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Late Preterm Births Increasing in U.S.
Date:11/18/2009

Reasons for early birth vary, but all premature babies face higher risks, experts warn,,

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The percentage of babies born preterm in the United States rose by more than 20 percent from 1990 to 2006, most delivered at the end of the preterm period, federal health officials report.

Every day in the United States, more than 900 of these "late preterm" births occur, adding up to 333,461 a year, according to the report, Born A Bit Too Early: Recent Trends in Late Preterm Births, issued by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.

"Late preterm birth, which are births ... just before term at 34 to 36 weeks of gestation, have increased quite dramatically over the last decade and a half," said CDC epidemiologist Joyce A. Martin, the report's lead author.

"There are increases across the board," she said -- in all age groups, for most race and ethnic groups and in all states. Overall, the rate of preterm births increased from 6.8 to 8.1 percent, according to the report.

The number of late preterm births resulting from induced labor or cesarean delivery has also increased, Martin said. The percentage of induced late preterm births more than doubled between 1990 and 2006, from 7.5 to 17.3 percent, according to the report. The percentage of late preterm births delivered by cesarean rose by 46 percent, from 23.5 to 34.3 percent.

The reasons for the increase in late preterm births isn't clear, Martin said.

"Studies have found increases in later preterm deliveries that are medically indicated, but other studies have found that there are some late preterm deliveries that are happening where there do not appear to be any medical reasons for the delivery," she said.

Improved technology has made identifying infants in distress easier, and that has also contributed to the increase, she said.

The rising rate of late preterm deliveries
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