Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Baby

Font Size

Medical Bills Soar With Premature Babies

Costs Are Much Higher for Babies Born Prematurely
WebMD Health News

March 28, 2005 -- Premature babies bring much higher medical bills in their first year of life than full-term babies.

The costs, reported by the March of Dimes, underscore the challenges facing premature babies, who are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Those infants are more likely to die or have complications and disabilities than full-term babies.

Prematurity is the No. 1 killer of newborns, says the March of Dimes. Medical advances can help keep young, tiny babies alive. Still, the earlier a baby is born, the more likely they are to face problems.

No one can completely eliminate the chance of early delivery. However, getting prenatal care and following general guidelines for a healthy pregnancy help reduce the risk.

Growing Numbers of Premature Babies

More and more babies are being born early in America. The numbers have notched upwards for more than 20 years.

The reasons why aren't totally clear. Increases in older mothers and multiple births (such as twins) could have something to do with it. Premature babies are also more common among African-American women and women younger than 17 or older than 35. About half a million premature babies were born in 2003, the journal Pediatrics reported earlier this month. That's 12.3% of all babies, a slight increase from 2002.

The number is up 16% since 1990, says the Pediatrics study. Since 1981, the number has skyrocketed by 29%, says the March of Dimes.

Any pregnancy can result in a premature birth. However, risk factors include:

  • Lack of prenatal care
  • Cervical infection
  • Previous preterm labor or premature birth
  • Pregnancy with more than one baby (such as twins or triplets)
  • Age (younger than 18 or older than 40 years)
  • Race (premature births are less common in white women)
  • Poverty
  • Exposure to the medication DES (diethylstilbestrol)
  • Certain structural abnormalities of the cervix or uterus
  • Smoking or using cocaine during pregnancy
  • Becoming pregnant while using an IUD and leaving it in place during the pregnancy
  • Being seriously underweight when becoming pregnant
  • Previous second-trimester miscarriages or three or more elective abortions
  • Extremely physical, strenuous work

Call a doctor at the first sign of preterm labor. It may possible to delay the baby's birth or improve the outcome of an early birth.

Baby's First Year Newsletter

Because every week matters, get expert advice and facts on what to expect in your baby's first year.

Today on WebMD

mother on phone holding baby
When you should call 911.
parents and baby
Unexpected ways your life will change.
baby acne
What’s normal – and what’s not.
baby asleep on moms shoulder
Help your baby get the sleep he needs.

mother holding baby at night
mother with sick child
Chinese mother breast feeding newborn baby girl
Track Your Babys Vaccines
Baby Napping 10 Dos And Donts
Woman holding feet up to camera
Father kissing newborn baby
baby gear slideshow