One in 10 babies worldwide born prematurely

Fifteen million babies, one in 10 births, are born prematurely every year, a global project suggests.

Fifteen million babies, one in 10 births, are born prematurely every year, a global project suggests.

One million of these babies die soon after birth. The joint report, led by the WHO, says three quarters of deaths could be prevented with basic care.

For the first time premature birth rates have been estimated by country, with the highest risk being in Africa.

In the UK about 8 per cent of babies are born too soon and this rate is rising partly due to obesity and later motherhood.

There are nearly 60,000 premature births every year in the UK.

Andy Cole, from premature baby charity Bliss, said “it is worrying that the UK’s preterm birth rate is significantly higher than in countries such as Sweden, Norway and Ireland, and highlights the need for well-co-ordinated and high-quality antenatal care for all women identified as high risk.”

Commenting on the study, Michael Kilgard, from the University of Texas, who was not involved with the research, said: “Being a millisecond faster may not seem like much, but the brain is very sensitive to timing and a millisecond compounded over millions of neurons can make a real difference in the lives of older adults.”

Forty-four organisations contributed to ‘The Born Too Soon’ report, which estimated premature birth rates–the number of babies born too soon, out of the total of number of live births–for 184 individual countries, in the first study of its kind.

Of the 11 countries where over 15 per cent of babies are born too early, all but two are in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the report highlights it is a problem worldwide.

Dr Joy Lawn, co-editor of the report and Director for Save the Children said: “This report shows the problem is much bigger than expected or realised. Being born too soon is an unrecognised killer.”

In children under five, prematurity is the leading cause of death worldwide, after pneumonia. Many premature babies that do survive develop learning difficulties and visual and hearing problems.

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