Premature births are the main reason that the U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than in most European countries, according to a government report issued November 3. In the U.S. one in eight births is premature. These births are much less common in Europe, and in Ireland and Finland only one in eighteen babies is premature.
The experts have said that the following factors are responsible for preterm babies: maternal obesity and smoking, inadequate access to prenatal care, too early cesarean sections, and induced labor and fertility treatments.
The main author of this report, Marian MacDorman of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that babies born before 37 weeks are more fragile and have under developed lungs.
The report said that premature births are the main reason the U.S. ranks number 30 in the world in infant mortality. It has a rate that is more than twice as high as the rates in Sweden, Japan, Finland, Norway and the Czech Republic.
What are the reasons for so many premature births?
For one thing, according to the report, fertility treatments and other methods that assist in reproduction probably play a role because these treatments often lead to twins, triplets or other multiple births. Those babies are usually delivered early.
Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director for the March of Dimes, said the American health care system does not guarantee prenatal care to pregnant women, especially the women who are uninsured.
Smoking and maternal obesity may be factors.
The fact that doctors are inducing labor or performing C sections in greater numbers, before the 37th week may be a factor.
Labor was induced in almost 16 percent of premature births in 2006, an increase of about 8 percent from 1991. Cesarean sections were performed in 36 percent of premature births, up from 25 percent in !991, according to MacDorman.
Survival rates for premature babies however, were as good or better than most European countries.
MacDorman said, “So, once the baby is born too early, we do a good job of saving it. What we have trouble with is preventing the preterm birth in the first place.”