Research Scientist

Premature Birth

premature_ANearly 1 in 10 babies are born premature. (CDC) In 2020, preterm birth affected 1 of every 10 infants born in the United States. The preterm birth rate declined 1% in 2020, from 10.2% in 2019 to 10.1% in 2020. However, racial and ethnic differences in preterm birth rates remain. In 2020, the rate of preterm birth among African-American women (14.4%) was about 50 percent higher than the rate of preterm birth among white or Hispanic women (9.1% and 9.8% respectively).

There are several theories on the causes of this upward trend.  Chemical exposures might increase the likelihood of a child being born prematurely (before the thirty-seventh week of pregnancy). Dr. Michael Giuliano, chief of neonatology at Hackensack University Medical Center, offers several reasons for this steady increase in premature deliveries in this country, including various technological innovations.  "Artificial technologies have led to lots of multiple births," he said, "and the incidence of prematurity in multiple births is much, much higher."

According to Stanford University pediatrician Alan Greene, the higher concentrations of chemicals in fetuses' blood might also be behind this increase. "The tiniest amount of pesticide increased the risk of prematurity by 90 percent," he said in a story in the Dayton Daily News, citing a University of North Carolina study conducted in the late 1990s, which evaluated forty thousand blood samples from pregnancies in the 1960s. "They went on to estimate that 15 percent of infant deaths in the 60s could be attributed to pesticide exposure before birth."

While researchers still have a great deal to learn about the causes of preterm delivery, the medical establishment widely acknowledges that preemies face greater challenges than full-term babies, from lung problems to neurodevelopmental challenges.  In recent years, some researchers (including those from the Environmental Working Group) have even begun to link the rise in premature births to the obesity epidemic.
(Source: Growing Up Green: Baby & Child Care by Deirdre Imus)



·        CDC:  Premature Birth

·        Graham's Foundation:  Supporting Parents of Preemies

·        March of Dimes: Premature Birth

·        Medline Plus: Premature Birth


close (X)