Preterm Birth

image of a mother holding a newborn

Preterm birth is when a baby is born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed. In 2021, preterm birth affected about 1 of every 10 infants born in the United States. The preterm birth rate rose 4% in 2021, from 10.1% in 2020 to 10.5% in 2021. However, racial and ethnic differences in preterm birth rates remain. In 2021, the rate of preterm birth among African-American women (14.8%) was about 50 percent higher than the rate of preterm birth among white or Hispanic women (9.5% and 10.2% respectively).

A developing baby goes through important growth throughout pregnancy─ including in the final months and weeks. For example, the brain, lungs, and liver need the final weeks of pregnancy to fully develop. Read Your Baby Grows Throughout Your Entire Pregnancy [PDF-312KB]. Babies born too early (especially before 32 weeks) have higher rates of death and disability. In 2020 [PDF – 176 KB], preterm birth and low birth weight accounted for about 16% of infant deaths (deaths before 1 year of age). Babies who survive may have

Preterm births may also take an emotional toll and be a financial burden for families.

Frequently Asked Questions: For Women and Their Families

What is CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health doing to prevent preterm birth?

CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health is engaged in a variety of research and science to practice activities aimed at understanding and reducing preterm birth. CDC scientists are collaborating with many partners, including state health departments, university researchers, and other health care professionals to understand why preterm births occur and what can be done to help prevent them. Read about our preterm birth activities.

Related Links
  • Premature Babies – Information about health problems among and care of premature babies from the March of Dimes.