7 Reasons Why Preterm Births Are Still on the Rise

Whether we want to face reality or not, our babies are being born prematurely more and more by the day. Can you count how many people you know personally or virtually who has had a preterm birth? According to the March of Dimes, the rate of premature births has climbed 36 percent since the 1980s. More than 500,000 American babies born each year – or roughly one out of eight – are premature.

Premature birth is now the leading cause of death among newborns and a major cause of long-term disability. As reported by the March of Dimes, pre-term births cost the United States more than $26 billion annually. Some babies never recover, but modern medicine gives even the tiniest preemies a fighting chance. Most will eventually go home with their parents, and a good number will have normal, healthy lives.

But doctors know this success is clouded by one major failure: Despite their best efforts, they haven’t been able to prevent premature births from happening in the first place.

Why are premature births on the rise, and what can be done to reverse the trend? Siobhan Dolan, M.D., assistant medical director for the March of Dimes, has a short, unsettling answer: Nobody really knows. The factors that can lead to premature birth are extremely complex, she says. One thing is clear: If doctors ever hope to stop this epidemic, they’ll have to understand the forces behind it.

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