Premature Birth Facts That You Might Not Know

What’s all the fuss about premature birth?

Why is premature (or preterm) birth such a big deal? I had no idea that a premature baby – one who is born before 37 weeks – is actually a very common thing. And I had no idea that a premature baby has way bigger consequences than just a week or two in the NICU.

More Common Than You Realize

I’m sure you can think of a friend or family member who had a premature birth. But did you know that each year, about one out of ten of all babies born in the United States are premature? If something is affecting ten percent of a nation’s population, I think we can all agree that it’s worth talking about.

Premature birth costs – both on baby’s body and on wallets

For me, two big reasons jump out when someone asks me why premature birth is a big deal: health and money. In 2005, it was estimated that the financial cost of premature birth in the U.S. was over $26 billion[1]. I can’t even imagine what it is now. Not only is it extremely expensive to have a premature baby (the NICU costs more than $3,000 per day!)[2], but it can also lead to a lot of long-term (and costly) health problems. That’s because a baby’s lungs and brain are still developing, even in those last few weeks of pregnancy.

Bottom line: Every week matters

If a baby is born before 37 weeks, it can have a lot of long-term consequences[3] like breathing problems, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, vision problems, hearing impairment, and even trouble feeding. Studies show that the longer a baby is in the womb, the lower the risks are for health problems, both immediate and long-term.

So what?

One of the first questions my friends ask when I tell them about premature birth is: How can you stop preterm birth? Is there a way to keep the baby in mom longer? Knowing the risk of premature birth earlier in pregnancy enables a woman to be more proactive for her unborn baby. Because each woman and each pregnancy is different, your doctor can advise you about ways to help you and your baby.

The first step: Education

Learning leads to knowledge and knowledge leads to informed decisions and better choices. It is my hope that we can all learn the important facts about premature birth so that we can make better choices.

1 “In 2005, the Institute of Medicine estimated that the financial cost of premature birth in the U.S. was $26.2 billion (Institute of Medicine 2007). For individual births, the estimates are $54,194 for a preterm baby and $4,384 for a full-term baby. This means a premature baby will cost 10 times more than a full-term baby.

2 “How Plans Can Improve Outcomes And Cut Cots for Preterm Infant Care.” Managed Care. Managed Care. Web.

3 “Preterm Birth.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 04 Dec. 2015. Web.