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:

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 icon[PDF – 566KB] and a webinar series. In 2017, CDC awarded the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality to serve as the coordinating center for the National Network of Perinatal Quality Collaborativesexternal icon (NNPQC), which supports state-based PQCs in making measureable improvements in statewide health care and health outcomes for mothers and babies. The NNPQC recently launched an interactive site for PQCsexternal icon featuring resources, a consultants’ bureau of experts, and a feed to post questions, events, or ideas for discussion.

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The Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Program (MCHEP) assigns epidemiologists and fellows to state, local, and tribal levels to support epidemiologic research and provides scientific information to improve maternal and child health programs and policies. The MCHEP has assigned more than 35 senior CDC epidemiologists focused on MCH epidemiology capacity building and applied research to 20 states, and 6 other public health agencies and organizations (including Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, US-Mexico Border Region, CityMatCH, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, and the Indian Health Service Epidemiology Office).


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 showexternal icon preterm birth rates decreased as vitamin D levels increased.

CDC also conducted a studyexternal icon 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 analysisexternal icon 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.

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Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of health problems for developing babies, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and birth defects of the mouth and lip. Smoking during and after pregnancy also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Additionally, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products containing nicotine (the addictive drug found in tobacco) are not safe to use during pregnancy. Nicotine is a health danger for pregnant women and developing babies and can damage a developing baby’s brain and lungs. Also, some of the flavorings used in e-cigarettes may be harmful to a developing baby. Learn more about e-cigarettes and pregnancy.

Some research also shows that marijuana use during pregnancy is linked to health concerns, including high use of other substances that may impact pregnancy and infant health such as tobacco, and developmental problems in adolescents. Learn more about Substance Use During Pregnancy.

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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

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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

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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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