Prematurity Research Center

Why Preterm Birth?

  • One in eight babies in the United States is born prematurely.
  • The leading cause of newborn death in the U.S.
  • Prematurity ranks with some of the most serious health problems of children.
  • Prematurity costs the nation more than $26 billion annually (IOM 2006).
  • While it has declined slightly in recent years, the preterm birth rate remains nearly 30 percent higher than it was in the early 1980s.
  • In nearly half of the cases of premature birth, there is no clear cause.
  • Some mothers who have done everything right, carrying otherwise healthy pregnancies, still go into labor early — putting the health and life of the baby at risk.
  • Basic medical research is needed to identify the causes of premature birth, which is at the root of so many other health problems newborns can face.
  • Intractable problem.
  • Resistant to traditional approaches.
  • Multi-faceted phenotype with multiple interacting etiologic mechanisms.
  • Complex gene-environment (physical and social) interaction.


Babies born even a few weeks prematurely  face serious risks of death and long-term disability, including:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Underdeveloped organs
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Potentially life-threatening infections; and Developmental disabilities, learning disabilities and behavioral problems later in life