Preterm and premature birth in Michigan and the U.S.: Prevalence, risk factors, and disparities

November 16, 2010

A preterm baby holds a parent's hand.One in eight babies are born prematurely in the United States and Michigan, with serious consequences for infant morbidity and mortality.  Premature and preterm are defined as less than 37 weeks of completed gestation. Premature babies experience a variety of medical problems, resulting in more doctor visits and hospitalizations. Having a premature baby takes an enormous emotional toll on a family. Medical care for premature infants can cost over $100,000, and preterm births have been estimated to cost the U.S. more than $26 billion annually. While significant medical and technological advances in the treatment of preterm babies have allowed more babies to survive, preterm birth is still the leading cause of infant death. Preterm birth disproportionately affects blacks and contributes to the disparity between blacks and other races in infant mortality.

In our January 2010 issue brief, The Cost Burden of Disease, we presented the most common reasons for hospitalization, along with the most expensive conditions. We noted that among the costliest diagnoses per hospital stay in 2007 were those related to newborns. The average charge per discharge for premature birth and low birth weight was $119,389 in the U.S. and $102,103 in Michigan. This is approximately 14 times higher than the average charge of $7,182 per discharge for a healthy infant birth in Michigan. In this issue brief, we focus on the extent of the problem of prematurity and examine what we know about risk factors and disparities in premature and preterm birth.


Suggested citation: Kofke-Egger, Heather, Ehrlich, Emily; Udow-Phillips, Marianne. Prematurity. November 2010. Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation. Ann Arbor, MI.

Special thanks to Carmen Green, M.D., professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School, for her assistance in the preparation of this issue brief.