What proportion of babies admitted to NICUs are premature?
On average, about two-thirds of babies admitted for NICU care are born prematurely, that is, before 37 completed weeks of
pregnancy. About a third of the babies are born close to their due dates; they are admitted for a variety of problems such as birth defects, infections, poor growth, or problems related to difficult labor and/or delivery.
How many babies are born prematurely each year?
In the United States, about half a
million babies are born prematurely. Worldwide, the number is
about 13 million!
What is the rate of prematurity in the U.S.?
One in eight pregnancies (about 12.5%)
results in a premature birth. After the
rate of prematurity increased by more than a third since the early 1980ís, it fell
slightly for the first time in 2007, from a peak of 12.6% in 2006, to 12.7% in
2007 and then to 12.3% in 2008. These small declines mean that 20,000 fewer
babies were born prematurely in 2008 compared with 2006.
Are their racial differences in the rate of prematurity in
Yes. African-American women have a prematurity
rate of 18.5%, which is far higher the overall rate in the U.S. (12.5%) and
higher even than the rate of prematurity of women who live in Africa
(10.9%). The very high rate of
prematurity in American blacks is likely related to socioeconomic differences
compared to whites, such as lower income and less access to health care.
How does the rate of prematurity in the U.S. compare with
that in other countries around the world?
While one in eight babies is born
too early in the U.S., the rate is far lower in many other countries. For example, the number is one in eighteen in
both Ireland and Finland.
How does the U.S. compare with other countries in terms of
infant mortality (the rate at which infants die in the first year of life)?
The U.S. fails miserably in the
area of infant mortality, ranking anywhere from 33rd to 45th
in the world, depending on which ranking system is used. Japan has the lowest infant death rate in
the world, at 1.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.
In the U.S., there are about 5 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Why is the infant mortality rate in the U.S. so high?
The rate of infant mortality is
strongly linked to the rate of prematurity, and the rate of prematurity in the
U.S. is very high.
Why is preventing prematurity so important?
Early birth is the largest single
cause of death in the newborn period and in infancy. In addition, many survivors of prematurity
will have long-term developmental disabilities.
The Institute of Medicine reported that the cost of premature birth in
the U.S. adds up to $26 billion each year, which amounts to $51,600 for every
infant born too early.