© 2016

Preterm Birth in the United States

A Sociocultural Approach


Table of contents

About this book


This first-of-its-kind volume addresses the myriad of issues relating to—and reviews the plethora of responses to--premature births in the United States, both in national context and compared with other countries. In addition to current clinical data, it examines how preterm births in the U.S. fit in with larger social concerns regarding poverty, racial disparities, reproductive rights, gender expectations, and the business of health care. Comparisons with preterm birth phenomena in Canada, the U.K., and other Western European countries illustrate cultural narratives about motherhood, women’s status, differences across social welfare and abortion policies , and across health care financing and delivery sytems, and how these may affect outcomes for newborns. The book sorts out these intersecting complexities through the following critical lenses:


·         Clinical: causes, treatments, and outcomes of preterm birth

·         Population: the distribution of preterm births

·         Cultural: how we understand preterm birth      

·         Health care: delivering care for high-risk pregnant women and preterm infants

·         Ethical: moral decision-making about preterm births


Preterm Birth in the United States synthesizes a wide knowledge base for maternal and child health professionals across diverse disciplines, including public health, social work, nursing, medicine, and health policy. Social scientists with interests in reproduction and gender issues will gain access to historical, clinical and epidemiological knowledge that can support their work.  There is also an audience for the book among childbirth activists such as supporters of midwifery and less medicalized childbirth.                   


clinical and social interventions for preterm births interventional preterm births maternal and child health premature birth preterm birth spontaneous preterm labor

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Birmingham School of Public HealthUniversity of AlabamaBirminghamUSA

About the authors

Janet M. Bronstein, PhD, is a health services researcher on the faculty of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. Her disciplinary background is in cultural anthropology. Dr. Bronstein focuses her research on maternal and child health issues, and on the U.S. healthcare system, with a special interest in healthcare systems for disadvantaged populations. She was a member of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Patient Outcome Research Team (PORT) on low birth weight births, and a researcher with the Agency's Child Health Insurance Research Initiative (CHIRI). Dr. Bronstein is a long-time evaluator of Medicaid innovations for the care of women and children across several states.  Her teaching focus is on public health ethics.

Bibliographic information


“Preterm Birth in the United States is an intricate and comprehensive exploration of the persistently high infant mortality rate in the United States, to which preterm birth is a major contributor. … Preterm Birth in the United States should be required reading for students of medicine, nursing, and public health. It would work well as a core text in medical anthropology and comparative health systems courses, especially as a counterpoint to more ethnographic texts.” (Sarah E. Rubin, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, June, 2017)

“This book reviews the various issues, demographic, ethnographic, medical and social aspects of premature births in the USA compared to other countries in the Western world. An in-depth study, analyzing also the present health services with a look into prevention. For obstetricians and neonatologists and child health professionals.” (Pediatric Endocrinology Reviews (PER), Vol. 14 (2), December, 2016)