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Preterm Birth Rates Declining, U.S. Report Shows
Date:5/11/2010

While experts think the news is good, they stop short of calling it a trend

TUESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- After nearly three decades of increases in the number of premature births in the United States, health officials report that the rate has dropped 4 percent over a two-year period.

"Prematurity is a risk factor for early death and long-term morbidity, so any decline is welcome and we are hoping that this marks the beginning of a new trend downward in this disturbing rate," said report author Joyce A. Martin, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the report, the rate of preterm births has declined, from 12.8 percent of births in 2006 to 12.3 percent in 2008.

From 1981 to 1990, the rate of preterm deliveries rose 13 percent and from 1990 to 2006 it rose more than 20 percent, according to the report.

Furthermore, the number of preterm births are down for all women under 40 regardless of race or ethnicity. From 2006 to 2008, the rate of preterm births dropped 5 percent among both blacks and whites.

Among Hispanic women, the rate of preterm deliveries dropped from 12.3 percent in 2007 to 12.1 percent in 2008. This decline followed a small increase in preterm births from 2006 to 2007, the researchers noted.

Preterm births also dropped across the country, with 35 states seeing a significant decline. Only Hawaii saw an increase in preterm deliveries.

Moreover, fewer preterm infants are being delivered by Cesarean, according to the report.

The reasons for the drop in preterm births isn't clear, Martin noted. "But we hope to better identify the reasons after we get more final data," she said.

"This is good news to see a fairly substantial decline in preterm rates," Martin added.

However, while these data are a hopeful sign, the rate of prem
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