NICU Awareness Month: Understanding Prematurity

In 2016, about 1 in 10 babies was born too early in the United States.

September is NICU Awareness Month and in this week’s Healthy Tip Tuesday, Trinity Hospital Twin City is bringing you more information on premature birth.

About Premature Birth

A developing baby goes through important growth throughout pregnancy – including in the final months and weeks. When a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is considered preterm birth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the earlier the baby is born, the higher the risk of death or serious disability. Preterm birth can be very dangerous. In 2015, preterm birth and low birth weight accounted for about 17% of infant deaths.

CDC officials note that even when babies survive, they aren’t out of the woods as they can face a number of ongoing health issues and concerns. They may face breathing issues, intestinal (digestive) problems, and bleeding in their brains. Long-term problems can also include developmental delay and lower performance in school.

Preterm Birth in the United States

Despite a decrease in preterm birth rates from 2007 to 2014, preterm birth continues to be a national public health priority. CDC research suggests the decline in preterm births is partly due to fewer teens and young women giving birth.

However; it is noteworthy to mention that preterm birth rate rose for the second straight year in 2016, and about 1 in 10 babies (10%) was born too early. Racial and ethnic differences in preterm birth also still remain. In 2016, the CDC notes the rate of preterm birth among non-Hispanic black women (14%) was about 50% higher than the rate of preterm birth among non-Hispanic white women (9%).

Healthy Tip Tuesday- WebsiteRisk Factors

Experts note that they do not know why some babies are born early, however; the following they refer to as ‘risk factors’ are known to increase the chance of preterm birth. Officials add a woman can still have a premature birth even if she has no known risk factors.

  • Social Characteristics
    • Black race
    • Teens and women over age 35
    • Low socioeconomic position
  • Health Behaviors
    • Tobacco Use
    • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Medical and pregnancy characteristics
    • Mental health (stress, depression)
    • Pregnancy history (short time between pregnancies, delivering a baby in the past preterm, pregnant with multiples).
    • Pregnancy complications (preeclampsia, placenta previa, placenta abruption)
    • Medical disorders (thyroid disease, obesity, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure)
    • Fertility treatments (assisted reproductive technology or other treatments)
    • Infection within the uterus

September in NICU Awareness Month, which is designed to bring awareness to NICU babies, families and healthcare professionals. Additionally, health experts note this is a great time to also focus on what we can do to try and prevent preterm births.

What Can We Do?

More Information from the CDC

Healthy Tip Tuesday is a exclusive informational series brought to you by Trinity Hospital Twin City.


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