Newspaper article

U.S. Premature Birthrate Falls, along with Labor Inductions and C- Sections

Newspaper article

U.S. Premature Birthrate Falls, along with Labor Inductions and C- Sections

Article excerpt

The overall rate of premature births in the United States has fallen significantly in recent years, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The drop was associated, the study found, with a concurrent decrease in the rate of physician-initiated obstetric interventions - - specifically, induced labor and Caesarean deliveries.

These findings suggest that efforts to get U.S. obstetricians to reduce medically unnecessary early births are working.

"This is great. I was so excited to see this," said Katy Kozhimannil, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health who was not involved with the JAMA study, but whose own research has focused on the impact of health policy on reproductive-aged women and their families. "It really shows how our system can change, and how obstetricians are responsive to new information."

Still, aggressive efforts to reduce premature births in the U.S. will need to continue. For although fewer American women are having their babies prematurely, the U.S. rate for such births remains much higher than that for other developed countries, as this new study's findings also demonstrate.

Nor is it clear that all populations of women in the U.S. are experiencing the positive trend observed in the current study.

"The average can keep going down and get better and better for the groups that have the best access to health-care delivery systems," said Kozhimannil. "But things may remain unchanged for those most vulnerable. So it's important to look at the trend and make sure it isn't being driven only by changes among white, middle- class, privately insured urban people, for example."

As I've noted here before, premature births -- described in this study as occurring before 38 weeks of pregnancy -- are a serious public health issue. Babies who are born prematurely are at greater risk of developing a wide range of medical problems than are full- term babies (born at 39 to 40 weeks). Those problems include lung damage, brain hemorrhages, infections, vision loss and cerebral palsy.

A multicountry study

For the JAMA study, an international team of researchers compared late preterm (delivery at 34 to 36 weeks) and early term (delivery at 37 to 38 weeks) birthrates from 2006 to the latest year available in six high-income countries: the U. …

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