The preterm birth rate in the U.S. has increased for the second consecutive year, according to a new report, and minorities are suffering a disproportionate share of those births. The increases, which follow nearly a decade of declines, raise concerns that gains made in women’s health care are now slipping, experts say.
The annual report on preterm births by the March of Dimes, released Wednesday, found that 9.8 percent of U.S. infants were born preterm in 2016, up from 9.6 percent in 2015. And rates found in some parts of the U.S. are on par with those found in undeveloped countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Preterm birth is the largest contributor to infant death in the United States and is linked to a range of lifelong disabilities and chronic conditions.
The report shows that preterm birth rates grew in 43 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., and among all racial groups.