This represents a tiny dip from 10.5 percent in the previous year. Despite the slight decline, the preterm rate in 2022 was the second highest since 2012. The worst grades were given in the southern region.
Black Americans had the highest preterm rate of 14.6, with Hispanics at 10.1, whites at 9.4, and Asians with the lowest at 9.
“Increased access to contraception has resulted in lower birth rates among teens and a reduction in unplanned pregnancies. Increases in educational attainment and employment opportunities for women coupled with economic uncertainty and lack of affordable childcare options have all contributed to women having babies later in life," the report said.
“With these shifts, we see more chronic conditions during pregnancy, putting moms and babies at greater risk for complications. Simultaneously, we’re experiencing a shortage of maternity care providers and declining access to care, creating pockets of communities vulnerable to poor outcomes.”
The following reasons contribute to the likelihood of preterm birth among pregnant women—smoking, hypertension, unhealthy weight, diabetes, previous preterm, and carrying multiple babies.
State PerformanceLouisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia were the states with the highest preterm births at 11.5 percent and higher, and given the lowest “F” rating. Puerto Rico also was in that category.
Only one state received a “B+” rating indicating a moderate preterm birth rate between 8.2 and 8.5 percent—New Hampshire. No state scored the highest possible “A” rating with a preterm birth rate of 7.7 percent and lower.
“Since last year’s report, 14 states have seen an increase in preterm birth, potentially due to factors such as inadequate prenatal care, greater rates of hypertension, and higher proportions of birthing women at an unhealthy weight,” the report said.
“Conversely, 32 states have improved, and while many factors may influence preterm birth in each population there is no one root cause for this drop. One explanation for the overall improvement could be the difference in COVID-19 variants during the time frame the data was collected.”
One-third of the 100 American cities with the highest number of live births had a preterm birth grade of “F.”
“We have long known that many of the factors impacting poor outcomes for moms and babies can and must be addressed if we are to reverse these trends," she said.
Preterm Birth RisksAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies born too early, especially before 32 weeks of pregnancy, “have higher rates of death and disability.”
In 2021, preterm birth and low birth weight were responsible for 14.8 percent of infant deaths or deaths before one year of age.
Babies who survive may suffer conditions like cerebral palsy, feeding difficulties, breathing problems, hearing issues, developmental delays, and problems with vision.
Signs of potential early labor include changes in vaginal discharge where there is a significant increase in the amount of discharge, contractions in the abdomen every 10 minutes or more, pelvic pressure, cramps that feel like a menstrual period, and low, dull backache.
The CDC pointed out that important development in infants happens throughout pregnancy, including the final few weeks. As such, “unless there is a medical need, delivery should not be scheduled before 39 weeks of pregnancy.”
In case a pregnant woman thinks she is experiencing preterm labor, she should seek help from a healthcare provider “right away.” The healthcare professional “may be able to give you medicine so that the baby will be healthier at birth,” the agency states.
- Extending Medicaid benefits to one year after the birth of a child, which is currently followed in 37 states and D.C.
- Expanding Medicaid to offer “greater access to preventative care” for pregnant women, currently adopted in 39 states and D.C.
- Offering paid parental leave.
- Establishing maternal and infant mortality review committees to identify the causes and factors of the deaths.
In an interview with AP, Danielle Ely, the CDC report’s lead author, said that researchers could not conclude whether the jump in infant mortality rate last year was a one-year blip or the beginning of a trend.
“It would appear that some of the states could be having a larger impact on the (national) rate,” she said while adding that it is hard to determine the exact factors driving the rise in infant mortality.
Marie Thoma, a University of Maryland researcher who studies maternal and infant mortality, told the outlet that the data is “definitely concerning, given that it’s going in the opposite direction from what it has been.”