One In Ten Babies Born Prematurely Globally: UN Report Raises Alarm

According to a recent report released on October 5 by the United Nations agencies and their partners, it is estimated that approximately 13.4 million infants were born prematurely in 2020.

Nikita Gupta
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According to a recent report released on October 5 by the United Nations agencies; the World Health Organization, the UN Children’s Fund and their partners; the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, it is estimated that approximately 13.4 million infants were born prematurely in 2020.


The paper's, national, regional, and global estimates of preterm birth in 2020, with trends from 2010: a systematic analysis, revealed that nearly one million of these premature babies lost their lives due to complications arising from being born prematurely.

What Does The Report Say?

As revealed by the report, the data indicates that roughly 1 in 10 babies worldwide were delivered prematurely, before completing 37 weeks of pregnancy. Health experts attribute these high numbers to issues such as inadequate maternal health and malnutrition.

The paper offers worldwide, regional, and national approximations and patterns concerning preterm births from 2010 to 2020, exposing significant variations among different regions and countries.

Approximately 65 percent of premature births in 2020 took place in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, where more than 13 percent of infants were born prematurely. In the most heavily impacted nations like Bangladesh, Malawi, and Pakistan, the rates were three to four times greater than those observed in the least affected countries such as Serbia, Moldova, and Kazakhstan.

Apart from the chances of death, premature birth also substantially raises the chances of experiencing severe health problems, disabilities, and developmental delays, and can even lead to chronic diseases in adulthood, such as diabetes and heart conditions.


Other Findings

The issue of preterm birth is not confined solely to low and middle-income nations; data pointed towards its impact on families worldwide. Some high-income countries, such as Greece and the United States of America, have preterm birth rates of 10 percent or higher.

Similar to other significant trends related to maternal health, no region across the globe has made substantial progress in reducing preterm birth rates over the past decade. The annual global rate of decrease in preterm births between 2010 and 2020 stood at just 0.14 percent.

Preterm births are closely associated with maternal health risks, including adolescent pregnancy, infections, inadequate nutrition, and pre-eclampsia. The provision of high-quality antenatal care is crucial for identifying and managing complications, ensuring accurate pregnancy dating through early ultrasound scans, and, if necessary, postponing labour using approved treatments.

While the prevalence of preterm birth has improved with the increased registration of births and facility-based deliveries, gaps persist. Notably, 92 countries lack sufficient nationally representative data on this issue.

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United Nations Preterm Births Premature Birth