15 million premature babies born each year
Simple care could save hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide, report says
Posted: May 2, 2012 1:12 PM ET
Last Updated: May 2, 2012 3:03 PM ET
Prematurity is the leading cause of newborn deaths, according to an international report that set new goals for all countries on reducing the problem.
Worldwide, 15 million of the 135 million babies born in 2010 were premature, and of those, 1.1 million died, according to Wednesday's report by the March of Dimes, United Nations, Save the Children and World Health Organization.
"Being born too soon is an unrecognized killer," said Dr. Joy Lawn, co-editor of the report.
It's the first ranking of preterm birth rates by country, the groups said.
For countries like Canada with a newborn mortality rate of less than five per 1,000 live births, the goal is to eliminate preterm births before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Survivors face a lifetime of potential disability. About a quarter born earlier than 28 weeks are blind or visually impaired, five to 10 per cent are deaf, 40 per cent have chronic lung disease and an unknown number have learning impairments.
Canada's rate was 7.78 per cent.
The 10 countries with the highest number of preterm births include Brazil, the United States, India and Nigeria.
Rates of preterm birth ranged from four per cent in Belarus to 18 per cent in Malawi and generally mirrored poverty.
The U.S. rate was 12 per cent, the worst among G8 countries.
In high-income countries, the increases in the number of preterm births are linked to the number of older women having babies, increased use of fertility drugs and the resulting multiple pregnancies, and lifestyle challenges such as obesity, smoking and diabetes.
Medically unnecessary inductions and C-sections before full term have also increased preterm births.
The report's authors championed two strategies: prevention and care.
Prevention includes education on family planning and adolescent friendly services. Care ranges from resuscitation of infants and kangaroo care — holding newborns skin to skin on the mother's chest to keep them warm, making frequent breastfeeding easy, preventing infections and providing constant maternal supervision.
Kangaroo care alone could save 450,000 lives a year, the authors said.
"Weighing less than a packet of sugar at only 2.2 poundsTantufye survived with the help of kangaroo mother care," her mother Grace, in Malawi, said in the report. She survived against the odds and is now a healthy young girl.
Giving steroid injections for mothers in premature labour that cost $1 per injection could save almost 400,000 babies a year by helping develop immature fetal lungs and prevent respiratory problems.
The report was funded by 40 organizations, including the government of Canada.
Top News Headlines
- Neil Macdonald: Washington's obsession with leakers
- Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are just the most prominent targets in an all-out legal and propaganda campaign that America's security apparatus is mounting against leakers everywhere, Neil Macdonald writes. more »
- Half of First Nations children live in poverty
- Half of status First Nations children in Canada live in poverty, a troubling figure that jumps to nearly two-thirds in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, says a newly released report. more »
- Who's who in the Senate expense controversy
- Keeping track of the names popping up in the ongoing Senate expenses controversy — from the investigators to the four senators themselves — could be a difficult task for even the most seasoned political observers. more »
- How open is Ottawa's new 'open data' website?
- Treasury Board President Tony Clement is touting the federal government's revamped data portal as a "new natural resource." But that online window for previously published data arrives at the same time the government faces controversy over just how open it really is. more »
Latest Health News Headlines
- Sexually transmitted oral cancers screened with early blood test
- Antibodies to a high-risk type of a virus that causes mouth and throat cancers when transmitted via oral sex can be detected in blood tests many years before onset of the disease, according to a World Health Organization-led team of researchers. more »
- Parents in dark about teens tanning, study suggests
- New research into the use of indoor tanning salons by Alberta teenagers suggests their parents are clueless about it. more »
- Celiacs, diabetics face hard food bank choices
- Life on a limited income is an extra challenge for people living with diabetes or celiac disease, a poverty survey by Women's Network PEI is finding. more »
- Mental illness afflicts most of Calgary's homeless, study finds
- A study has found there is an "overwhelmingly high" rate of undiagnosed and untreated psychiatric illness among Calgary's homeless population. more »
- 2 men jailed in Dominican wedding fight return to Canada
- MPs pass NDP motion on expenses, adjourn for summer
- Police probe death of woman, 27, in Kelowna home
- Hundreds attend 'Change Brazil' protest in Vancouver
- Are e-cigarettes safe to puff?
- Huge ancient city at Angkor Wat revealed by lasers
- Most groups don't want return of Trudeau speaking fees
- Parents of son 'brutally beaten' playing hockey want charges
- Tim Hortons being circled by Wall Street hedge funds