Preterm and child survival

Preterm and child survival

Preterm is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed.

There are sub-categories of preterm birth, based on gestational age:

• extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks)

• very preterm (28 to 32 weeks)

• moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks).

Induction or caesarean birth should not be planned before 39 completed weeks unless medically indicated.

The problem

 An estimated 15 million babies are born too early every year. That is more than 1 in 10 babies.

 Approximately 1 million children die each year due to complications of preterm birth.

 Many survivors face a lifetime of disability, including learning disabilities and visual and hearing problems.

 Globally, prematurity is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5 years.

 In low-income settings, half of the babies born at or below 32 weeks (2 months early) die due to a lack of feasible, cost-effective care, such as warmth, breastfeeding support, and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties.

 In high-income countries, almost all of these babies survive. Suboptimal use of technology in middle-income settings is causing an increased burden of disability among preterm babies who survive the neonatal period.

Key facts 

 Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation), and this number is rising.

 Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age, responsible for approximately 1 million deaths in 2015.

 Three-quarters of these deaths could be prevented with current, cost-effective interventions.

 Across 184 countries, the rate of preterm birth ranges from 5% to 18% of babies born.

Credit: WHO




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