As we again honor World Prematurity Day on November 17th, we must also acknowledge the problem is still growing. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the average rate of preterm birth (birth prior to 37 weeks gestation) has increased for the third year in a row. The preterm birth rate has increased from 9.6% to 9.93% between 2016 and 2017. As a result, the March of Dimes Premature Birth Rate Report Card gives the United States a disappointing grade of “C”.
Prematurity is the leading cause of death worldwide in children under five years of age. This vulnerable population is at an increased risk of long-term health problems such as: cerebral palsy, developmental delay, breathing difficulties, blindness and hearing loss.