Preterm birth is among the most complex and important challenges in obstetrics. Despite decades of research and clinical advancement, approximately 1 in 10 newborns in the United States is born prematurely. These newborns account for approximately three-quarters of perinatal mortality and more than one half of long-term neonatal morbidity, at significant social and economic cost (1–3). Because preterm birth is the common endpoint for multiple pathophysiologic processes, detailed classification schemes for preterm birth phenotype and etiology have been proposed (4, 5). In general, approximately one half of preterm births follow spontaneous preterm labor, about a quarter follow preterm prelabor rupture of membranes (PPROM), and the remaining quarter of preterm births are intentional, medically indicated by maternal or fetal complications. There are pronounced racial disparities in the preterm birth rate in the United States.
The purpose of this document is to describe the risk factors, screening methods, and treatments for preventing spontaneous preterm birth, and to review the evidence supporting their roles in clinical practice. This Practice Bulletin has been updated to include information on increasing rates of preterm birth in the United States, disparities in preterm birth rates, and approaches to screening and prevention strategies for patients at risk for spontaneous preterm birth.