One in Ten Births is Premature

A new study by the World Health Organization and the March of Dimes found that one in ten births, globally, is premature. “Around the world, about one in 10 babies are born prematurely each year, and more than one-quarter of the deaths that occur in the month after birth are the consequence of preterm birth.” The data surprised many people; premature birth is often seen as a problem of the wealthy world, and associated with fertility treatments, multiple births, and older mothers. The study, however, found that the highest rate of pre-term birth is actually in Africa, possibly as a complication of maternal malaria infection.

Prematurity is a difficult condition to prevent; it is caused by a wide range of different factors, including malnutrition, poor prenatal care, and anemia. There are very few interventions that have been found to successfully reduce pre-term birth rates. Those that do generally focus on helping mothers who’ve already had one premature child access medical care and family planning. Another report, due out in 2010, is planned to discuss strategies for reducing premature births globally.