Premature Birth: Facts & Figures

A premature birth, also called a preterm birth, is one that happens before 37 weeks of completed pregnancy. A very premature birth happens before 32 weeks of completed pregnancy. 

Premature births in MN are below US levels

Percent of single, premature births in MN and the US.

Minnesota premature births are below US levels. Among 2013 singleton births in Minnesota, 7.7% were born premature. Percentages increased from 6.5% in 2000 to the decade high of 8.0% in 2012.

US declines in premature births after 2006 may be related to recent efforts to reduce elective deliveries before full term.

Black & American Indian babies have higher rates of premature birth

Percent of single premature births in Minnesota by mother's race/ethnicity, 2009-2013.
Note: Racial categories White, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian are non-Hispanic. 

There are racial and ethnic disparities in premature births in Minnesota. American Indian and non-Hispanic black mothers are more likely than white mothers to have a premature birth. 

Infants of younger and older mothers are at greater risk

Percent of single, premature births in Minnesota, by mother's age, 2009-2013.

Teens and women over age 40 are more likely to have a premature birth in Minnesota than women in their 20s and 30s.

Being born premature is a serious health risk

About 5,000 babies a year are born premature in Minnesota. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks, but a premature baby is born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy and a very premature baby is born before 32 weeks.

Premature birth is a leading cause of death in the first month of life and contributes to one in three infant deaths. Babies who survive an early birth face the risk of serious lifelong health problems such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, breathing and respiratory problems, vision and hearing loss, and feeding and digestive problems. The more premature a baby is, the more severe their health problems are likely to be. 

Some women have increased risk of a premature birth

Premature births can occur for no obvious reason. Known risk factors for premature birth are:

  • Carrying more than one baby (twins, triplets, or more)
  • Having a previous premature birth
  • Problems with the uterus or cervix
  • Chronic health problems in the mother, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and blood clotting disorders
  • Certain infections during pregnancy
  • Cigarette smoking, alcohol use, or use of illegal drugs during pregnancy

Other factors associated with premature birth are:

  • Low or high age of the mother
  • Being black or African-American
  • Low income
  • Receiving late prenatal care
  • Stress

Increases in the risk of premature birth may be associated with exposure to air pollution, lead, and some solvents during pregnancy.