HealthDay News — Preterm birth rates in the United States fell to 11.4%, the lowest rate in 17 years, according to a report issued by the March of Dimes. Since 2005, the rate of preterm deliveries has declined consistently each year for the first time in more than two decades, results of an unrelated study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology indicate.

“Recent nationwide policies enforcing elective delivery at or beyond 39 weeks of gestation suggest this decrease may be the result of changes in practice patterns; however, this is not known,” explained Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, of Columbia University in New York City.

To evaluate whether the decline in preterm delivery was the result of a decrease in indicated or spontaneous preterm delivery and to assess this decrease by race and ethnicity, the investigators conducted a population-based retrospective analysis using data restricted to singleton live births from 2005 to 2012 (n=19,984,436).

The spontaneous preterm delivery rate fell 15.4% during those years, reaching about 4.5% two years ago. Meanwhile, the rate of indicated preterm delivery fell from 3.9% to 3.2% in that time period, representing a decline of more than 17%.

2014 Premature birth rate report card

Despite noteworthy progress, the March of Dimes’ annual report card on premature births awarded the nation a “C” grade. That’s because even though it met the federal Healthy People 2020 goal seven years early, it fell short of the more ambitious 9.6% goal set by the March of Dimes. Overall, the United States rate of preterm births is one of the highest among wealthy nations, the agency noted.

In 2013, more than 450,000 babies were born early, compared to more than 542,000 in 2006, when preemie rates peaked, according to the report. Three states, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama — plus Puerto Rico, received a failing grade because of preterm birth rates of 14.6% or more. However, five states, California, Oregon, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, with a rate of 9.6% or lower got an “A”.


  1. Gyamfi-Bannerman, C et al. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2014; doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000546