The Alarming Increase in Preterm Birth Rates
In recent years, the United States has seen a significant and concerning increase in preterm births. According to a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of preterm births (less than 37 weeks of gestation) rose by 12% between 2014 and 2022, from 7.74% to 8.67%. This increase was consistent across different age groups and races, although Black and Hispanic mothers were more likely to give birth early compared to White individuals. The reasons behind this rising trend are not completely understood, however, several factors seem to contribute to this issue.
Contributing Factors to Preterm Births
While the exact causes of preterm births remain unclear, certain conditions and factors have been identified as potential contributors. Some of these factors encompass:
- Age and fertility treatments: People having children later in life or through in vitro fertilization (IVF) could potentially contribute to this trend, as they are associated with a higher risk of preterm birth.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to certain environmental factors can also increase the likelihood of preterm births.
- Psychosocial stressors: Chronic stress, anxiety, lack of support, unstable housing, and poor nutrition can further raise an individual’s risk of giving birth early.
Deteriorating General Health: A Key Factor?
Dr., a specialist in ob/gyn-Maternal and Fetal Medicine at University Hospitals in Cleveland who was not involved with the CDC report, believes that the rising preterm birth rates in America are mainly due to Americans’ overall deteriorating health. He noted that obesity rates are increasing among Americans, which can lead to health problems that heighten the risk of preterm births.
More than one in four women in the US is overweight, and 42.4% of the US population has obesity, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with obesity are more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions like preeclampsia that can prompt early delivery.
Addressing the Problem: Steps to Reduce Preterm Birth Risks
In order to tackle the rising trend of preterm births, it is crucial for individuals and healthcare providers to prioritize their health before getting pregnant. Taking proactive steps towards optimal health can significantly reduce the chances of early birth. Some suggestions include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight: By managing a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise, individuals can lower their risk of developing obesity-related complications that contribute to preterm birth risks.
- Addressing mental health: Ensuring proper mental health care and support can help pregnant individuals manage stress, anxiety, and other psychosocial stressors, thereby reducing the likelihood of giving birth prematurely.
- Seeking prenatal care: Regular prenatal care visits are essential for expecting mothers to monitor their health and the development of their unborn child. Proper medical supervision can help identify potential risks and address them proactively.
- Eliminating exposure to toxins: Limiting exposure to environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, and chemicals can also help reduce the risk of preterm birth.
Further Research is Necessary
While these steps can be beneficial in reducing the risk of preterm births, further research is necessary to fully understand and address this complex issue. By continuing to investigate the underlying causes and contributing factors, healthcare professionals can develop more targeted interventions to reverse the alarming upward trend of preterm births in the United States.