preterm birth rates improve.

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

11 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

11 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

12 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...