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Global death toll: 1 million premature babies every year
Date:10/4/2009

cent representing about 12.9 million babies. Though all countries are affected, the global distribution is uneven: the toll of preterm birth is particularly severe for Africa and Asia, where more than 85 percent of all preterm births occur. Comparison of preterm birth rates across world regions finds the highest rate in Africa -- 11.9 percent or about 4 million babies each year; followed by (in descending order) North America, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Oceania (Australia and New Zealand combined), and Europe. See chart below for more information.

Increase in Preterm Births

Wherever trend data are available, rates of preterm birth are increasing. For example, the rate of preterm birth in the U.S. has increased 36 percent in the past 25 years. Key factors contributing to this increase include a rise in the number of pregnancies in women over age 35; the growing use of assisted reproduction techniques, leading to an increase in the number of twin and higher order multiple births; and the rise in the number of late preterm births (defined as between 34 and 36 weeks gestation).

Babies who survive a preterm birth face the risk of serious lifelong health problems including cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, learning disabilities, and other chronic conditions. Even infants born late preterm have a greater risk of re-hospitalization, breathing problems, feeding difficulties, temperature instability (hypothermia), jaundice and delayed brain development.

Underlying Causes and Risk Factors

There are some known risk factors for preterm birth that can be identified before or during pregnancy. For example, women who have already had one preterm baby are at greater risk. Some preterm births may be preventable by addressing known modifiable risk factors, including:

  • Nutrition and body weight;
  • Existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes;
  • Alcohol and tobac
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Contact: Elizabeth Lynch
elynch@marchofdimes.com
914-997-4286
March of Dimes Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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