Texas Mothers Face a High Rate of Preterm Births, New Report Says

The 2021 March of Dimes Report Card on maternal and infant health in the United States ranks Texas number 11 among the 50 states for preterm births. While Texas numbers have decreased slightly since 2020, from 11 percent to 10.8 percent, there is still concern over the high numbers.

What Constitutes a Preterm Birth?

Preterm birth occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, complications from premature birth are the number one cause of death for babies in the United States, and the babies who survive can face serious health problems. The 2021 report states that 1 in every 10 births in the United States is preterm.

What Are Some of the Causes?

Pre-term births can be caused by a combination of genetic, nutritional, and environmental risk factors. This birth defect can also be attributed to a parent’s exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment or workplace, including during the early months of pregnancy.

A recent article appearing on the Population Reference Bureau website emphasizes the seriousness of preterm births.

“Many people think that small and premature babies will by and large ‘catch up’ in weight and live long and healthy lives—and fortunately, many do,” Catherine Cubbin of the University of Texas at Austin says. “What may come as a surprise though is that premature birth increases both the risk of death and multiple, serious disabilities for those babies. It also raises the risk of chronic diseases and early death when those babies become adults.”

How Does Texas Rank Among Other States?
In the latest March of Dimes report, issued in December 2021, the United States overall earned a grade of C minus for its 10 percent preterm birth rate.

The Texas preterm birth rate of 10.8 percent earned the state a D, giving Texas a ranking of number 11 among all 50 states. Black women had a 41 percent higher rate of preterm births than all other women in the state. The city of Houston earned an F for its nearly 11.9 percent preterm birth rate, which did not change from 2020.

The March of Dimes reports that the quality of health care may be a factor in the rate of preterm births in Texas. Over 20 percent of expectant mothers received inadequate prenatal care.

KXAN-TV in Austin reports several other possible reasons for the high Texas preterm birth rate. Texas has counties with high percentages of uninsured women; several counties are “maternity health care deserts,” increasing the difficulty of getting prenatal care; and problems concerning maternal mental health and substance abuse are present.

An additional factor may be the race of the mother. The Population Reference Bureau reports that although it is difficult to quantify, the high percent of black women who deliver premature babies compared to white women may be a result of race-related stress.

“Stressful experiences that women face throughout their lives and across generations can have a powerful impact on the body,” the Population Reference Bureau reports.

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