INTRODUCTION: Preterm birth (PTB) is one of the greatest challenges in obstetric and children's healthcare. PTB remains the most important cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. We studied the number of publications concerning PTB over the last two decades using advanced bibliometric visualization methodology. We put the number of publications in perspective of growing awareness of PTB as a major health problem. METHODS: We analyzed publications over time and performed bibliometric analysis of publications on PTB in the Web of Science from 1997 to 2016. The subjects of publications were visualized using a term map showing the relevant terms occurring in titles and abstracts. RESULTS: We identified 47,811 publications. The annual number of publications on PTB increased significantly by 443% in 2016 (n = 5027) compared to 1997 (n = 1135). Obstetrics & Gynecology is the leading research field (with 10.4% on the subject PTB in 2016) followed closely by Pediatrics (7.6% on the subject PTB in 2016), within the field Public, Environmental & Occupational Health minimal increase was observed (only 1% was published on the subject PTB in 2016). The publications on PTB have increased at higher rates than the overall increase of publications. In recent years we found more publications on PTB describing epidemiology and clinical characteristics/outcomes whereas in earlier years publications focused more on translational, basic research. CONCLUSION: A significant increase in research concerning PTB was observed over the last two decades. This increase of publications is in line with the growing global awareness of the need to reduce PTB by clinical research.