Preterm Birth Rates in U.S. Rise for Second Straight Year

According to a new report from the CDC, infant health is declining in the United States. How can we reverse this trend?

Pregnant woman at doctor Shutterstock/Syda Productions
A new report indicates something alarming: According to recent data, birth outcomes in the United States may be declining.

This finding comes from the National Center of Health Statistics at the Center for Disease Control and is based on data from 2016 births. The bad news? Preterm birth rates in the United States rose for the second year in a row—the rate is now up to nearly 10 percent. The low birthweight rate was also up for the second straight year and is now 8.16 percent. 

According to the March of Dimes, this is something we need to address: It's no secret that preterm birth can have devastating consequences, but the group believes that by investing in the health of mothers and their children, we may be able to reverse this trend.

“The increase in the preterm birth rate is an alarming indication that the health of pregnant women and babies in our country is heading in the wrong direction," March of Dimes president Stacey D. Stewart said in a press release. “Preterm birth is the number one cause of death among babies and a leading cause of lifelong disabilities. Now is the time to increase our investments in a healthier nation by expanding access to quality prenatal care and promoting proven ways to help reduce the risk of preterm birth, such the group model of prenatal care and helping women quit smoking. It is not the time to make it harder for women to get the care they need to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.”

The March of Dimes stands by the idea that maternal benefits and universal access to quality prenatal care have the power to reduce these rates. The report indicates that preterm birth rates aren't equally distributed: Income, race and ethnicity are all factors that influence a woman's odds of giving birth before term, and that's not fair.

According to the March of Dimes, pregnant women can takes steps to reduce their odds of delivering before term: Not smoking through pregnancy, taking progesterone if you have a history or preterm birth, and spacing out pregnancies are just a few of the ways they can do this. Ultimately, women need access to proper medical care during pregnancy. Unfortunately, that's simply not a reality for all women at this point.

The findings from The National Center for Health Statistics aren't all bad, though According to the data, teen birth rates are at an all-time-low, for example. But while this is reassuring, the report proves that where maternal care is concerned, we're still not quite where we ought to be.