Premature Births Down in U.S., but Rates Still High

Premature Births Down in U.S., but Rates Still High
Premature Births Down in U.S., but Rates Still High

(HealthDay News) — Preterm births in the United States fell to 11.4% in 2013, the lowest rate in 17 years, the March of Dimes reported Thursday. And since 2005, the rate of preterm deliveries has declined consistently each year for the first time in more than two decades, according to an unrelated study published online November 5 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, and Cande V. Ananth, PhD, MPH, of Columbia University in New York City, looked at U.S. vital statistics data on 19,984,436 single, live births from 2005–2012. The spontaneous preterm delivery rate fell 15.4% during those years, reaching about 4.5% two years ago. Meanwhile, the rate of indicated preterm delivery fell from 3.9 to 3.2% in that time period, representing a decline of more than 17%.

Despite noteworthy progress, the March of Dimes' annual report card on premature births awarded the nation a "C" grade. That's because even though it met the federal Healthy People 2020 goal seven years early, it fell short of the more ambitious 9.6% goal set by the March of Dimes. Overall, the U.S. rate of preterm births is one of the highest among wealthy nations, the agency noted.

In 2013, more than 450,000 babies were born early, compared to more than 542,000 in 2006, when preemie rates peaked, according to the report. Three states – Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama – plus Puerto Rico received a failing grade because of preterm birth rates of 14.6 percent or more. However, five states with a rate of 9.6% or lower got an "A." They are California, Oregon, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

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March of Dimes Report Card