Preterm babies are born at a higher rate in the United States than in 130 other countries of the world, including many poorer nations, according to the just-released report Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth.
The report, containing the first-ever estimates of preterm birth rates by country, was published today by The March of Dimes Foundation, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children, and The World Health Organization, and represents almost 50 United Nations agencies, universities, and organizations.
The report ranks the U.S. 131st in the world in terms of its preterm birth rate of 12.0 per 100 live births, almost tied with Somalia, Thailand, and Turkey. Nearly half a million babies are born too soon in the U.S. each year.
"This report offers conclusive evidence that the United States rate of preterm birth has been far too high for far too long," says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "While our country excels in helping preemies survive, we have failed to do enough to prevent preterm births and help more mothers carry their babies full-term."
Born Too Soon finds that 15 million babies worldwide are born preterm each year, and more than one million die due to preterm complications. Of these babies, the report notes, three-quarters could be saved if current cost-effective interventions were made available to all.
Preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks completed gestation) is the leading cause of newborn death in the U.S. Babies who survive an early birth often have breathing problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, and other lifelong problems. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. In addition to the human costs, preterm birth also has high economic costs: more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Dr. Howse said prevention of preterm birth can be accelerated, with a variety of known, effective health interventions, including: