Preterm Birth Rate Has Grown Worse for Second Straight Year

preterm birth
Image via Flickr/ Joshua Smith

November is Prematurity Awareness Month, and Friday, November 17 was World Prematurity Day. The March of Dimes is committed to cutting-edge research, education, and advocacy to help prevent the 15 million preterm births recorded globally each year. This includes about 380,000 preterm births in the United States. The March of Dimes envisions a world in which every baby has the opportunity to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, this is not the reality. Too many states are failing to make the grade when it comes to protecting vulnerable babies and achieving birth equity for all.

Preterm birth is a national health crisis that has grown worse for the second year in a row according to the 10th annual March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card. This is especially alarming because it is the second consecutive setback after years of steady improvement. The Report Card serves as a wake-up call to focus on the health conditions of our nation’s moms and babies. It shows the need for bolder action at state and city levels. Stacey Stewart, President of the March of Dimes, joined EverydayFamily’s Shiloh Johnson to give us more information. See the full interview here:

Preterm birth is responsible for 1.1 million infant deaths each year. This makes it the number one cause of death among children under age five worldwide and a leading cause of lifelong disabilities. Stewart explained that even if they survive, many preemies have lifelong health challenges, like physical disabilities, cognitive, or developmental delays. 

The latest data shows the U.S. preterm birth rate rose to 9.8 percent in 2016, an increase of 2% over the previous year. Preterm birth rates worsened in 43 states. Stewart stated, “1 in 10 babies is born too soon. This is a very serious concern.” 

This year’s Report Card also reveals major racial/ethnic and geographic disparities. This signifies that some babies have a higher chance of a preterm birth based simply on their race and zip code.

Stewart explained that yes, race and geographic area can have an impact on preterm birth. There is a disproportionate impact of preterm birth in certain communities of color, including African American, Hispanic, and Native American communities. Now, race and ethnicity are not the cause of preterm birth. The March of Dimes is trying to understand all the social factors, as well as the medical factors, that play a part in preterm birth. African-American have a 49% higher preterm rate when compared to white women. But prematurity can affect everyone, no matter their race or where they live.

Of course, there are things women can do to reduce the risk. Having great access to healthcare and maintaining your health before pregnancy can reduce preterm birth. Having good health care during your pregnancy lowers the risk. If you have a chronic health condition, try to get that taken care of before getting pregnant. Be aware that if you are pregnant you should avoid risky behaviors, like smoking. But preterm birth doesn't happen only because a woman hasn’t done all the right things. Sometimes babies are born too soon, even when everything is done right.

So, what can we do to help?

March of Dimes believes that a newborn baby deserves the healthiest start possible. Babies shouldn't have to suffer. This is a cause everyone should be involved in. Go to, get more information, give, and find volunteer opportunities. March of Dimes also engages in advocacy to make sure that policy at the state and federal level is conducive to promoting better health for moms and babies.

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Preterm Birth Rate Has Grown Worse for Second Straight Year

I've lived all over the place! I was born in Hawaii, grew up in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, enjoyed some time in the cities of the Bay Area, and even spent a few years in Arizona. These days I am living in beautiful Colorado and loving it. I live with my husband, baby boy, my mom, and our 5 pets (3 cats, 2 dogs). There's a lot of love in our little condo! A few of my favorite things include: Pretty dresses (especially ones I can wear while breastfeeding/pumping these days.) Tea parties wi ... More

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