More Babies being Born too Soon for Third Year in a Row, Report Shows; March of Dimes Says Trend is an Alarming Indicator of Worsening Health of Moms and Babies in the U.S.

May 23, 2018

New data from the federal government shows that the health of pregnant women and babies in the U.S. is getting worse, March of Dimes says. The organization says there is an urgent need for new solutions to address this alarming trend. 

The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics recently released provisional birth data that show that the preterm birth rate rose to 9.93 percent in 2017, up from 9.86 in 2016. This marks the third consecutive increase in preterm births after steady declines over the previous seven years. The preterm birth rate increased among non-Hispanic black women and Hispanic women, while the rate among non-Hispanic white women was essentially unchanged.

"Moms and babies are facing an urgent health crisis in this country," says Stacey D. Stewart, president of March of Dimes. "Preterm birth and its complications is the greatest contributor to the death of babies before their first birthday and a leading cause of lifelong disabilities. No family should have to experience loss or the challenges that come with having a baby born too soon. The fact that more and more families are being affected by preterm birth is troubling."

Ms. Stewart noted that persistent underlying racial and ethnic disparities play a role in preterm birth. "It is unacceptable that women of color and their babies are disproportionately impacted by preterm birth. It is unacceptable that women of color are 20 percent more likely to give birth prematurely and their children face a 40 percent higher infant death rate. March of Dimes work to give every baby a healthy start is more vital than ever."

"While we are troubled to see this trend in preterm birth, the release of this data could not be more timely. Yesterday March of Dimes concluded its two day Prematurity Prevention Summit, bringing together 300 of the top organizations in maternal and child health.  If we're going to give every baby the best possible start and reverse this trend, it will take a collective effort including communities, government and the healthcare sectors," Ms. Stewart says. 

Convening at the March of Dimes Prematurity Prevention Summit were members of the organization's Prematurity Campaign Collaborative, which aims to achieve equity and demonstrated improvements in preterm birth.

"Nearly 400,000 babies - about 1 in 10 - are born preterm each year. And while the preterm birth rate has been increasing among all racial and ethnic groups, some have been hit harder than others," said Dr. Wanda Barfield, Director of the Division of Reproductive Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a co-chair of the Collaborative Steering Committee.  "Now is a pivotal time to do more for those at greatest risk."

"Births: Provisional Data for 2017," by Brady E. Hamilton et al. was published in May 2018 by the National Center for Health Statistics and is available online at:

Christine Sanchez (571-257-2307)
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