In 2005, 12.5 percent of births in the United States were preterm, at less than 37 weeks gestation. This high rate of premature births in the United States constitutes a public health concern that costs society at least $26 billion a year.
Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention notes troubling disparities in preterm birth rates among different racial and ethnic groups. Despite great strides in improving the survival of infants born preterm, little is known about how preterm births can be prevented. The report recommends a multidisciplinary research agenda aimed at improving the prediction and prevention of preterm labor and better understanding the health and developmental problems to which preterm infants are more vulnerable.
In addition, the report recommends that guidelines be issued to further reduce the number of multiple births -- a significant risk factor for preterm birth -- resulting from infertility treatments.