Preterm birth is when a baby is born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed. In 2015, preterm birth affected about 1 of every 10 infants born in the United States. Preterm birth rates decreased from 2007 to 2014, and CDC research shows that this decline is due, in part, to declines in the number of births to teens and young mothers. But, more recent data indicate a slight increase in the national preterm birth rate from 2014 to 2015. And, while it's too early to know what caused this increase or if this is the start of a trend, we do know that racial and ethnic disparities persist. In 2015, the rate of preterm birth among African-American women (13%) was about 50 percent higher than the rate of preterm birth among white women (9%).
A developing baby goes through important growth throughout pregnancy— including in the final weeks and months. For example, the brain, lungs, and liver need the final weeks of pregnancy to fully develop. Read Your Baby Grows Throughout Your Entire Pregnancy. There is a higher risk to the baby of serious disability or death when the baby is born early. In 2013, about one-third (36%) of infant deaths were due to preterm-related causes. Babies who survive may have
- Breathing problems
- Feeding difficulties
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delay
- Vision problems
- Hearing impairment
Preterm births may also take an emotional toll and be a financial burden for families.