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Why Premature Birth is a Problem

Is it Safe to Deliver Before 39 Weeks?

Prematurity is the leading killer of America's newborns. Premature birth is birth that happens before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. Babies who survive often have lifelong health problems, including cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, chronic lung disease, blindness, and hearing loss.

  • Prematurity is estimated to cost our nation's healthcare system around $26 billion annually.
  • It exacts a huge emotional toll on families.
  • Babies born prematurely have twice the risk of newborn death as babies born at 40 weeks.

How many babies are born prematurely, in an average year?

  • In Colorado, nearly 8,000 (10.3% of live births, or one in 10).
  • In the U.S., more than half a million (11.7% of live births).
  • Worldwide, 13 million.

How many Colorado babies are born via c-section and labor induction?

  • In an average year, more than 17,000 c-sections are performed in Colorado. This is 25% of live births.
  • Labor inductions are not reported for statistical purposes.
  • It’s estimated that three-quarters of premature births occur spontaneously and the remainder result from medical intervention.

What women commonly believe about this issue:

In a 2010 March of Dimes survey, a third of respondents (Colorado women of childbearing age) indicated that 36 to 38 weeks of pregnancy is considered full term, instead of 40 weeks.

What is Considered Full-Term

Two-thirds indicated that it’s safe to deliver a baby before 39 weeks (if there’s no medical need).

Information provided by March of Dimes

Learn More: Questions to Ask Your Provider.