May 15, 2019

March of Dimes released the following statement from President and CEO Stacey D. Stewart regarding the new federal report on 2018 provisional birth data:

More babies were born too soon in 2018 for the fourth year in a row, according to new federal data released today. The health of pregnant women and babies in the U.S. is getting worse. As the leading nonprofit for the health of all moms and babies, March of Dimes is working to reverse this trend through advocacy, research and patient education/support programs to prevent preterm birth.

The National Center for Health Statistics today issued a report of provisional birth data showing that the preterm birth rate rose to 10.02 percent in 2018, up from 9.93 in 2017, marking the fourth consecutive increase after steady declines over the previous decade. 

Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and its complications are the largest contributor to death in the first year of life in the United States and worldwide. The increase reported today equates to more than 3,000 additional preterm births.

Our unequal society has negative consequences for health. Persistent inequities in access to quality health care in our country play a role in driving up the preterm birth rate. Black women have a preterm birth rate about 50 percent higher than the rate among white women. The chance of a baby’s survival should not depend on where a baby is born, or the income, race, and ethnicity of her mom. Preterm rates increased for births to women of color:  non-Hispanic black women (13.93 percent to 14.12 percent) and Hispanic women (9.62 percent to 9.72 percent) from 2017 to 2018; while the increase in the total preterm rate among births to non-Hispanic white women was not statistically significant.

Better access to care does make a major difference in the health of moms and babies. For example, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the preterm birth rate declined for black infants in Medicaid expansion states. 

Today’s report also shows that the general fertility rate in the U.S. is at a record low. Women under age 35 have lower birth rates, while women in their late 30s and early 40s have higher birth rates than in previous years. Because women in their 30s are more likely than younger women to have health conditions that affect birth outcomes, such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, it’s possible that this accounts for some portion (but not all) of the increase in premature birth. Women with these conditions must have quality health care so they are as healthy as they can be before they get pregnant. 

How March of Dimes Is Helping

Because there is no single cause of preterm birth, March of Dimes is taking action across the multiple fronts of research, education, advocacy, and programs to give every family the best possible start.  To address rising preterm births, we are:

  • Delivering programs to improve the care that moms and babies receive, including Supportive Pregnancy Care, a model of group prenatal care that can improve the health of moms and babies.
  • Advancing research at our network of six Prematurity Research Centers to find the unknown causes of preterm birth and develop new ways to prevent it.
  • Advocating for policies to protect moms and babies, including Medicaid expansion, extension of postpartum coverage to one year, and enhanced reimbursement for group prenatal care.
  • Empowering families and communities with knowledge and tools to have healthier pregnancies, including health information available at and
  • Supporting moms through every stage of the pregnancy, even when everything doesn’t go according to plan.
  • Building lifelong connections for moms within a caring and supportive community.

March of Dimes urges all Americans to help. Use your voice to speak up for all moms and babies. Visit to join our action network and reach your representatives with messages of support for strong moms and babies. We need thousands of voices to persuade policymakers to pass laws and regulations that promote the health of women, their babies and their families.

“Births: Provisional Data for 2018,” by Brady E. Hamilton et al., was published today by the National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System.