Preterm birth rates are rising in the U.S., study finds, but why remains a mystery

Preterm birth rates are rising in the U.S., study finds, but why remains a mystery


Premature birth rates have been rising in the United States, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. May cause additional health problems for baby and mother.

The report released this week found that the rate of preterm births (premature births before 37 weeks’ gestation) increased by 12% between 2014 and 2022, from 7.74% to 8.67%.

Although black and Hispanic mothers are more likely than whites to give birth prematurely, this increase is relatively consistent regardless of age or race. Older mothers are also generally more likely to give birth prematurely than younger mothers.

Premature babies may have short-term health problems, such as problems fighting infections or breathing and stomach problems, because they are not fully developed and need to stay in the hospital longer. In the long term, premature babies may develop problems such as asthma, dental problems, hearing loss, stomach problems, and intellectual and developmental delays, the March of Dimes reports. Health problems may also occur if a pregnant woman goes into labor early.

Researchers at the CDC looked at birth certificate data recording singleton births registered in the United States from 2014 to 2022.

However, they did not speculate on what might happen. drive this trend. Generally speaking, doctors don’t really know why some people go into labor earlier than their due date, although certain conditions and factors appear to increase the risk.

“I really wish we knew. I think the increase is pretty alarming,” said Dr. Caitlin Stanhope, an assistant professor at Emory University whose research focuses on the effects of stress on women’s health and pregnancy. “This is a trend that’s been going on for a long time. The study ended in 2014, but preterm birth rates in the U.S. have been rising for much longer than that.”

Stanhope was not involved in the new study, He said the trend of people having children later in life could have an impact on the figures, as could an increase in the number of people having children via in vitro fertilization, both of which could be linked to a higher risk of preterm birth. But Stanhope doesn’t think that fully explains what’s going on.

It may have to do with context, she said, because growing up across races and ages will involve things that everyone is going through. This may include exposure to particle pollution, which other studies have shown increases preterm birth rates.

Psychosocial stressors such as chronic stress, anxiety, lack of support, housing instability, and malnutrition can also increase a person’s risk of preterm birth.

“It’s definitely multifactorial,” said Dr. Ellie Ragsdale, an obstetrician, gynecologist and fetal medicine specialist at University Hospitals in Cleveland who was not involved in the CDC report. “My initial reaction to this study is that preterm birth rates continue to rise in this country because Americans globally are generally getting worse.”

More and more people are suffering from obesity, Ragsdale noted that this can lead to health problems that increase the risk of premature birth. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than one-quarter of women in the United States are overweight, and more than two-fifths of adults (42.4% of the U.S. population) are obese. Obese people are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions, such as preeclampsia, that can lead to premature birth.

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Dr. Manisha Gandhi, chair of the Obstetrics Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, believes this trend has nothing to do with doctors inducing labor too early. Medical guidelines strongly discourage the practice, she said, and the numbers have been declining over the years. Gandhi also did not believe that certain biological changes shortened the time it took for people to conceive.

Instead, she said, the Covid-19 pandemic may have affected the rate.

people People infected with coronavirus face a higher risk of premature birth, research shows. Many people have also put off medical appointments during the pandemic, which can impact their overall health.

To reduce the chances of premature birth, people must prioritize their health before getting pregnant, Gandhi said.

“Pregnancy is not the time to start losing weight, controlling blood pressure, or treating diabetes,” she says. “Ideally, we’d do these things before we get pregnant because there isn’t enough time to optimize our health once we’re pregnant.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly defined preterm birth. Premature birth occurs before 37 weeks of gestation.

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