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 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).

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].pdf icon Babies born too early (especially before 32 weeks) have higher rates of death and disability. In 2019 pdf icon[PDF – 2 MB], preterm birth and low birth weight accounted for about 17% 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.

Public Health Grand Rounds

a physician's open hands and the words public health grand rounds

CDC’s Public Health Grand Rounds is a monthly webcast created to foster discussion on major public health issues. The November 2015 session, Public Health Strategies to Prevent Preterm Birth, discusses how concerted efforts to improve surveillance data, better medical care and prevention, and stronger public health partnerships, can accelerate progress in reducing preterm births and improving neonatal outcomes. View the archived presentation and publication

Related Links
  • Is It Worth It?external icon – Information from the National Child and Maternal Health Education Program to learn the benefits of waiting until 39 weeks to deliver.
  • Premature Babiesexternal icon – Information about health problems among and care of premature babies from the March of Dimes.