Overall U.S. preterm birth rates climbed last year and soared for women of color

Overall U.S. preterm birth rates climbed last year and soared for women of color

Preterm or premature birth means delivery before the 37th week of pregnancy.

10.5% of babies in the United States are born preterm.

About 384,000 babies were born prematurely in 2021

The earlier a pregnant baby is born, the more likely it is to have health problems.

Babies born before 34 weeks of pregnancy are more likely to have health problems

Babies born before 34 and 37 weeks of pregnancy are also at increased risk of health problems related to being preterm.

Annual preterm birth rates in the United States increased from 10.1% to 10.5%:

  • 45 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico saw increases.

  • 9 states and Puerto Rico saw an increase of more than 11.5%

  • 1 state had a decline

The biggest risks for preterm birth are:

  • Have had a previous preterm birth

  • Being pregnant with multiples

  • Having problems with the uterus or cervix

Talk to your doctor about other risk factors, including smoking, alcohol and substance use, that may affect you.

Some women have no risk factors and still deliver preterm.

Running affects risk

Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women are 62 percent more likely to give birth preterm than white women.

  • Preterm birth rates 2019-2021

  • Black 14.4%

  • American Indian/Alaska Native 11.8%

  • Hispanic 10.0%

  • White 9.3%

  • Asian/Pacific Islanders 9.0%

Location affects risk

Overall, the United States received a “D+” grade in the 2022 March of Dimes report card, but prematurity varied widely by state:

  • Vermont was the only state to receive an “A” grade in 2021

  • “F” grades were obtained by a group of states in the southeastern United States – Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina – as well as Oklahoma, West Virginia and Puerto Rico.

Preterm babies are at higher risk for long-term health problems, such as:

  • Physical or intellectual disabilities

  • Chronic lung disease

  • Blindness

  • Hearing loss

  • Neurological problems

  • Digestive disorders

  • Heart problems

Prematurity/low birth weight is a leading cause of death for US newborns.

Take steps to learn more about preterm birth if you are pregnant

  • Find a prenatal care provider

  • Ask your antenatal care provider about having a healthy pregnancy

  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of preterm labor

  • Call your doctor right away or go to the hospital if symptoms appear

This resource was created with the support of Covis.

Data adapted from March of Dimes 2022 report card.