To Prevent Premature Births, it May Help to First Change the Definition

Seminar on the prevention of pre-term births

In November 2000, Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. held a two-day seminar for obstetricians/gynecologists, maternal/fetal medicine specialists, scientists working in the field of preterm birth and policymakers to examine the factors accounting for preterm and low-birth-weight deliveries and to identify strategies for addressing those factors comprehensively.

Preterm deliveries and normal-term small babies comprise an exceedingly high-risk population, with nearly two-thirds of all infant deaths occurring from among newborns in these categories.

Key Results

  • Project staff convened the symposium entitled "Confronting Pre-Term Birth in the 21st Century: From Molecular Intervention to Community Action" November 10–11, 2000, in New York. It was attended by more than 300 people representing federal agencies involved in maternal and child health, professional organizations, the March of Dimes and the New York Academy of Medicine.

    Among the observations of the speakers were the following:

    • After birth defects, premature births and low birth weight are the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, accounting for an increase from 84 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1988 to 104 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1998.
    • Compared with white women who give birth in the United States, black women are more than twice as likely to lose their babies due to premature birth and low birth weight.
    • The overall level of preterm birth climbed 15 percent, from approximately 10 percent in 1988 to more than 11.5 percent in 1998. Some of this increase was attributable to the increasing rates of multiple births and to births to women over age 35.
    • The economic cost of premature deliveries is $6 billion, a figure that represents 10 percent of all health spending on children and 35 percent of all spending on infants.
  • The Journal of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology published a supplement on preterm delivery in its July 2001 issue, which included seven articles based on symposium presentations.

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