Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

New Global Report Says U.S. Lags Behind 130 Other Nations In Preterm Birth Rate

May 2, 2012

15 Million Babies Born Too Soon Every Year, Including Half Million in U.S.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., May 2, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — 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:

  • giving all women of childbearing age in the U.S. access to health care, including adolescents, and including care before, between, and during pregnancy;
  • behavioral changes to reduce the risk of an early birth, such as not smoking during pregnancy;
  • progesterone treatments for women who have had a previous preterm birth;
  • better management of fertility treatments that result in multiple gestations (twins, triplets or higher);
  • hospital quality improvement initiatives to reduce early inductions and Cesarean deliveries before a full 39 weeks of pregnancy unless medically necessary.

“This report underscores the need for action to reduce premature birth in the U.S., and state and territorial health officials have a critical role in championing and implementing proven solutions,” says David L. Lakey, M.D., president, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and Commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services. “Interventions that promote full term, 39-week pregnancies and improve the health of babies can significantly reduce health care costs.”

In February, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced “Strong Start,” an initiative that includes funding for enhanced prenatal care, hospital quality improvement programs, and a co-branded educational effort with the March of Dimes “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” campaign to let women know that if their pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to wait for labor to begin on its own rather than scheduling a delivery.

Born Too Soon and an interactive map showing the preterm birth rates in the 184 countries in the report are available online at marchofdimes.com/borntoosoon.

For a state-by-state breakdown of preterm birth rates within the U.S., see the March of Dimes 2011 Premature Birth Report Card online at marchofdimes.com/prematurity.

On November 17, 2012, organizations around the world will observe the second World Prematurity Day to raise awareness that preterm birth is a serious problem worldwide.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

See chart and references below

                                         Preterm Birth Rates per 100 births (best to worst)
                                              Country name                                  Preterm birth rate
    Belarus                                                                                                   4.1
    Ecuador                                                                                                   5.1
    Latvia                                                                                                    5.3
    Samoa                                                                                                     5.5
    Croatia                                                                                                   5.5
    Finland                                                                                                   5.5
    Lithuania                                                                                                 5.7
    Estonia                                                                                                   5.7
    Antigua and Barbuda                                                                                       5.8
    Japan                                                                                                     5.9
    Sweden                                                                                                    5.9
    Saudi Arabia                                                                                              6.0
    Norway                                                                                                    6.0
    Slovakia                                                                                                  6.3
    Ireland                                                                                                   6.4
    Cuba                                                                                                      6.4
    Malta                                                                                                     6.4
    Iceland                                                                                                   6.5
    Italy                                                                                                     6.5
    Ukraine                                                                                                   6.5
    Papua New Guinea                                                                                          6.5
    Iraq                                                                                                      6.5
    Greece                                                                                                    6.6
    Serbia                                                                                                    6.7
    Morocco                                                                                                   6.7
    Denmark                                                                                                   6.7
    France                                                                                                    6.7
    Poland                                                                                                    6.7
    The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia                                                                 6.8
    Russian Federation                                                                                        7.0
    China                                                                                                     7.1
    Chile                                                                                                     7.1
    Egypt                                                                                                     7.3
    Romania                                                                                                   7.3
    Czech Republic                                                                                            7.3
    Mexico                                                                                                    7.3
    Peru                                                                                                      7.3
    Algeria                                                                                                   7.4
    Switzerland                                                                                               7.4
    Spain                                                                                                     7.4
    Bulgaria                                                                                                  7.5
    Slovenia                                                                                                  7.5
    Tonga                                                                                                     7.5
    New Zealand                                                                                               7.6
    United Arab Emirates                                                                                      7.6
    Australia                                                                                                 7.6
    Portugal                                                                                                  7.7
    Guatemala                                                                                                 7.7
    Paraguay                                                                                                  7.8
    Canada                                                                                                    7.8
    United Kingdom                                                                                            7.8
    Lebanon                                                                                                   7.9
    Maldives                                                                                                  7.9
    Belgium                                                                                                   7.9
    Bosnia and Herzegovina                                                                                    7.9
    Argentina                                                                                                 8.0
    South Africa                                                                                              8.0
    Netherlands                                                                                               8.0
    Israel                                                                                                    8.0
    Luxembourg                                                                                                8.1
    Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)                                                                        8.1
    Panama                                                                                                    8.1
    Trinidad and Tobago                                                                                       8.1
    Libya                                                                                                     8.3
    Azerbaijan                                                                                                8.5
    Hungary                                                                                                   8.6
    Uzbekistan                                                                                                8.7
    Suriname                                                                                                  8.8
    Georgia                                                                                                   8.8
    Kazakhstan                                                                                                8.8
    Colombia                                                                                                  8.8
    Tunisia                                                                                                   8.9
    Barbados                                                                                                  8.9
    Bolivia (Plurinational State of)                                                                          9.0
    Albania                                                                                                   9.0
    Montenegro                                                                                                9.2
    Republic of Korea                                                                                         9.2
    Brazil                                                                                                    9.2
    Germany                                                                                                   9.2
    Nicaragua                                                                                                 9.3
    Niger                                                                                                     9.4
    Viet Nam                                                                                                  9.4
    Bahamas                                                                                                   9.5
    Rwanda                                                                                                    9.5
    Kiribati                                                                                                  9.6
    Senegal                                                                                                   9.7
    Turkmenistan                                                                                              9.8
    Fiji                                                                                                      9.9
    Sierra Leone                                                                                             10.0
    Ethiopia                                                                                                 10.1
    Uruguay                                                                                                  10.1
    Bhutan                                                                                                   10.2
    Jamaica                                                                                                  10.2
    Grenada                                                                                                  10.3
    Belize                                                                                                   10.4
    Kyrgyzstan                                                                                               10.4
    Sao Tome and Principe                                                                                    10.5
    Micronesia (Federated States of)                                                                         10.5
    Qatar                                                                                                    10.5
    Cambodia                                                                                                 10.5
    Benin                                                                                                    10.6
    Kuwait                                                                                                   10.6
    Tajikistan                                                                                               10.7
    Sri Lanka                                                                                                10.7
    Democratic People's Republic of Korea                                                                    10.7
    Dominican Republic                                                                                       10.8
    Lao People's Democratic Republic                                                                         10.8
    Austria                                                                                                  10.9
    Syrian Arab Republic                                                                                     10.9
    Burkina Faso                                                                                             10.9
    Armenia                                                                                                  11.0
    Saint Lucia                                                                                              11.1
    Cape Verde                                                                                               11.2
    Guinea-Bissau                                                                                            11.2
    Burundi                                                                                                  11.4
    United Republic of Tanzania                                                                              11.4
    Marshall Islands                                                                                         11.5
    Singapore                                                                                                11.5
    Afghanistan                                                                                              11.5
    Mali                                                                                                     11.6
    Seychelles                                                                                               11.6
    Saint Vincent and the Grenadines                                                                         11.8
    Democratic Republic of the Congo                                                                         11.9
    Dominica                                                                                                 11.9
    Lesotho                                                                                                  11.9
    Djibouti                                                                                                 11.9
    Republic of Moldova                                                                                      11.9
    Somalia                                                                                                  12.0
    Turkey                                                                                                   12.0
    Thailand                                                                                                 12.0
    United States of America                                                                                 12.0
    Timor-Leste                                                                                              12.1
    Brunei Darussalam                                                                                        12.1
    Honduras                                                                                                 12.2
    Nigeria                                                                                                  12.2
    Eritrea                                                                                                  12.2
    Kenya                                                                                                    12.3
    Malaysia                                                                                                 12.3
    Myanmar                                                                                                  12.4
    Solomon Islands                                                                                          12.4
    Angola                                                                                                   12.5
    Cameroon                                                                                                 12.6
    Mauritius                                                                                                12.6
    Central African Republic                                                                                 12.6
    El Salvador                                                                                              12.8
    Vanuatu                                                                                                  12.9
    Iran (Islamic Republic of)                                                                               12.9
    Zambia                                                                                                   12.9
    India                                                                                                    13.0
    Chad                                                                                                     13.1
    Sudan                                                                                                    13.2
    Yemen                                                                                                    13.2
    Guyana                                                                                                   13.2
    Togo                                                                                                     13.3
    Mongolia                                                                                                 13.5
    Uganda                                                                                                   13.6
    Costa Rica                                                                                               13.6
    Swaziland                                                                                                13.9
    Liberia                                                                                                  13.9
    Guinea                                                                                                   13.9
    Bangladesh                                                                                               14.0
    Gambia                                                                                                   14.0
    Cote d'Ivoire                                                                                            14.0
    Bahrain                                                                                                  14.0
    Nepal                                                                                                    14.0
    Haiti                                                                                                    14.1
    Madagascar                                                                                               14.2
    Oman                                                                                                     14.3
    Jordan                                                                                                   14.4
    Namibia                                                                                                  14.4
    Ghana                                                                                                    14.5
    Cyprus                                                                                                   14.7
    Philippines                                                                                              14.9
    Botswana                                                                                                 15.1
    Mauritania                                                                                               15.4
    Indonesia                                                                                                15.5
    Pakistan                                                                                                 15.8
    Gabon                                                                                                    16.3
    Mozambique                                                                                               16.4
    Equatorial Guinea                                                                                        16.5
    Zimbabwe                                                                                                 16.6
    Comoros                                                                                                  16.7
    Congo                                                                                                    16.7
    Malawi                                                                                                   18.1

Source: Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth available online at: marchofdimes.com/borntoosoon or www.who.int/pmnch/media/news/2012/preterm_birth_report/en/index.html

Data from national, regional and worldwide estimates of preterm birth rates in the year 2010. Researchers: Hannah Blencowe, Simon Cousens, Mikkel Z Oestergaard, Doris Chou, Ann-Beth Moller, Rajesh Narwal, Alma Adler, Claudia Vera Garcia, Sarah S Rohde, Lale Say, Joy E. Lawn.

Born Too Soon also provides country-by-country data on:

  • estimated change in preterm birth rates from 1990 to 2010;
  • number of live births;
  • number of preterm births;
  • rank by number of preterm births;
  • deaths from complications of preterm birth;
  • rank by number of deaths from complications of preterm birth.

For the commitments from United Nations agencies, universities, and organizations, visit: www.everywomaneverychild.org/borntoosoon.

SOURCE March of Dimes Foundation

Source: PR Newswire