Why Are 10 Percent of Babies Born Premature

Why are there so many premature births? Why are 10 percent of babies born premature? These are questions that many healthcare professionals and researchers ask frequently. There is not just one simple answer, especially in the United States. It is felt that prenatal care and even preconception care has a lot to do with the large number of preemies born.

Women who have no health insurance are unlikely to get a high level of care while they are pregnant and of course where there is poverty, the diet of pregnant women won’t be as good as in wealthier areas. According to Christopher Howson of the March of Dimes, African American women are nearly twice as likely to receive late or no prenatal care and they also have a higher rate of preterm births as well.

The most common cause of premature birth is spontaneous preterm labor according to the March of Dimes and doctors still don’t understand why this happens. In about a quarter of premature births, labor is induced or a caesarian preformed when there is fetal distress or complications.

Some of the risk factors for premature birth include having previously given birth to a premature baby, multiple births and medical issues which includes problems with the umbilical cord and uterus. Women who smoke, drink alcohol or use drugs are also more likely to have preterm infants.

Some medical conditions raise the risk level for premature births including diabetes, high blood pressure, sexually transmitted diseases, being under weight and obesity. Age can also be a factor with women under 17 and over 35 being more likely to have premature babies.

Every woman wants to have a healthy, full term baby. It is important to be as healthy as possible both before and during pregnancy and follow your doctor instructions in matters of diet and supplements. Your baby is counting on you.
Every year, around the world, close to 15 million babies are born prematurely. That equals 1 in 10 of all births.

The World Health Organization defines premature as any birth that takes places before week 37 of pregnancy. The majority of these births occur between week 32 and 37, with about 70 percent are between week 34 and 36. There are however babies that are considered extremely premature who are born before week 28. Between week 28 and 32 babies are considered very preterm.

What is disturbing about this large number of premature births is that over 1 million of these infants will not survive and among the rest, it is not uncommon to have lifelong disabilities. The vast majority of the preterm births take place in third world countries of Africa and Asia. The United States is not however exempt from this phenomenon and over half a million infants are born prematurely which equals about one in eight live births.

What is particularly disturbing is how much higher the rate is in the US when compared to other developed countries in Europe, Australia, Japan and how badly the US ranks even against many less developed countries. About 12 percent of infants in the US are born prematurely about the same as Turkey and Thailand while Sweden and Japan are 5.9 percent.

The biggest disparity however, exists between poor and wealthy countries when it comes to the survival rate. While even the tiniest have a fighting chance in the United States, in poorer countries being born too soon is much riskier and likely to result in death. For infants born in Africa, the death rate is 12 times higher than in the U.S. and Western Europe. Worldwide, premature birth is the second largest killer of children under 5 years of age.

Photo credit: Pixabay childbirth_1426174209.jpg

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