Data highlight

Oklahoma ranks 43 (of 50)  for preterm births, which places us in the bottom ten for the number of preterm births. Vermont has the lowest preterm birth rate, 7.5 percent, and Mississippi has the highest at 13.5 percent.


Percentage of live births occurring before 37 weeks gestation (in 2021).

0 %
0 %



A full-term pregnancy is 37-40 weeks. Preterm birth is defined as a birth that happens before 37 weeks of gestation (the process or period of developing inside the womb between conception and birth)

Why we care

Complications due to preterm birth are a leading cause of infant mortality in the state. Preterm birth can be prevented and is connected to the health and well-being of the mother. Access to and quality of healthcare before, during and after pregnancy can affect health outcomes in the future.  

There are also significant racial disparities in who is impacted by preterm birth. Across racial and ethnic groups, the highest rates are observed among black infants (14.4%), followed by American Indian/Alaska Natives (11.8%), Hispanics (10.0%), Whites (9.3%), and Asian/Pacific Islanders (9.0%).

14.7% of Oklahoma women received inadequate prenatal care in 2022. The 2023 March of Dimes Report Card shares the state of maternal and infant health across the country.  The most recent report indicates that maternal and infant health is worsening for all families.  Oklahoma received a D-  for its high preterm birth rate.  The percentage of preterm births has been on the rise in Oklahoma since 2015.  “In Oklahoma, nearly 1 in 8 babies are born too early. That means that in an average week in Oklahoma almost 111 babies are born preterm.”

While there are several reasons why a preterm birth happens, some of the more common reasons preterm births occur are related to high blood pressure, diabetes, poor nutrition, stress, domestic violence, smoking, substance use, and maternal age. 

When women have access to continuous health care before, during, and after pregnancy, nutritious food, and healthy, robust social support systems, the likelihood of having a preterm birth decreases.


There is still not enough data on the effects of COVID-19 on preterm births. The data does show that the number of preterm births worsened from last year and is higher than it was in 2019.

What we can do:

This issue brief was written by Metriarch staff as part of our Data Lookbook.

Suggested citation
 Metriarch. “Maternal and Child Health,” Data Lookbook (2024). URL:

Share this page:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin