The preterm birth rate in the United States has risen for the third straight year, based on research released today from the March of Dimes. According to the nonprofit’s 2018 Premature Birth Report Card, the rate is now 9.93 percent, up from 9.85 percent in 2016.
It’s a jump that has many medical professionals—not to mention, parents—worried. “”We must all come together to take concrete, common-sense steps to reverse this alarming trend,” urged March of Dimes president Stacey Stewart. “That begins with ensuring every baby has the healthiest possible start in life, regardless of racial and ethnic background or their family’s income.”
Her concern is not only valid, it’s backed by science. Numerous studies have shown the dangers of premature birth, including an increased risk of mental health problems later in life and long-term disabilities, like behavioral problems and neurological disorders, to name a few.
And while today’s report, which analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics, had a few bright spots—like Vermont’s high marks as the only state to receive an “A”—the overall results were disheartening, earning the U.S. a “C” grade. For example, not only did 30 states have worse rates than last year, researchers found that the risk of premature birth was up 50 percent for women of color, with the infant death rate of their babies up a shocking 130 percent.
So what can be done to lower the premature birth rate, or at least stop it from increasing in 2018? Stewart explains, “By expanding proven programs and innovative solutions we can shift our healthcare system to improve treatment and preventive care for moms and lower the preterm birth rate. Birth equity is our goal; it can be reached.”