Describing the Increase in Preterm Births in the United States, 2014–2016

Questions for Joyce Martin, Statistician, and Lead Author of “Describing the Increase in Preterm Births in the United States, 2014–2016

Q: What did you think was the most interesting finding in your report?

JM: Two things – that the rate has increased for three straight years following several years of decline, and that the increase generally occurred among babies born late preterm.


Q: Why are total preterm birth rates increasing?

JM: The reasons for the rise are not well understood, but appear to be largely among births occurring at the highest end of the preterm/late range, that is, at 36 weeks.  That said, it is important to note that early preterm births, those at the greatest risk of poor outcome increased among non-Hispanic black births.


Q: Why did you decide to examine preterm birth rates?

JM: The preterm birth rate is a basic indicator of the maternal and infant health of a nation and, accordingly, changes in the preterm rate have important implications for the public health. Babies born prior to 37 weeks of gestation are more likely to die within the first year of life and more likely to suffer life-long morbidities than those born later in pregnancy.


Q: How did preterm birth rates vary among U.S. states from 2014-2016?

JM: Preterm rates rose significantly in 23 states and the District of Columbia and non-significant increased were seen in an additional 22 states.  In short, rates are trending upward for the vast majority of states.


Q: What is the take home message in this report?

JM: The incidence of infants born too soon is on the rise in the US, appears to be largely among late preterm births and the rise does not appear to be limited to any specific maternal race, age or geographic group.

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