According to the most recent estimates, preterm birth is a leading cause of under-5 mortality, claiming more than 1 million lives every year, with the rate of preterm birth increasing in almost all countries.

Babies born too soon are at increased risk for hypothermia, breathing difficulties, infections, and impaired development. However, approximately three-quarters of these deaths could be prevented with low-cost, effective, and high-quality supportive care and with neonatal intensive care.


number of babies born prematurely every year


percentage of babies born prematurely worldwide


percentage of preterm births that occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia

Preventing preterm birth

Although we still do not have a full understanding of the causes of preterm birth, several interventions may reduce the risk of a woman delivering early, including high-quality antenatal care; good nutrition; screening and management of maternal infections, diabetes, and hypertension; smoking cessation; family planning; and prenatal care for adolescents. If a woman presents in preterm labor, administration of antenatal corticosteroids may reduce mortality from respiratory distress, and antibiotics can reduce a baby’s risk for infection.