Infants who are born late preterm face significant risks in survival, as well as delays in growth and development. This public health concern prompted a national awareness and prevention movement in 2007. Today, the late preterm birth rate, after nearly a decade of steady decreases, has been inching up again as reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the November 2019 Pediatrics. The report, “Updates on an At-Risk Population: Late Preterm and Early Term Infants” (published online Oct. 21), defines the sub-categories of preterm births and reports the increase in the late preterm birth rate that began in 2015. The late preterm birth rate had reached its lowest level in a decade of 9.57% in 2014 but rose to 9.97% by 2018. The trend is largely attributed to increases in the rate of late preterm births (infants born between 34 0/7 weeks gestation and 36 6/7 weeks gestation), predominately among black and Hispanic women. Late preterm births account for approximately 70 percent of all preterm births in the U.S., and they account for 7 percent of all live births. Early term births (between 37 0/7 weeks’ gestation and 38 6/7 weeks’ gestation) also pose significant risks to an infant. AAP recommends continued use of population data to help monitor the rates of late preterm births for trends, changes in practice, and need for interventions. Other recommendations include planning with obstetric providers to understand and to improve the balance of benefits and risk factors surrounding late preterm and early term deliveries.
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds.