"For two decades, the preterm birth rate rose steadily, but it's been decreasing since 2006, and is now the lowest it's been in a decade," he said. "It shows that preterm birth is not an intractable problem."
McCabe said a major reason for the decline in preterm birth is a focus on reducing elective cesarean section births and labor inductions. He said the March of Dimes and other groups, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommend that no elective birth procedures be done before 39 weeks of gestation unless there is a medical indication for early delivery.
"A lot of teen pregnancies are unplanned," McCabe said. "It's really about motivating teens to empower them to take control over their own bodies and lives."
The drop in teen birth rates was even more significant for some races, although the rates are still higher overall. In 1991, the rate of teen pregnancy among non-Hispanic blacks was 118.2 per 1,000 teens. By 2011, that number was down to 47.4 per 1,000 teens. In Hispanics, the 1991 rate was 104.6 per 1,000, and 49.4 per 1,000 teens in 2011.
Meanwhile, the rate of preterm birth is at its lowest point in five years at 11.7 percent. The biggest decline came in the birth of late preterm babies (those at 34 to 36 weeks gestation).
Like preterm births, the number of low-birth-weight babies has been declining since 2006. The latest rate of low-birth-weight babies (about 5.5 pounds or less) was 8.1 percent of babies born in 2011.
"Barriers to access to care are being reduced," Rabin said. "There are more and more programs to take care of the under- and uninsured. I think this will keep getting better."
Both Rabin and McCabe recommended getti
All rights reserved