News / Health

Study Finds 1 in 10 Global Births Are Premature

An Indian mother, left, looks at her baby girl, born prematurely, at Rajasthan Hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit in Ahmadabad, India, Feb. 28, 2008.An Indian mother, left, looks at her baby girl, born prematurely, at Rajasthan Hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit in Ahmadabad, India, Feb. 28, 2008.
x
An Indian mother, left, looks at her baby girl, born prematurely, at Rajasthan Hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit in Ahmadabad, India, Feb. 28, 2008.
An Indian mother, left, looks at her baby girl, born prematurely, at Rajasthan Hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit in Ahmadabad, India, Feb. 28, 2008.
Jessica Berman
A first-ever global study of pre-term births has found nearly 15 million babies were born prematurely around the world in 2010, putting them at increased risk for illness, disability and early death.

The authors say premature delivery is a problem not only in poor developing countries but in affluent developed nations as well, including the United States.

Researchers with the non-governmental organization Save the Children analyzed data from national health registries and reproductive surveys done in 84 countries, and concluded that more than one in ten babies is born prematurely. Sixty percent of these more perilous early births are occurring in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

A pregnancy of at least 40 weeks gestation is considered full-term. In pregnancies that are less than 32 weeks in duration, complications, including the risk of death to the newborn, increase dramatically. Babies born early are more likely to develop learning disabilities and eyesight problems, and a neurological condition called cerebral palsy.

Joy Lawn of Save the Children in South Africa led the team of researchers that wrote the report on pre-term births for the World Health Organization. According to Lawn, fatal complications from early delivery are the second most common cause of death among children under the age of 5, accounting for 1.1 million deaths globally every year.

Eighty-four percent of premature infants are born between 32 and 37 weeks. With proper medical care and loving attention, Lawn says, these newborns stand a good chance of surviving.

"They would survive with really basic care.  So, being breastfed, being kept warm," she says.  "And they are at much higher risk of infection; so treating with antibiotics."

Lawn adds only five percent of the 15 million pre-term babies were born at 28 weeks or less, and those that survived birth required intensive -- and expensive -- neo-natal care in a hospital.

In 65 countries that collected reliable data over the past 20 years -- mostly in developed regions, Latin America and the Caribbean -- Lawn and colleagues found the average rate of pre-term deliveries increased from 7.5% of all live births in 1990 to 8.6% in 2010.
 
According to the Save the Children research team, 15 countries -- including the United States and Brazil --  account for two-thirds of the world's preterm births.  The other countries on that list are Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as Nigeria, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.          

Only three countries -- Croatia, Ecuador and Estonia -- had a decrease in their preterm birth rates between 1990 and 2010.

Lawn says the reduction in premature births in Croatia may be due to the fact that the country is no longer at war and has more resources to devote to prenatal or pregnancy care.

In Ecuador and Estonia, Lawn says there have been improvements in income and with it, the general status of women.

"But really we can't point to one solution and say this is what caused it." she says. "Just as we couldn't point to something in the U.S. and say this is what caused the very high rates in the U.S."

In the United States, researchers report there were 517-thousand premature births in 2010, accounting for twelve percent of live births per year.  

Save the Children's global survey of preterm birth trends is published in the journal The Lancet.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid