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CDC Preterm Birth Activities

CDC collaborates with national, state, tribal, and territorial organizations and partners to increase awareness of preterm births and its consequences and translate science into clinical and public health practice. Ongoing collaborations involve the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the March of Dimes, the Collaboration on Innovation and Improvement Network, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials’ Healthy Babies Initiative, and state-based perinatal quality collaboratives.

CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health is engaged in the following activities:

Perinatal Quality Collaboratives

CDC provides support to perinatal quality collaboratives (PQCs), which are state or multi-state networks of teams working to quality of care for mothers and babies. Funding supports the capabilities of PQCs to improve the quality of perinatal care in their states, including efforts to reduce preterm birth and improve prematurity outcomes. CDC works with experts to develop resources PQCs can use to further their development, including a how-to guide [PDF – 566KB] and a webinar series. CDC and the March of Dimes also launched the National Network of Perinatal Quality Collaboratives to support state-based PQCs in making measureable improvements in statewide health care and health outcomes for mothers and babies.

Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Program

MCH logo

The Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Program (MCHEP) assigns epidemiologists and fellows to states, localities, and tribes to support epidemiologic research and provide scientific information to improve maternal and child health programs and policies. As of 2017, 14 senior MCHEP epidemiologist assignees and 6 fellows from the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists were working in 15 public health agencies or institutions. Assignees provide direct assistance to public health agencies on a variety of topics, including preterm birth. Learn more about MCHEP and MCHEP accomplishments.

Vitamin D Studies

Vitamins Women who have low levels of vitamin D may be at higher risk for problems during pregnancy, including preterm birth, but more research is needed to clarify the relationship between pregnancy problems and vitamin D. CDC funded researchers at the University of Pittsburgh to examine the association between maternal vitamin D levels and risk of preterm birth. Findings show preterm birth rates decreased as vitamin D levels increased.

CDC also conducted a study in Michigan, North Carolina, and Washington State to examine vitamin D levels in stored blood samples of pregnant women. Findings suggest that low vitamin D levels may affect infant birthweight for age. An additional analysis confirmed seasonal changes in vitamin D, with peak levels in summer and the lowest levels in winter. However, there are smaller seasonal changes among black mothers.

Smoking in Pregnancy

no smoking sign

Despite decreases in smoking prevalence over recent years, in 2013, about 1 in 5 women smoked in the 3 months before pregnancy, and about 1 in 10 smoked during the last 3 months of pregnancy, according to Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) data from 27 states. In addition to a variety of negative pregnancy outcomes, smoking during pregnancy is associated with 5%-8% of the cases of preterm birth. CDC is actively working to improve reproductive health outcomes through the prevention of smoking among women before, during, and after pregnancy in the United States and globally.

Surveillance, Data Quality, and Data Linkages

image of bar graphs Much of CDC’s maternal and infant health surveillance, data quality improvement, and data linkage efforts revolve around birth certificates, the primary resource for learning about preterm birth rates in the United States. CDC partners the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) to promote the accurate recording of gestational age on birth certificates that is critical to calculate the rate of preterm birth, better understand the impact of preterm birth, follow trends, and make recommendations about preventing preterm birth.

Additional Sources of CDC Preterm Birth Data

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Surveillance

2012 national summary report cover The CDC National ART Surveillance System (NASS) is a nationwide system for monitoring ART use and outcomes. Analysis of NASS data has supported the evidence suggesting a higher risk for certain adverse outcomes, including preterm birth, among women who use ART.

Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System

PRAMS logo The Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) is a surveillance project of the CDC and state health departments. PRAMS collects state-specific, population-based data on maternal attitudes and experiences before, during, and shortly after pregnancy. PRAMS data have been used to analyze the characteristics of women who experienced preterm delivery.

National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

CDC’s NCHS is the principal health statistics agency of the United States.  Through its relationship with vital registration systems throughout the United States, NCHS collects, analyzes, and publishes data on a wide range of health indicators, including preterm birth. For more information, visit the NCHS birth data page.

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