Preterm birth is defined as a live birth before 37 completed weeks gestation. Some other classifications of preterm births include late preterm (34-36 weeks), moderately preterm (32-36 weeks) and very preterm (<32 weeks). These classifications are useful because they often correspond to clinical characteristics - increasing morbidities or illnesses with decreasing gestational age. Babies born too soon are often born too small. While the causes of preterm birth and low birthweight may be different in some cases, there is significant overlap within these populations of infants.
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In 2021, 1 in 10 babies (10.5% of live births) was born preterm in the United States.
The rate of preterm birth in the United States is highest for black infants (14.4%), followed by American Indian/Alaska Natives (11.8%), Hispanics (10.0%), Whites (9.3%) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (9.0%).
Compared with singleton births (one baby), multiple births in the United States were about 7 times as likely to be preterm in 2021.
Notes: Preterm is less than 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Sources: Waitzman NJ, Jalali A, Grosse SD. Preterm birth lifetime costs in the United States in 2016: An update. Semin Perinatol. 2021 Apr;45(3):151390. doi: 10.1016/j.semperi.2021.151390. Epub 2021 Jan 24. PMID: 33541716. Retrieved June 1, 2023, from www.marchofdimes.org/peristats.
In 2016, the annual societal economic cost (medical, educational, and lost productivity) associated with preterm birth in the United States was at least $25.2 billion.
During that same year the average first year medical costs, including both inpatient and outpatient care were about 4 times greater for preterm ($49,140) than for term infants ($13,024).
According to a recent analysis by Thomson Reuters, while health plans paid the majority of total allowed costs, out of pocket expenses were substantial and significantly higher for premature/LBW newborns compared with uncomplicated newborns.