Fewer Births To Preteen Mothers Means Lower Preterm Birth Rates

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Cynthia Ferre MA PhD

Division of Reproductive Health
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Reductions in births to teens and preterm birth rates are two recent public health successes in the United States. To date, however, we haven’t had data to indicate whether these two declines are associated. So, we used age-specific data on trends in births overall and in preterm births to determine the effects of changes in maternal age on preterm birth.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: We found that fewer births to U.S. teens and young mothers between 2007 and 2014 translated to lower preterm birth rates.

While rates of preterm birth declined for all ages, declines in the number of births to teen mothers and those 20-24-years-old had a large impact on the overall decline in the preterm birth rate. Increases in the number of births to mothers over 30 years lessened that decline.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: This report underscores that, because risk factors for preterm birth can vary by age, healthcare and public health professionals should work with women during each stage of their reproductive life to address risk.

CDC has identified five key strategies proven to reduce preterm births:
• Prevent unintended pregnancies and achieve an ideal length of time between pregnancies (birth spacing);
• Provide women ages 18–44 years access to health care before and between pregnancies to help manage chronic conditions and modify other risk behaviors, such as smoking;
• Identify women at risk for giving birth too early and offer effective treatments to prevent preterm birth;
• Discourage deliveries before 39 weeks without a medical need; and
• When in vitro fertilization is used, elect to transfer just one embryo, as appropriate, to reduce multiple births.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: This analysis didn’t examine trends by race or ethnicity. We know from other research that teen pregnancy has dropped by nearly half in recent years among African-American youth, but that African-American women have much higher levels of preterm birth compared to other groups. We’re currently working on analyses to examine how the trends in maternal age may have varied by race and ethnicity and then also may have affected race/ethnic-specific trends in preterm birth rates.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Although other CDC research has found that infant mortality has declined in recent years, preterm birth remains for a leading cause of infant death and can have other serious outcomes. And the latest available estimates (from 2005) indicate that preterm birth costs our country about $26.2 billion every year.

Additionally, while this analysis didn’t look at differences by race, no discussion about preterm birth is complete without addressing the significant racial disparities we know exist. In fact, in 2015, the rate of preterm birth among African-American women (13.4 percent) was about 50 percent higher than the rate of preterm birth among white women (8.9 percent). And preterm-related causes of death are more than three times higher for black infants as for white infants.

We don’t understand all the reasons some babies are born too soon. But we do know that some factors increase the risk of preterm birth: young or advanced age of the mother, cigarette or substance abuse, stress, depression, and carrying more than one baby. Factors that determine how we thrive or falter in our environment – poverty, lack of access to quality healthcare, discrimination, and underemployment – also play a role. Many of these factors are more common in African-American communities and threaten the health of pregnant women and their families.

By investing in cross-cutting collaborations, activities to translate science into public health practice, and ongoing research, CDC is working to provide our public and private partners with the information and tools they need to implement these strategies. But, we can’t do it alone.

November is National Prematurity Awareness Month. This month, we invite all of our partners – future parents, pregnant women and everyone supporting them through their pregnancy, healthcare providers, public health professionals, and others – to learn about preterm birth and take action to prevent it.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


Ferré C, Callaghan W, Olson C, Sharma A, Barfield W. Effects of Maternal Age and Age-Specific Preterm Birth Rates on Overall Preterm Birth Rates — United States, 2007 and 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1181–1184. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6543a1.

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on November 4, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD