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Preterm Birth

Narrative

Babies born preterm, before 37 completed weeks of gestation, are at increased risk of immediate and long-term complications, as well as mortality. Complications that can occur during the newborn period include respiratory distress, jaundice, anemia, and infection, while long-term complications can include learning and behavioral problems, cerebral palsy, lung problems, and vision and hearing loss. Although the risk of complications is greatest among those babies who are born the earliest, even those babies born “late preterm” (34 to 36 weeks’ gestation) are more likely than full-term babies to experience these types of problems.1

According to preliminary data, 12.2 percent of infants were born preterm in 2009. Overall, 8.7 percent of babies were born at 34 to 36 weeks’ gestation, 1.6 percent were born at 32-33 weeks, and 2.0 percent were “very preterm” (less than 32 weeks). The preterm birth rate increased more than 20 percent from 1990 to 2006, but has declined in the three years since.

The preterm birth rate varies by race/ethnicity. In 2009, 17.5 percent of babies born to non-Hispanic Black women were born preterm, compared to 10.8 percent of babies born to Asian/Pacific Islander women. Among babies born to non-Hispanic White women, 10.9 percent were born preterm, while the same was true of 12.0 percent of babies born to Hispanic women and 13.5 percent of babies born to American Indian/Alaska native women.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Reproductive Health. Prematurity. November 2009. Accessed March 2011.

Graphs

This image is described in the Data section.

infant preterm by gestation weeks graph

This image is described in the Data section.

preterm infants by maternal race graph

Data

Preterm Birth Among Infants, by Completed Weeks of Gestation, 2009*

Percent of infants:

  • Total: 12.2
  • Less than 32 Weeks: 2.0
  • 32-33 Weeks: 1.6
  • 34-36 Weeks: 8.7

*Data for 2009 are preliminary.

Source: Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Ventura SJ. Births: Preliminary data for 2009. National vital statistics reports web release; vol 59 no 3. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010. Accessed March 2011.

Preterm Birth Among Infants, by Maternal Race/Ethnicity, 2009*

Percent of infants:

  • Non-Hispanic White 10.9
  • Non-Hispanic Black 17.5
  • Hispanic 12.0
  • American Indian/Alaska Native (Includes Hispanics) 13.5
  • Asian/Pacific Islander (Includes Hispanics)† 10.8

*Data for 2009 are preliminary.
†Separate data for Asians and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders not available.

Source: Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Ventura SJ. Births: Preliminary data for 2009. National vital statistics reports web release; vol 59 no 3. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010. Accessed March 2011.


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