A premature birth occurs any time a child is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy of been completed. It’s one of the most dangerous situations that doctors and mothers face if the child must be born early. The chances for birth defects rise, as do health complications that can create long-term care needs in the hospital for the early days of life. Vision, breathing, and feeding difficulties are all common. The chances for cerebral palsy or developmental delays are also common with premature birth.
Facts About Premature Birth
1. Preterm birth costs the U.S. health care system more than $26 billion in 2005.
2. Preterm-related causes of death together accounted for 35% of all infant deaths in 2010. This is more than any other single cause.
3. 450,000. That’s the number of babies that were affected by a premature birth in 2012. In the United States, that’s 1 in 9 children.
4. Preterm birth is also a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children.
5. The cost of premature birth in 2005, the last year monetary statistics have been released: $26 billion.
6. Just 1.93% of premature births in the US are listed as “extremely pre-term,” or earlier than 32 weeks’ gestation.
7. African American women are about 60% more likely to have a premature baby compared to white women.
8. US premature birth rates are slightly better than the rest of the world. 15 million babies globally are born preterm every year and this accounts for 10% of all children born.
9. The United States has one of the highest premature birth rates for high income nations in the entire world.
10. The rate of premature birth around the world has risen every year for the last 20 years.
11. More than 1 million children die each year because of complications that are due to their premature birth.
12. 1 in 4 premature births occur because of a planned C-section due to the health of the mother or the child.
13. 20% of premature birth cases are due to premature rupture of the membranes.
14. The percentage of premature birth cases which occur because of a medical emergency, such as a placental abruption, an infection, or a prolapsed cord: 25%.
40% of the premature children who are born come premature without any known reason.
15. Survival increases by 9.5% for each week if the baby is born at 23 weeks.
16. 16%. If a baby is born at 25 weeks, this is the percentage of survival increase that will be experienced for every week of life.
17. Having more than 2 preterm deliveries increases the risk of a mother having another premature baby by 70%.
18. Women who have a multiples pregnancy are 9x more likely to give birth early compared to women who are only carrying one child.
19. Having another pregnancy within 6 months of the last pregnancy increases the risk of a premature birth.
20. 19%. That’s the amount of increased risk that is associated with a mother who has an abnormally shaped uterus.
21. Between 1995 and 2006, the survival shortly after birth of very premature babies increased by 13 percentage points.
22. The earliest baby to have ever survived premature birth was born at 21 weeks and 6 days.
23. A child born at 23 weeks has a 17% overall chance of survival.
24. Children born at 27 weeks have almost the same survival rates as children born at 28-31 weeks.
25. By Week 32, every child has a 95% likelihood of survival.
26. Women who don’t have any health insurance in the US are about 20% more likely to experience a premature birth compared to women with health insurance.
27. 75% of the children who are born prematurely in the developing world could be saved using current cost-effective interventions.
28. More than 60% of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia.
29. 12% of babies are born too early in low-income nations compared with 9% in higher-income countries.
30. 3.5 million. That’s the number of premature births that occur in India every year. That’s 3x higher than the number of premature births recorded in China.
31. The United States is ranked 6th in the world for the total number premature births, behind Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria in addition to the top two.
32. Of 65 countries with reliable trend data, all but 3 show an increase in preterm birth rates over the past 20 years.
33. 90% of extremely premature births that occur before 28 weeks will die within the first few days of life in the developing world, while just 10% of babies at this gestation period die in higher income settings.
34. 50% of premature babies born before the 26th week of gestation are disabled, a quarter severely so.
35. 34%. That’s the percentage of premature children who will have a mild disability, such as a squint or a lower than average IQ, by the age of 6.
36. Among babies born to Hispanic women, 11.58 percent were born preterm, while the same was true for 13.25 percent of babies born to American Indian/Alaska Native women.
37. Only 1 in 5 premature children will have no health problems of note.
38. One study has showed a greater risk of severe disability and lower cognitive function results for boys compared with girls.
39. Preeclampsia occurs in up to 8% of pregnancies and may cause a premature birth to happen.
40. Since 1980, the premature birth rate has increased 36%.
41. Premature labor occurs in about 12% of all pregnancies, but knowing the risk factors and symptoms of it can help to increase a woman’s chances of stalling it out.
42. If early contractions become regular or more frequent such as 1 every 10-12 minutes for at least 1 hour, then this can open the cervix and set the stage for a premature birth.
43. In the US, 70% of the premature births which occur are considered late pre-term births, happening at the 34-36 week gestation mark.
44. In 2013 9.7 percent of singleton births were preterm, compared with 56.6 percent of twin births and 93.1 percent of triplet births.
45. 13% of births to mothers under the age of 20 are premature, while 25% of births to mothers 45 and older are premature.
46. In per capita premature birth rates, the United States ranks 130th out of 184 countries according to a 2012 WHO report.
47. Most babies born earlier than 28 weeks’ gestation have an extremely low birth weight that is below 2 pounds, 3 ounces.
Some women are more at risk for having a premature birth. This includes women who are very young or very high in their maternal race. Women who are African American or have darker skin color also have a higher risk, as do women who are living at or below the poverty line. Tobacco use, substance abuse, and late prenatal care area all contributing factors as well.
Stress, however, is the #1 risk a woman faces. Any woman with high levels of cortisol in their body for a prolonged period of time will increase the risks of a premature birth occurring. Certain medical conditions, such as an infection or high blood pressure, may also contribute to the issue. Women who are carrying multiples or have had a prior premature birth also have a higher risk factor.
How Can Premature Birth Be Prevented?
The most important thing a woman can do to prevent a premature birth is to take care of herself before and during the pregnancy. This means receiving comprehensive medical care, including regular check-ups, while making healthy eating and lifestyle choices. Many doctors will provide women with a list of medications and foods that are safe to take, as well as items that must be restricted or completely eliminated.
One of the most difficult things that most doctors recommend women eliminate is caffeine. From coffee to chocolate, there is caffeine in many products today that are regularly enjoyed.
Taking things out is important, but so is putting things into the diet. Folic acid is one of the most important components of a healthy diet for women who are pregnant. Having a prenatal vitamin or finding food items like orange juice that allow for at least 400mg of this vitamin to be consumed every day is important for good fetal health.
Most outcomes for premature children are generally very good. The amount of income a woman has increases the likelihood for this type of outcome. As the rates of premature births have gone up every year for the last 20 years, the mortality rates have been dropping. Predicting a child’s outcome after a premature birth is impossible to do. Some may have lifelong complications while others may thrive. By knowing these facts and statistics, mothers and families will begin to have tools that can help to empower choices that reduce the risks of a premature birth.