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Preterm Births Rates Increase Worldwide

Preterm Births Rates Increase Worldwide

(epharmanews)- Out of every 10 births, one is a preterm. Premature babies are more likely to develop diseases or die. About 2 thirds of preterm births occur in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. Despite all the global efforts to limit them, preterm birth rates have increased in most countries and only dropped in 3 counties during the last two decades, a recent study found.

The study, published in The Lancet, estimates the number of preterm births worldwide in 2010 to be 15 million. The study also found that preterm births rates have increased or remained the same all around the world, except for three countries that have managed to reduce preterm births rates which are Croatia, Ecuador, and Estonia. On the other hand, more than 60% of preterm births occurred in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In terms of numbers, not rates, of preterm births, USA and Brazil had the largest numbers of preterm births.

Researchers used numbers from many sources which include national records as well as some Reproductive Health surveys. They estimated preterm birth rates in 184 countries in 2010, and then compared the results to birth rates in 1990 in about 65 countries which had reliable data in developed regions, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

In terms of preterm birth rates, there was a raise in the studied 65 countries from 7.5% (about 2 million births) in 1990, to 8.6% in 2010 (about 2.2 million births). The European countries with the greatest average increase in rates per year since 1990 were 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%). By contrast, the USA had an average annual increase of just 0.7%.

“Our estimates highlight a fact that has received little attention. Most European countries have about half the preterm birth rate of the USA, but whilst the US rate has levelled off, European rates, even in Scandinavian countries, are increasing”, explains Joy Lawn from Save the Children in South Africa, who led the team producing the estimates for the World Health Organisation, published in the report Born Too Soon.

Preterm births, before 37 weeks of pregnancy, are still the main reason for newborn deaths and are the 2nd main reason for death in children under five. They are reason for more than a million death every year, most of which occur in the poor and developing countries in Asia and Africa. Advanced medical services in the developed countries limit death rates despite the raise in preterm births raise.

The authors conclude: “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.”

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Prepared by: Basel AlJunaidy

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