Premature Birth Rates On The Rise Worldwide

Being born prematurely increases a baby’s risk for a plethora of health problems including death for which premature birth is the second leading direct cause of in children under five years old. Unfortunately, premature birth rates have continued to increase throughout the world, says a new article published in The Lancet.

According to recorded birth statistics, approximately 14.9 million babies were born prematurely around the world in 2010, which means that one out of ten babies was considered premature. Sixty percent of these premature births occurred in South Asia and the sub-Saharan Africa. The United States had the highest premature birth rate with 517,000 premature births followed by Brazil with 279,300.

Only three of the 65 countries participating in the study saw reduced premature birth rates. Croatia, Ecuador, and Estonia had reduced pre-term birth rates between 1990 and 2010.

Furthermore, although the rates of premature births seem to be leveling off in the United States, premature birth rates continue to rise in Europe including in the Scandinavian countries. Premature birth rates rose by just 0.7%. The largest increases in European countries included Cyprus (2.8%), Slovenia (2.6%), Belgium (2.5%), Austria (2.3%), Spain (2.2%), Ireland (2.1%), Portugal (1.9%), Greece (1.9%), France (1.6%), the UK (1.5%), and Bosnia (1.5%).

Joy Lawn from Save the Children in South Africa comments on the worldwide increase of premature birth rates:

“The countries with the fastest increases include many European countries, and in many cases the reasons are not clear although the effects on families and the health system are very apparent. Urgent attention is needed to better understand and reduce these rates of preterm birth. At the same time we are very clear what can be done to save the lives of babies born preterm and urgent action to provide feasible, lifesaving care in African and South Asian countries would result in rapid decreases in deaths.”

The continued increase in premature birth rates is a problem with long term implications that needs to be addressed worldwide.

What do you think about the increasing rates of premature births throughout the world?