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Important Facts for Very Preterm Birth

Definition

A typical pregnancy last around 40 weeks. Babies that are born between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy are called full term. Babies that are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are called premature. Babies that are born between 22 and 32 weeks of pregnancy are called very premature. About 12.5 percent of babies (more than half a million per year) in the United States are born prematurely. For reasons that are not fully understood, the rate of premature birth has increased by more than 30 percent since 1981.

Numerator

Number of live infant births occurring before 32 weeks of gestation during a specific time period.

Denominator

Total number of live infant births during a specific time period.

Why Is This Important?

Premature birth is a serious health problem. Premature babies are at an increased risk for newborn health complications, as well as lasting disabilities such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, lung and gastrointestinal problems, vision and hearing loss, and even death. Poor reproductive health and birth outcomes are dependent on a variety of different factors. Some of these factors are well known while many others have not been identified. Some known risk factors for having poor reproductive health and birth outcomes are pregnancy history, exposures to infections, exposure to environmental chemicals, poor medical care, chronic health issues, socioeconomic factors, and the use of medicines, alcohol, drugs or tobacco.

Healthy People Objective MICH-9.4:

Reduce very preterm or live births at less than 32 weeks of gestation
U.S. Target: 1.8 percent

What Is Being Done?

In an effort to reduce the low birth weight rate, emphasis has been placed on preconception care to assist women in achieving optimal pregnancy spacing and to attain their optimal pre-pregnancy weight. Chronic maternal disease such as hypertension and diabetes should be diagnosed and treated prior to conception. Programs to reduce tobacco use during pregnancy have been developed and research continues into the role of periodontal disease in pregnancy on low birth weight. Women are also encouraged to seek early and continuous care throughout their pregnancies and to achieve an adequate weight gain during pregnancy. All women should receive a thorough formal risk assessment at their initial prenatal visit, with updates throughout pregnancy to identify risk factors for low birth weight and develop appropriate interventions, if needed. Multiple baby pregnancies put the babies at a higher risk of preterm birth. When using assisted reproductive technology, current standards should be followed to reduce this risk. Additionally, all women should be educated regarding the risks of pregnancy such as the importance of fetal kick counts to facilitate early recognition of problems to permit earlier intervention which can improving pregnancy outcomes. Pregnant women also need appropriate referrals to services such as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program and psychosocial counseling.
The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site (http://ibis.health.state.gov). The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Mon, 16 July 2018 16:18:50 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: http://ibis.health.state.gov ".

Content updated: Fri, 26 May 2017 10:19:50 MDT