Premature births are happening at alarmingly high rates in the US, increasing for the third straight year - and the surge does not seem to be slowing down, according to a report released today.
When babies are delivered early, they are more in danger of lung problems, infections and even death than if they had been carried to full term.
There are more preterm births in the US than in most other wealthy nations, raising public health concerns over the quality of care for American women and babies.
Now, for the third year in a row, rates of early births continue to creep up, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest data reveals.
Preterm births are up for the third year in a row in the US, driven by higher rates of babies born after 34 weeks but before 39 weeks (blue) of gestation, a new study finds
Things seemed to be getting better for babies in America from 2007 to 2014, after more than thirty years of rising preterm birth rates.
But since 2014, these rates have taken another turn for the worse.
In 2014, 9.57 percent of all babies born in the US were born early.
That number rose to 9.85 percent by 2016. It may not seem like a huge surge, but it marks a three percent increase, and about an additional 120,000 premature babies.
Babies born preterm - or before they have been developing for 39 weeks in their mothers' wombs - face poorer odds and risks of many health problems both immediately following birth and later in their lives.
In the short term, they are in greater danger of being born with underdeveloped organs and body parts, especially lungs.
Their mothers' immune systems do not fully transfer to fetuses until quite late in gestation, meaning that preterm babies have not yet reaped all of these benefits and may be more vulnerable to infections, which can prove deadly for newborns.
Rates of preterm births are always far higher among women carrying multiples, and 2016 was no exception
Black babies are about