The Premature Birth Rate Is Rising: How to Be Proactive

What are the risks associated with premature birth?

Premature birth has both short- and long-term consequences. Post-partum complications related to breathing, infections, and the nervous system often result in prolonged hospitalization. A premature baby has 40 percent more doctor visits in the first year of life than a full-term baby. In the long-term, premature infants are at increased risk for developmental delays, learning disabilities, respiratory challenges, hearing/visual impairments, and brain function disorders are common.

What re the benefits of testing for premature birth risk?

Premature births have risen for the third year in a row. One in 10 babies in the U.S. is born premature. To address this public health crisis, Sera Prognostics identified biomarkers highly predictive of preterm birth, resulting in the PreTRM test, now commercially available. Patients at increased risk for premature birth can be identified earlier in pregnancy, ahead of any signs and symptoms, enabling health care providers to develop a care plan intended to do everything possible to manage risk. Parents can better plan and prepare.

How can expecting parents be proactive in assessing their preterm risk?

Parents and clinicians should discuss clinical risk factors and the signs and symptoms of premature labor. Historical risk factors include a prior preterm birth, advanced maternal age (over 35), IVF pregnancy, high blood pressure, diabetes, prior miscarriage, smoking, and drug or alcohol abuse. However, up to 50 percent of premature births occur in women who have no known risk factors. The PreTRM test identifies an individual woman’s risk for premature birth, prior to signs or symptoms. Proactive parents should talk to their doctors about premature birth and decide if the PreTRM test is right for them.

SOURCE: Dr. Todd Randolph, Medical Director of Sera Prognostics

Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributors to infant death in this country, and pregnancy-related deaths have more than doubled over the past 25 years.

Equally problematic a statistic is that in 2018, women of color have an up to 50 percent higher rate of preterm birth than white women, even with access to prenatal care and health insurance. In this, the wealthiest country in the world, why are moms, especially black moms, so disproportionately impacted in terms of their health? Why are black moms and black babies dying at disproportionately higher rates?

These facts and others, have prompted March of Dimes, as the leader in maternal and infant health, to take action so that all moms and babies can receive the support they need to have the best possible start together.

Moms and babies are in the midst of an urgent health crisis — one that we know we can’t take on alone.

Where you come in

In 2017, March of Dimes created the Prematurity Campaign Collaborative. We brought together a group of more than 250 leading maternal and child health organizations and experts from across the country to address premature birth prevention with an emphasis on helping all babies get the opportunity for a healthy start.

As we celebrate our 80th anniversary, we have also launched a new awareness campaign, "Won't Stop," that sheds light on the urgent health crises moms and babies face in America: preterm birth, racial disparities in health and access to care, and maternal mortality.

We’re ready

From grassroots advocacy to policy initiatives, we’re ready to take this initiative to the next level by transitioning from a learning collaborative and into a collective impact model. It’s time for us to talk and share and learn from each other and also move toward collective action to solve the problems of prematurity and inequity.

America can no longer turn a blind eye to the disturbing maternal mortality rate. We need continued advocacy, awareness, funding and innovative practices that address the fundamental medical and social factors to improve the lives of moms and babies. When a society supports every family, the future is brighter for us all. And when communities work together, even the toughest problems can be solved.