(KGTV) - For the third year in a row, babies were born too soon, a sign that the health of mothers and infants is worsening, according to March of Dimes.
The statistics recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the preterm birth rates rose to 9.93 percent in 2017, up from 9.86 in 2016.
The rate marks the third consecutive increase after seven years of decline, according to the CDC. The new figures showed the rate increased among non-Hispanic black women and Hispanic women, and remained unchanged among non-Hispanic white women.
"Moms and babies are facing an urgent health crisis in this country," Stacey Stewart, president of March of Dimes, said. "Preterm birth and its complications is the greatest contributor to the death of babies before their first birthday and a leading cause of lifelong disabilities.
"The fact that more and more families are being affected by preterm birth is troubling."
Steward noted that racial and ethnic differences may play a role in preterm birth.
"Nearly 400,000 babies - about 1 in 10 - are born preterm each year. And while the preterm birth rate has been increasing among all racial and ethnic groups, some have been hit harder than others," Wanda Barfield, Director of the Division of Reproductive Health at the CDC.
"Now is a pivotal time to do more for those at greatest risk," Barfield added.