Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Preterm Birth

  • Patrick Abbot
  • Haley E. Eidem
  • Antonis RokasEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_779-1



Preterm birth is defined as babies born alive before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy.


Preterm birth (PTB) is the leading cause of death in children under five worldwide and its complications are responsible for the deaths of approximately one million children annually. Babies born too soon are predisposed to suffer from neurodevelopmental, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and other complications throughout their lives. Both heritable and environmental risk factors contribute to PTB, and although PTB can be associated with medical disorders such as preeclampsia or intrauterine growth restriction, most cases of PTB occur spontaneously and lack an obvious cause. Ultimately, why spontaneous PTB occurs in humans remains largely a mystery, but important clues can be found in the evolution of the traits and trade-offs that have shaped human pregnancy.

The Burden of Preterm Birth

PTB is a complex,...

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This research was partially supported by the March of Dimes through the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. HRE was supported by a Transdisciplinary Scholar Award from the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Steven Arnocky
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and SciencesNipissing UniversityNorth BayCanada