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How many people are affected by preterm labor and birth?

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year, preterm birth affects more than 500,000 infants—that's one nearly 1 of every 9 infants born in the United States.1

The rate of preterm births peaked in 2006 at nearly 13%, which was more than one-third higher than rates during the early 1980s.2 But in the past 5 years, the rates of preterm births have been falling.3 Between 2009 and 2010 (the latest year for which data are available), the rate declined to less than 12% of births.3

Going into preterm labor does not always mean that a pregnant woman will deliver the baby prematurely. Up to one-half of women who experience preterm labor eventually deliver at 37 weeks of pregnancy or later.3

In some cases, intervention from a health care provider is needed to stop preterm labor. In other cases, the labor may stop on its own. A woman who thinks she is experiencing preterm labor should contact a health care provider immediately.

How many women are at risk for preterm labor and delivery?

Any pregnant woman could experience preterm labor and delivery. But there are some factors that increase a woman’s risk of going into labor or giving birth prematurely. Please visit the section What are the risk factors for preterm labor and birth? for more details on risk factors.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Preterm birth. Retrieved April 18, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/PretermBirth.htm [top]
  2. March of Dimes. 2012 Premature birth report cards. Retrieved September 18, 2013, from http://www.marchofdimes.com/mission/prematurity-reportcard.aspx External Web Site Policy [top]
  3. Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Ventura, S. J., Osterman, M. J. K., Wilson, E. C., & Mathews, T. J. (2012, August 28). Births: Final Data for 2010. National Vital Statistics Report, 61(1), 1–72. Retrieved March 20, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_01.pdf (PDF - 1.7 MB) [top]

Last Updated Date: 03/11/2014
Last Reviewed Date: 11/06/2013
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