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.
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.
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