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Why World Prematurity Day matters

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World Prematurity Day takes place on 17th November this year and is an invaluable opportunity to raise awareness of premature birth and the huge impact it can have on babies and their families.

According to Bliss, the charity for babies born premature or sick, 15 million babies are born prematurely every year around the world, with one million of these failing to survive. In fact, prematurity is the main cause of death in children under five years old.

That is because when a baby is born too soon, some parts of their bodies will not have fully developed. The earlier the birth, the more under-developed the baby will be and the lower their chances of survival.

Luckily, advances in neonatal care mean that many premature babies can now be cared for until they get stronger and develop fully.

However, whilst some premature babies will be born without any serious complications, many will experience health problems that will need surgery or ongoing medical attention.

So what problems do premature babies face?

  • At less than 28 weeks, the risks can include:
    • breathing problems, due to under-developed lungs that cannot breathe independently,
    • hypothermia,
    • low blood sugar,
    • low blood pressure,
    • infection and
    • brain injury


  • At 28 to 32 weeks, a baby is less likely to become serious ill, but there is still a reduced risk of:
    • breathing difficulties,
    • hypothermia,
    • low blood sugar,
    • low blood pressure and
    • infection


  • At 32 to 34 weeks, possible risks still include:
    • mild breathing issues,
    • hypothermia,
    • low blood sugar
    • low blood pressure and
    • infection


  • At 34 to 36 weeks, the issues may include:
    • low blood sugar
    • low blood pressure
    • infection
    • inability to breastfeed or bottle-feed

How likely are these babies to survive?

According to Tommy’s, a charity which funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, and provides pregnancy health information to parents, survival rates increase with older pre-term babies.

So, for example, whilst the chance of a baby surviving at less than 22 weeks is almost zero, at 23 weeks this rises to 19%, at 24 weeks to 40%, at 25 weeks to around 66% and at 26 weeks to 77%. Those born alive at 27 weeks have an 87% chance of surviving, at 28 weeks it is 92% and at 29 weeks they have a 95% chance of surviving.

Whilst the survival rates for older pre-term babies are quite reassuring, there is obviously a lot of research to be done to help improve survival rates across all ages.

What’s more, whilst there are several known risk factors for pre-term birth, in many cases the cause is unknown, so there is an urgent need for research to help reduce the likelihood of premature birth in the first place.

However, according to premature birth research charity, Borne, despite pre-term birth often having distressing or devastating effects for so many babies, mothers and families, obstetrics and obstetric research is still chronically under-funded and under-resourced.

Getting involved on World Prematurity Day

With so much need for ongoing investment into pre-term research and care, World Prematurity Day plays a vital role every year in reminding people to contribute to the charities supporting this cause.

If you are interested in donating or doing a fundraising event to raise money on World Prematurity Day, here are links to a few of the charities that you can support:

Whatever you decide to do to support World Prematurity Day, enjoy it! Somewhere a baby will be smiling because of you and the other supporters of this amazing cause.

For more information and advice on caring for a premature baby, you can also take a look at this guide:



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