• Record: found
  • Abstract: found
  • Article: found
Is Open Access

Born Too Soon: The global epidemiology of 15 million preterm births

Read this article at

      There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.


      This second paper in the Born Too Soon supplement presents a review of the epidemiology of preterm birth, and its burden globally, including priorities for action to improve the data. Worldwide an estimated 11.1% of all livebirths in 2010 were born preterm (14.9 million babies born before 37 weeks of gestation), with preterm birth rates increasing in most countries with reliable trend data. Direct complications of preterm birth account for one million deaths each year, and preterm birth is a risk factor in over 50% of all neonatal deaths. In addition, preterm birth can result in a range of long-term complications in survivors, with the frequency and severity of adverse outcomes rising with decreasing gestational age and decreasing quality of care. The economic costs of preterm birth are large in terms of immediate neonatal intensive care, ongoing long-term complex health needs, as well as lost economic productivity. Preterm birth is a syndrome with a variety of causes and underlying factors usually divided into spontaneous and provider-initiated preterm births. Consistent recording of all pregnancy outcomes, including stillbirths, and standard application of preterm definitions is important in all settings to advance both the understanding and the monitoring of trends. Context specific innovative solutions to prevent preterm birth and hence reduce preterm birth rates all around the world are urgently needed. Strengthened data systems are required to adequately track trends in preterm birth rates and program effectiveness. These efforts must be coupled with action now to implement improved antenatal, obstetric and newborn care to increase survival and reduce disability amongst those born too soon.DeclarationThis article is part of a supplement jointly funded by Save the Children's Saving Newborn Lives programme through a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and March of Dimes Foundation and published in collaboration with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and the World Health Organization (WHO). The original article was published in PDF format in the WHO Report "Born Too Soon: the global action report on preterm birth" (ISBN 978 92 4 150343 30), which involved collaboration from more than 50 organizations. The article has been reformatted for journal publication and has undergone peer review according to Reproductive Health's standard process for supplements and may feature some variations in content when compared to the original report. This co-publication makes the article available to the community in a full-text format.

      Related collections

      Most cited references 61

      • Record: found
      • Abstract: found
      • Article: not found

      Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) for 291 diseases and injuries in 21 regions, 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.

      Measuring disease and injury burden in populations requires a composite metric that captures both premature mortality and the prevalence and severity of ill-health. The 1990 Global Burden of Disease study proposed disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) to measure disease burden. No comprehensive update of disease burden worldwide incorporating a systematic reassessment of disease and injury-specific epidemiology has been done since the 1990 study. We aimed to calculate disease burden worldwide and for 21 regions for 1990, 2005, and 2010 with methods to enable meaningful comparisons over time. We calculated DALYs as the sum of years of life lost (YLLs) and years lived with disability (YLDs). DALYs were calculated for 291 causes, 20 age groups, both sexes, and for 187 countries, and aggregated to regional and global estimates of disease burden for three points in time with strictly comparable definitions and methods. YLLs were calculated from age-sex-country-time-specific estimates of mortality by cause, with death by standardised lost life expectancy at each age. YLDs were calculated as prevalence of 1160 disabling sequelae, by age, sex, and cause, and weighted by new disability weights for each health state. Neither YLLs nor YLDs were age-weighted or discounted. Uncertainty around cause-specific DALYs was calculated incorporating uncertainty in levels of all-cause mortality, cause-specific mortality, prevalence, and disability weights. Global DALYs remained stable from 1990 (2·503 billion) to 2010 (2·490 billion). Crude DALYs per 1000 decreased by 23% (472 per 1000 to 361 per 1000). An important shift has occurred in DALY composition with the contribution of deaths and disability among children (younger than 5 years of age) declining from 41% of global DALYs in 1990 to 25% in 2010. YLLs typically account for about half of disease burden in more developed regions (high-income Asia Pacific, western Europe, high-income North America, and Australasia), rising to over 80% of DALYs in sub-Saharan Africa. In 1990, 47% of DALYs worldwide were from communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional disorders, 43% from non-communicable diseases, and 10% from injuries. By 2010, this had shifted to 35%, 54%, and 11%, respectively. Ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of DALYs worldwide in 2010 (up from fourth rank in 1990, increasing by 29%), followed by lower respiratory infections (top rank in 1990; 44% decline in DALYs), stroke (fifth in 1990; 19% increase), diarrhoeal diseases (second in 1990; 51% decrease), and HIV/AIDS (33rd in 1990; 351% increase). Major depressive disorder increased from 15th to 11th rank (37% increase) and road injury from 12th to 10th rank (34% increase). Substantial heterogeneity exists in rankings of leading causes of disease burden among regions. Global disease burden has continued to shift away from communicable to non-communicable diseases and from premature death to years lived with disability. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, many communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional disorders remain the dominant causes of disease burden. The rising burden from mental and behavioural disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, and diabetes will impose new challenges on health systems. Regional heterogeneity highlights the importance of understanding local burden of disease and setting goals and targets for the post-2015 agenda taking such patterns into account. Because of improved definitions, methods, and data, these results for 1990 and 2010 supersede all previously published Global Burden of Disease results. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
        • Record: found
        • Abstract: found
        • Article: not found

        Epidemiology and causes of preterm birth.

        This paper is the first in a three-part series on preterm birth, which is the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality in developed countries. Infants are born preterm at less than 37 weeks' gestational age after: (1) spontaneous labour with intact membranes, (2) preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM), and (3) labour induction or caesarean delivery for maternal or fetal indications. The frequency of preterm births is about 12-13% in the USA and 5-9% in many other developed countries; however, the rate of preterm birth has increased in many locations, predominantly because of increasing indicated preterm births and preterm delivery of artificially conceived multiple pregnancies. Common reasons for indicated preterm births include pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, and intrauterine growth restriction. Births that follow spontaneous preterm labour and PPROM-together called spontaneous preterm births-are regarded as a syndrome resulting from multiple causes, including infection or inflammation, vascular disease, and uterine overdistension. Risk factors for spontaneous preterm births include a previous preterm birth, black race, periodontal disease, and low maternal body-mass index. A short cervical length and a raised cervical-vaginal fetal fibronectin concentration are the strongest predictors of spontaneous preterm birth.
          • Record: found
          • Abstract: found
          • Article: not found

          4 million neonatal deaths: when? Where? Why?

          The proportion of child deaths that occurs in the neonatal period (38% in 2000) is increasing, and the Millennium Development Goal for child survival cannot be met without substantial reductions in neonatal mortality. Every year an estimated 4 million babies die in the first 4 weeks of life (the neonatal period). A similar number are stillborn, and 0.5 million mothers die from pregnancy-related causes. Three-quarters of neonatal deaths happen in the first week--the highest risk of death is on the first day of life. Almost all (99%) neonatal deaths arise in low-income and middle-income countries, yet most epidemiological and other research focuses on the 1% of deaths in rich countries. The highest numbers of neonatal deaths are in south-central Asian countries and the highest rates are generally in sub-Saharan Africa. The countries in these regions (with some exceptions) have made little progress in reducing such deaths in the past 10-15 years. Globally, the main direct causes of neonatal death are estimated to be preterm birth (28%), severe infections (26%), and asphyxia (23%). Neonatal tetanus accounts for a smaller proportion of deaths (7%), but is easily preventable. Low birthweight is an important indirect cause of death. Maternal complications in labour carry a high risk of neonatal death, and poverty is strongly associated with an increased risk. Preventing deaths in newborn babies has not been a focus of child survival or safe motherhood programmes. While we neglect these challenges, 450 newborn children die every hour, mainly from preventable causes, which is unconscionable in the 21st century.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]MARCH, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
            [2 ]World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
            [3 ]Saving Newborn Lives, Save the Children, Cape Town, South Africa
            Author notes
            the Born Too Soon Preterm Birth Action Group (see acknowledgement for full list)
            Reprod Health
            Reprod Health
            Reproductive Health
            BioMed Central
            15 November 2013
            : 10
            : Suppl 1
            : S2
            Copyright © 2013 Blencowe et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


            Obstetrics & Gynecology

            preterm birth, epidemiology, neonatal mortality


            Comment on this article