Obstetrics and Gynecology

Preterm Birth Rate Hits 15-Year Low

Late last year the March of Dimes announced that the United States preterm birth rate dropped to 11.5 percent a 15-year low. Shelly Chvotzkin, M.D., obstetrician/ gynecologist, says there are reasons for the decline and things women can do to help reduce the risk of preterm delivery.

First, it is important to note that while the preterm birth rate hit a 15-year low, as a nation we still have a C rating from a global perspective, Dr. Chvotzkin says. Some states received A ratings, but Florida received a D , so there is still much more that needs to be learned about preterm birth, and our nation needs to do better.

But, with that said, the decline can be attributed to fewer elective early births by Cesarean section and induction which are discouraged by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as many hospital and health systems. There also have been efforts to reduce multiple births in fertility treatments.

Dr. Chvotzkin says better access to health care through programs from the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions also has contributed to the decline in preterm births because seeking prenatal care early in the pregnancy is one way to ensure a full- term pregnancy. Other things women can do to have a healthy pregnancy include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Refrain from substance abuse
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Seek medical attention for symptoms of preterm labor
  • Comply with doctors orders
  • See a doctor between pregnancies for routine and preventative medical care

Preterm birth which is defined as a baby born prior to 37 weeks gestation can affect the baby in many ways, Dr. Chvotzkin says. Health concerns can include lung immaturity, which causes breathing problems; feeding difficulties; cerebral palsy; developmental delays; vision problems; hearing impairment or infections. For parents, preterm birth causes emotional and financial stress, and it can lead to economic burdens.

Follow the advice of your physician to experience a normal pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby.

Did You Know?

Knowing the risk factors for preterm birth, seeking early, regular prenatal care and allowing labor to begin on its own helps prevent preterm birth and allows the baby to develop fully and have the healthiest start possible.

Risk Factors for Preterm Birth:

  • Smoking
  • Substance abuse
  • Late prenatal care
  • Stress
  • Low or high maternal age
  • Low-income or socioeconomic status
  • Black race
  • Infection
  • Prior preterm birth
  • Multiple gestation
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Chronic conditions during pregnancy, like hypertension or diabetes


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Shelly Chvotzkin, M.D.
Lee Physician Group
16271 Bass Road
Fort Myers, FL 33908



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