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

 

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
(2010)

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

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