A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that premature birth rates in the United States have been steadily increasing over the past decade. The report, published in the National Vital Statistics Report, analyzed changes in gestational age among newborn births from 2014 to 2022.
During this period, the rates of preterm and early-term births rose by 12% and 20%, respectively. Conversely, there was a decline in full-term and late- and post-term births. The increase in preterm births continued even during the fluctuations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reasons behind the rise in premature births remain unclear. However, experts suggest that various factors may be contributing to this trend. Pregnancy at a later age, chronic health conditions like obesity, and a lack of prenatal care are some potential drivers. Additionally, abortion bans in certain states, particularly where access to quality prenatal care is limited, could also impact premature birth rates.
Racial disparities and racism may also play a role in the increased rates of premature births. Increased stress caused by racism can influence the length of pregnancy.
The report emphasizes the need for further investigation into the causes and management options to minimize unindicated preterm births. It also calls for increased attention to pregnant individuals with chronic health conditions to monitor their health and improve prenatal care.
While the report does not provide specific reasons for preterm deliveries, it suggests that several factors may be contributing to the increase. These include pregnancy at an older age, late or no prenatal care, obesity, hypertension, and other medical comorbidities.
Abortion bans may worsen preterm birth rates, especially in states where access to quality prenatal care is limited. In certain cases, iatrogenic preterm births may be necessary to protect the health of the birthing person and the baby.
Racial disparities and racism are also associated with increased risk of preterm labor. Stress induced by racism can impact various aspects of pregnancy, including uterine contractility and immune competence.
The rise in premature births poses a public health threat, as it can lead to various health complications for newborns. It is important for pregnant individuals, especially those with chronic health conditions, to receive appropriate prenatal care to ensure the best possible outcomes for both mother and baby.