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Preterm births: 13 million cases annually recorded between 2010 and 2020

Preterm births

A Lancet report highlights that approximately 15% of all preterm births occurred at less than 32 weeks of gestation

In 2020, an estimated 13.4 million babies were born prematurely worldwide, according to a new Lancet report

This represents 9.9% of all births globally. This number is only slightly lower than the 13.8 million preterm births recorded in 2010, showing a minimal reduction of 0.14% over the past decade.

Preterm birth which means being born before 37 weeks of gestation is a significant global health issue as it is the leading cause of neonatal mortality and can lead to long-term health and developmental problems for children. 

The report highlights that approximately 15% of all preterm births occurred at less than 32 weeks of gestation, requiring intensive neonatal care.

Despite the high prevalence of preterm births, there is a stark disparity in data quality and reporting between regions. In high-income countries, 94% of countries had high-quality data on preterm births, while none in Southern Asia or sub-Saharan Africa were in the highest data quality category.

The study emphasizes the need for improved data collection and investments in preventing preterm births. It also calls for better access to quality care for preterm babies when they are born.

Earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with UNICEF studied preterm births across the globe.  The study, which is the most up-to-date of its kind, covers data from 1990 to 2014. According to the findings, approximately 10.6% of all live births worldwide in 2014 were preterm births. This equates to a staggering 14.84 million babies born prematurely, with a margin of error ranging from 12.65 million to 16.73 million.

A predominant majority of these preterm births, about 91%, occurred in low-income and middle-income countries. South Asia, in particular, saw over half of these premature births, accounting for 52.9% of the total. More than a quarter of preterm births, 28.2%, took place in sub-Saharan Africa.

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