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Alarming Increase in Rates of Preterm and Early-Term Births in the US Since 2014

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Ayanna Amadi
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Alarming Increase in Rates of Preterm and Early-Term Births in the US Since 2014

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An Unsettling Shift in Birth Trends

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Recent data analysis has revealed a concerning shift in birth trends in the United States with a notable increase in rates of preterm and early-term births since 2014. According to the National Vital Statistics Report (NVSS) published by the United States CDC, there has been a shift toward shorter gestational ages. The proportion of all preterm births increased by 12% from 2014 to 2022, with an average annual increase of 2% until 2019.

Increased Rates of Both Early and Late Preterm Births

The rate of both early and late preterm births has also seen a simultaneous increase. The rate of early preterm births increased from 2.07% to 2.16%, and the rate of late preterm births increased from 5.67% to 6.51% between 2014 and 2022. The preterm birth rates increased across mothers of all races, with a particularly significant increase for Hispanic mothers at 13%. Such a trend is critical to understand, considering infants born preterm are at the greatest risk of morbidity and mortality.

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The Risks Associated with Preterm Births

Preterm and early-term births pose serious risks to babies, including complications such as underdeveloped lungs, difficulty in regulating temperature and blood sugar levels, and increased susceptibility to health conditions and diseases. Additionally, preterm births are a leading cause of infant deaths in the U.S.

Factors Contributing to the Increase

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Several factors are believed to contribute to this shift towards shorter gestational ages. These include an older maternal age, increase in obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Changes in prenatal care during the COVID-19 pandemic, including lockdowns and reduced access to healthcare, may have also played a role. Interestingly, the trend of having children later in life, increased use of IVF, environmental factors, psychosocial stressors, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic have also been suggested as possible contributing factors.

Addressing the Issue

Given the increased risk of health problems and learning disabilities associated with preterm births, addressing this issue is paramount. The importance of access to quality healthcare cannot be overstated. Additionally, potential parents should prioritize their health before conception, especially considering obesity and Covid infection have been linked to a higher risk of preterm births.

Understanding the Trend

The upward trend in preterm birth rates, rising about 2% each year between 2014 and 2019 before fluctuating till 2022, brings to light the need for increased vigilance, research, and intervention strategies. Understanding these trends is vital for informing measures aimed at mitigating preterm and early-term birth rates and ensuring the health and well-being of both mothers and infants.

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