Increase in the preterm birth rate

According to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the preterm birth rate in the United States has gone up again. In 2017 the rate of preterm birth in this country was 9.93 percent. In 2018 it went up to 10.02 percent. This marks the fourth year in a row with an increased rate. This comes after steady declines over the past ten years.

In the United States, about 380,000 babies are born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) each year. This means that about 1 in 10 babies is born too soon. The most recent change in the preterm birth rate suggests an additional 3,000 premature births in 2018.

The NCHS report also highlights the change in the preterm birth rate among women of color. Overall, black women have a preterm birth rate about 50 percent higher than the rate for white women. Almost 17 percent of black babies are born prematurely each year.

Premature birth is one of the main causes of death for babies in the United States and worldwide. Babies who survive premature birth often have long-term health problems, including cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, chronic lung disease, blindness and hearing loss. The chance of a baby’s survival should not depend on where a baby is born or the income, race, and ethnicity of her mom.

How March of Dimes is helping

Not having equal access to services like quality prenatal care leads to serious problems like premature birth. As the leader in the fight for the health of all moms and babies, March of Dimes is working to change this through advocacy, research and patient education and support programs to prevent premature birth. For example we are:

  • Delivering programs to improve the care that moms and babies receive, including Supportive Pregnancy Care, a model of group prenatal care that can improve the health of moms and babies
  • Advancing research at our network of six Prematurity Research Centers to find the unknown causes of premature birth and develop new ways to prevent it
  • Advocating for policies to protect moms and babies, including Medicaid expansion, extension of postpartum coverage to one year and enhanced reimbursement for group prenatal care
  • Empowering families and communities with knowledge and tools to have healthier pregnancies, including health information available at and
  • Supporting moms through every stage of the pregnancy, even when everything doesn’t go according to plan

Take action

Use your voice to speak up for all moms and babies. Visit to join our action network and reach your representatives with messages of support for strong moms and babies. We need thousands of voices to persuade policymakers to pass laws and regulations that promote the health of women, their babies and their families.