Preterm Birth Rates Have Increased In The United States

by Casey Suglia

Birth complications can result from the simplest of things. And now, having a healthy pregnancy should be more of a priority for expecting mothers than ever, due to this alarming statistic about births in the United States, which was released only recently. If nothing else, this statistic should should help the public focus more attention on the health of expecting mothers and making sure they get the medical attention they deserve — all timely and important topics, given the current health care debate.

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2016 revealed that preterm birth rates, or births that happen before 37 weeks of gestation, have increased in the United States for the second year in a row. Nearly 10 percent of babies born in the United States are born prematurely, according to the new data, even though general birth rates have declined altogether, including the rate of teen pregnancy. "The increase in the preterm birth rate is an alarming indication that the health of pregnant women and babies in our country is headed in the wrong direction," Stacey Stewart, president of the March of Dimes, said in a press release, according to Fit Pregnancy.

A preterm birth could indicate future health problems for a child — and with a potential overhaul to the nation's healthcare system that could happen soon, these numbers should be taking center stage for pregnant women in regards to their own care.

There is no direct cause of preterm birth, according to the CDC, but there are things that contribute to why babies may be born preterm. These factors include social and economic characteristics, health complications (such as high blood pressure or infection), and behavioral factors like stress and late term prenatal care. The most that mothers can do to prevent a preterm birth is to stay healthy, receive proper prenatal care, and seek medical attention for signs of preterm labor, according to the CDC.

Of course, all of this is strongly tied to whether or not women have health insurance and access to prenatal care. If the Senate health care bill, or the Better Care Reconciliation Act, were to pass, according to NBC News, these preterm birth rates could get even worse, given the millions of women who are projected to lose their insurance coverage under the BCRA and the dire cuts to Medicaid (which pays for half of all births in the United States).

It is too early to determine whether these preterm birth statistics indicate a longterm trend, according to the CDC. But, with the potential cuts to health coverage for women and babies still yet to be finalized, it could very well be in the near future.