Born Too Soon and Too Small in the United States

In an Average Week in the United States
babies are born
babies are
born very preterm
babies are born
low birthweight
babies are born
very low birthweight

Preterm and Low Birthweight Births in the United States
  2003 2013 2020 US Objective
Preterm 12.3% 11.4% 7.6%
Low Birthweight 7.9% 8.0% 5.0%
  • In 2013, there were 447,361 preterm births in the United States, representing 11.4% of live births.
  • Between 2003 and 2013, the rate of infants born preterm in the United States declined more than 7%.
  • In 2013 in the United States, preterm birth rates were highest for black infants (16.3%), followed by Native Americans (13.3%), Hispanics (11.3%), whites (10.2%) and Asians (10.0%).
  • In 2001, charges for hospital stays for infants with any diagnosis of prematurity was estimated at $13.6 billion.
  • In the US, infants born to mothers less than 20 or over 35 years are more likely than infants born to mothers 20-35 to be preterm.
  • In the United States in 2002, hospital charges for all infants, including healthy newborns, totaled $33.8 billion. Nearly half of that ? $15.5 billion ? was for babies with any diagnosis of prematurity/low birthweight.
March of Dimes National Prematurity Campaign - The Mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. Prematurity/low birthweight is the leading cause of death in the first month of life. In addition to mortality, prematurity is a major determinant of illness and disability among infants, including developmental delays, chronic respiratory problems, and vision and hearing impairment. To address this growing problem, the March of Dimes has committed to a five-year national prematurity research, awareness, and education campaign to help families have healthier babies. For information on the signs and symptoms of preterm labor contact the pregnancy & newborn health education center at or visit
  • Preterm refers to births occurring before the 37th week of pregnancy.
  • Very preterm is less than 32 weeks.
  • Low birthweight infants weigh less than 2500 grams or 5 pounds.
  • Very low birthweight infants weigh less than 1500 grams or 3 1/3 pounds.
  • Rates by race are for non-Hispanics.
  • National Center for Health Statistics, final natality data.
  • Agency for Heathcare Research and Quality, National Inpatient Sample, 2002.
  • 2010 rates based on US Healthy People Objectives.

    For additional perinatal statistics visit:
June 2004
Copyright 2003 March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. All rights reserved