Every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born too early, and this number is rising. Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under the age of 5. This means more than 1 million deaths annually attributed to prematurity. What is most staggering about these statistics is that 3/4 of these deaths are preventable.
LETS START WITH THE BASICS.
Preterm birth is defined as birth prior to 37 weeks gestation, with full-term birth being a full 40 weeks. Approximately 1 in 10 babies born each year are born too early, and of these preterm infants, many face a lifetime of physical and mental disability.
Globally, prematurity is the leading cause of death in children. Inequalities in survival rates around the world are shocking, with half of infants born prior to 32 weeks dying due to the lack of feasible and cost-effective newborn care. More than 60% of preterm births occur in Africa and South Asia, but preterm birth also exists as a global issue, with over 517,000 preterm deliveries in the United States each year.
WHY DOES PRETERM BIRTH HAPPEN?
Often, the cause of preterm birth is unknown. Most preterm births happen spontaneously, but some are due to maternal complications. Twin or triplet pregnancies, maternal infections, and high blood pressure are the most common causes for premature delivery. A genetic component also exists, but more research is needed to gain a better understanding of preterm birth.