U.S. one of the highest for preterm births

U.S. one of the highest for preterm births

The March of Dimes is calling for action to reduce the number of preterm births (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) in the United States and worldwide. Each year, 15 million babies are born too soon. Last year, 450,000 of them were born in the U.S. The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth reported preterm birth rates range from 5 to 18 percent across 184 countries worldwide. The U.S. has one of the highest rates at 11.4 percent.

“The United States spends more money per capita on health care than almost any other country in the world, and yet our premature birth rate and our infant mortality rate are among the highest,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes in a release.

The March of Dimes would like to see a 50 percent reduction in preterm births by 2030, with a goal of 5.5 percent of all live births being preterm. They will be studying countries with low rates and continuing to promote interventions known to prevent premature birth, including the following:

  • Eliminating early elective deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy
  • Optimizing birth spacing (18-23 months between pregnancies)
  • Helping women quit smoking
  • Offering progesterone treatments for all women with a prior preterm birth
  • Reducing multiple births by following fertility treatment best practices
  • Offering low-dose aspirin to prevent pre-eclampsia in women with high risk pregnancies.

Complications from a preterm birth can include breathing problems, feeding difficulties, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, vision problems and hearing impairments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reports from the Illinois Department of Public Health show the rate of preterm birth in Illinois averages around 12 percent with the highest rate being among black infants at 18.1 percent, followed by Hispanics, Native Americans, whites and Asians.

Despite ranking in the top 10 for preterm births in the world, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. is considerably lower than other countries with high preterm birth rates.

“We really need to give a lot of thanks to the neonatologists, obstetricians and maternal-fetal medicine folks for the advances in the care of the premature infant,” says Dr. Aaron Traeger, pediatrician at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Children that would have died decades ago are now surviving and those infants that were surviving just to have long term complications are now having a greatly improved quality of life.”

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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.