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Premature Births in US Increase for Second Year

FILE - Melinda Star Guido lies in an incubator at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, Dec. 14, 2011. At birth, Melinda Star Guido tipped the scales at 9 1/2 ounces. Most babies her size don’t survive, but doctors are preparing to sen
Premature Births in U.S. Increase for Second Year
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A new report shows the number of babies born prematurely has been increasing in the United States since 2014.

The report by the National Center for Health Statistics says preterm births have increased by 2 percent in 2016 and 1.6 percent in 2015 after seven years of decreases. A baby is considered preterm if born before the 37th week of pregnancy.

Stacey Stewart is president of the nonprofit March of Dimes. The group works to end preterm birth and other birth defects. She says the increase is “an alarming indication that the health of pregnant women and babies in our country is heading in the wrong direction.”

Stewart calls on members of the U.S. Congress to increase access to quality prenatal care. She also wants government officials to promote proven ways to help reduce the risk of preterm birth. She notes that the U.S. Senate is considering a health care bill that many Americans believe would change coverage for maternity and newborn care.

Stewart says now “is not the time to make it harder for women to get the care they need to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.”

About 400,000 babies in the United States are born preterm each year. The World Health Organization estimates that 15 million babies are born preterm each year around the world.

No one knows all the causes of preterm birth. But researchers have discovered that even late-term premature babies face developmental challenges that full-term babies do not. Studies show that health problems related to preterm births continue through adult life. These problems include chronic lung disease, developmental handicaps and vision and hearing losses.

The National Center for Health Statistics report shows that preterm rates rose in 17 of the 50 U.S. states. None of the states reported a decrease.

The incidence of low birth weight, a risk factor for some serious health problems, also rose for a second straight year in 2016.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Carol Pearson wrote this story for VOANews. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in this Story

chronic – adj. continuing or occurring again and again for a long time

defect – n. a physical problem that causes something to be less valuable, effective, healthy, etc.

premature – adj. born before the normal time

prenatal – adj. relating to pregnant women and their unborn babies