Preterm births increase by 12 percent nationally, obesity and environmental factors at play

ATLANTA, Georgia – According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national rate of preterm births increased by 12 percent between 2014 and 2022. This rise in preterm births has raised concerns among health experts and researchers due to the potential impact on maternal and infant health.

Manisha Gandhi, chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee, highlighted several factors that could be contributing to the increase in preterm births. She mentioned that the rise in obesity, higher risks for hypertension or preeclampsia, and diabetes among expectant mothers may be leading to earlier deliveries. Additionally, environmental factors such as exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals and air pollution are also being considered as potential contributors to preterm births.

Leonardo Trasande, head of New York University’s Center for Environmental Hazards, indicated that microplastic exposure, including from the air, may be involved in the increase in preterm births. Previous studies have estimated that about 3 percent of preterm births could be attributed to exposure to particles in air pollution, some of which are from plastics. This connection between environmental factors and preterm births raises important questions about the impact of pollution on maternal and infant health.

Preterm births, defined as those that occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy, account for approximately 1 in 10 births in the U.S. The health effects of premature births on infants can be severe, ranging from developmental delays to asthma or neurological conditions. The potential long-term impact of these health issues on affected individuals and healthcare systems is a matter of growing concern for healthcare professionals and policymakers alike.

The findings from the CDC report shed light on the complex and multifaceted nature of preterm births, bringing attention to the need for further research and public health interventions to address the contributing factors and mitigate the potential impact on maternal and infant health. This increase in preterm births underscores the urgency of addressing the underlying causes and implementing measures to ensure the health and well-being of mothers and newborns.