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.

The World Health Organization defines preterm birth as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. While many preterm babies survive in high-income countries, in low- and middle-income countries a lack of adequate newborn care puts the lives of many preterm babies at risk.

15M

number of babies born prematurely every year

10.6

percentage of babies born prematurely worldwide

81

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