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September 22, 2000
Contact: Katie Baer
CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention
& Health Promotion
(770) 488–5131

Facts About State-Specific Preterm Births

  • The rate of preterm (premature) singleton deliveries born to non-Hispanic black women fell 9.8 % between 1990 and 1997. The national rate was 178.5 per 1000 live births in 1990 and 160.9 in 1997.

  • The rate of singleton births among black women also fell in 24 states during the period of 1990-1997.

  • During the period of 1990-1997, the rate of non-Hispanic white infants who were born preterm increased from 73.4 to 83.7 per 1000 live births.

  • The national preterm delivery disparity between blacks and whites has narrowed, but black women still have double the preterm delivery rate of white women.

  • Among states, the excess risk of preterm delivery for black women ranges from 1.5 to 2.4. The state with the highest preterm delivery rate for whites (107.7) was still lower than the state with the lowest preterm delivery rate for blacks (108.8).

  • This report was not intended to examine the causes for the decreases in the black preterm delivery rates or the increases in the white rate. Previous studies have identified several factors that affect preterm delivery of singleton infants, including maternal medical conditions, infection, smoking, stress, previous preterm delivery, and maternal age.

  • Preterm births are defined as those that occur at 17-36 weeks of gestation.

  • Babies who are born preterm are at higher risk of illness, disability, and death, compared to infants born at full term.

  • Preterm birth is the second leading cause of neonatal mortality in the United States, and is the leading cause of death among non-Hispanic black infants.

  • Further research is needed to monitor changes in the preterm delivery rate, explore reasons for changes in the rate, and develop programs that support improvements in women’s health, safe motherhood, and healthy babies.

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This page last reviewed September 21, 2000

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention