Slight Improvements in Preterm Birth Rates
U.S. Still Behind Other Industrialized Countries
A Global Problem
Worldwide, an estimated 13 million babies are born premature or before 37 weeks' gestation and 1 million die as a result of an early birth. In the U.S., more than a half million babies are born premature every year. Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and those infants who survive face a risk of several disabilities, including respiratory problems, developmental problems, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities.
The final weeks of pregnancy are critical because an infant’s organs aren’t fully developed until after 37 weeks' gestation. The March of Dimes recommends reducing the risk of premature birth by increasing preconception and prenatal care, reducing smoking, avoiding multiples from fertility treatments, and avoiding unnecessary cesarean deliveries and inductions before 39 weeks of pregnancy.