News / Health

World Prematurity Day Aims to Lower Rates of Premature Births

Carol Pearson
Every year, in countries rich and poor, more than one million babies die because they are born prematurely.  Many of the tiny infants who survive suffer lifelong disabilities. 

In recent years, organizations focused on child health have been trying to raise awareness about the dangers of premature births and what can be done to prevent them.  That's the purpose of World Prematurity Day today.  It's also a day to educate mothers about how to care for babies who are born too soon.

This tiny newborn is one of more than 15 million babies who start their lives with a major disadvantage... being born too soon.

Preterm birth is the greatest killer of newborns around the world, yet most of these babies could be saved, according to Dr. Joy Lawn with Save the Children.

"Most of those babies don't need intensive care," said Lawn.  "They could be saved with 'kangaroo-mother' care... tying the baby to the mother's front, being able to breast feed, better weight gain, better temperature control, avoiding infections."  

An international coalition observes World Prematurity Day on November 17. It's part of a global effort to reduce the number of premature births worldwide and to save the one of every ten newborns who are delivered prematurely.

Christopher Howson is an epidemiologist with the March of Dimes.

"There's a lot that can be done with respect to prevention and the key for that begins in high-income countries," he said.

Howsen is one of the co-authors of a recent study about prematurity published in the British medical journal, The Lancet. The study recommends five proven ways to reduce premature birth rates.  These include ending elective cesarean sections and induced labor deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation.  Both practices have become fairly common in high income countries.  

New research finds that for normal development, babies need at least 39 weeks in the womb. Jennifer Howse is president of the March of Dimes Foundation.

"Full brain development, lung development does not take place until at least 39 weeks of completed gestation," she said. 

Other proven ways to reduce the number of premature births include limiting the number of embryos transferred to the womb during in vitro fertilizations, quitting tobacco use and limiting weight gain during pregnancy and making sure women have good health care before and throughout their pregnancies. Howsen says the data came from high income countries but the knowledge can be applied everywhere.

"These are issues that are also becoming issues of middle and even low-income countries," he added.

For those observing World Prematurity Day, a Facebook page lets people go online to share their stories about babies who are born too soon.  It's a simple and effective way to put a human face on the issue of prematurity.

You May Like

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Indian PM Calls for Unity Amid Tense Climate Over Beef Attacks

Recent series of beef-related incidents seen as signs of rising intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities More

Why These Are New York City's Most Treasured Spaces

Under threat of jail time and fines, some New York property owners are not allowed to renovate their spaces without prior approval More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs