The nation's preterm birth rate dropped for the second consecutive year.
New nationwide statistics show a 3 percent decline in the preterm birth rate, according to a report released today by the National Center for Health Statistics.
March of Dimes officials say they are encouraged and hope that the decline is a new trend in infant health. The data are based on 99.9 percent of U.S. births and the improvement must be confirmed in the final data.
"We're beginning to see the benefits of years of hard work by the March of Dimes and its partners. This decline, although small, is heartening," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "It means about 14,000 babies were spared the health risks of an early birth. We hope that this is just the beginning of what's possible, and that efforts such as health care reform and our programs to make women and their doctors aware of things they can do to lower the risk of a preterm birth will continue to bear fruit in years to come."
The preterm birth rate dropped to 12.3 percent, according to the report, "Births: Preliminary Data for 2008," which was released today by the National Center for Heath Statistics. That's down from the 2007 preliminary rate of 12.7 percent. The declines follow a more than 20 percent increase in the preterm birth rate between 1990 and 2006.