About 17 percent fewer U.S. babies were born early in the past year, the result of improved obstetric care, reduced newborn mortality and greater availability of high-risk-prepared pregnant women, according to a report released Monday by the March of Dimes.
The rate of early births also declined in 2017 compared with the previous year.
The March of Dimes is best known for its dramatic “safe haven” baby campaign, which last month had its first major television advertisement. The campaign featured the story of a boy named Genesis who was born on the side of a road near Flint, Mich., and quickly saved by the quick actions of an emergency medical worker.
But in its most recent report, the March of Dimes went a step further by suggesting ways to reduce the prevalence of preterm births in the U.S. The message was clear: babies who are born preterm are at risk for heart and respiratory problems, neurological deficiencies and hearing and vision loss. Babies born at or before 37 weeks gestation also are at a higher risk of death.
“Early babies face overwhelming challenges and deserve a better chance to thrive,” said Francesco Rossi, president of the March of Dimes. “Preterm births are a preventable condition, and we must improve women’s access to quality care and ensure they can better balance work and care.”
An estimated 50,000 babies are born too soon in the U.S. each year, the March of Dimes reports.
Other reasons behind the decline in early births include more people delaying pregnancies and avoiding elective abortions, the March of Dimes says. In 2016, women aged 15 to 44 years were not more likely to give birth in the early part of their pregnancy than women in the age range 20 to 44, according to federal data.