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.
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.
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.