Preterm birth is the birth of a baby before 37 weeks gestation. Preterm rate can be used to compare our rates to the state, the nation, and Healthy People 2020 goals. The preterm birth rate in Florida was lower in the 1980’s than it is now. Some preterm births are due to induction of labor and Cesarean section before 39 weeks gestation for patient and doctor convenience. These convenience births have been shown to be detrimental to infant brain development and have fallen out of favor. We expect preterm birth rates to decline in future, but there is more to be done. Some of our census tracks have preterm birth rates that rival those of underdeveloped countries. As mentioned before, stressors, including domestic violence are causes of preterm birth. Reducing environmental stress and providing family planning for women in those census tracks would be a worthy community goal. This would mean addressing domestic violence at the neighborhood level and teaching school age children about healthy relationships.
This graph shows the number of preterm births (births before 37 weeks gestation) that occurred in Alachua County, from 2007-2012. Most children born preterm receive special services to assure that their early childhood development is optimal. These special services are costly to taxpayers, so prevention of preterm birth should be a community priority.
Preventing pre-term birth is not simple. It requires enhancing access to family planning, reducing domestic violence, and reducing stress experienced by women of reproductive age. Some pre-term births could be prevented by interconception care which would address chronic health conditions between pregnancies, enhancing women’s fitness for a full term birth.
This graph shows the number of preterm births that occurred in Alachua County, from 2007-2012, categorized by the age of the mother.
These are the preterm birth rates of Alachua County, the state of Florida and the US, compared over time. Not a lot of progress has been made. The rates are the number of births before 37 weeks gestational age divided by the number of live births. This results in the percentage of births that are preterm. Preterm birth is defined as less than 37 weeks gestational age. It is different from low birth weight in that not all babies born preterm weigh less than 2500g, the cutoff for low birth weight. Both preterm birth and low birthweight are important to avoid. Children born early have incomplete brain development which must be compensated for by caregivers to avoid developmental delays and the need for special education. Although there is nothing wrong with special education, it is expensive to our school system and challenges Alachua County budgets, all of which depend on our tax dollars.