World Prematurity Day 2019

World Prematurity Day 2019


World Prematurity Day 2019

The news of a pregnancy is truly wonderful. The mother-to-be is really excited along with her family and loved ones. Everybody is taking extra special care of her and her unborn baby.

Every trimester is crucial to the baby’s safety and proper development as well as the mother’s safety. However, there are many babies all around the world who are born before their time or preterm. These births are categorized as premature births and preterm infants are called premature babies.

Although the birth of a baby is an occasion that brings joy and celebration, a premature baby’s birth can bring with it severe threats to the baby’s life. According to the World Health Organization, premature birth is a leading cause of death in children under 5 years of age.

Premature babies have lower chances of survival until the age of 5 and may develop serious health problems and vulnerabilities in the long run. According to the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) these include complications affecting the “cardiovascular system, lungs, digestive tract, brain, hearing, or vision, compared to term-born infants.”[1]

World Prematurity Day is commemorated to highlight the grave scenario of preterm birth and its implications on babies and their families.


World Prematurity Day 2019

This year, the global theme for World Prematurity Day 2019 is: Born too Soon: Providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place. World Prematurity Day is observed on November 17th every year. It is an important day to raise awareness about the challenges and the seriousness of premature birth. At the same time, the day encourages organizations, individuals, medical organizations, NGOs etc. from all over the world to unite to share learnings about challenges and solutions with respect to premature or preterm birth.

World Prematurity Day was begun by the ECFNI in 2008. Several European parent organizations also joined the ECFNI in doing so. Next, “international co-founding organizations such as LittleBigSouls (Africa), March of Dimes (USA) and National Premmie Foundation (Australia) joined the celebrations and made World Prematurity Day an intercontinental movement.”[2]

World Prematurity Day calls on people and organizations from all walks of life such as media, healthcare, politics, medical professionals, corporate firms, parents, schools etc. to join the global efforts in raising awareness and reaffirming their commitment to prevent preterm birth and provide special care in case of preterm birth. [3]

World Prematurity day’s visual identity is marked with the colour purple that signifies sensitivity and exceptionality.[4]

Definition of Preterm Birth

The WHO states “Preterm is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed.”[5] Premature births can happen at different intervals during the phase prior to 37 weeks of gestation (the baby being in the mother’s womb).


Facts about Premature Birth

Unfortunately, there is a huge gap in data reporting from 40% of countries which have very high rates of preterm births. This is why the updated data is skewed and not reliable. However, from the year 2015 onward, the WHO reports that every year the rate of preterm deaths is increasing all over the world.

Reliable data sources such as the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) states that over 10% of the 130 million babies born worldwide are born prematurely.


The WHO states the following:

  • An estimated 15 million babies are born too early every year.
  • More than one in 10 babies are born prematurely
  • In 2015, preterm births were responsible for 1 million deaths alone


Premature Birth: Causes and Risk Factors

There are a host of demographic and lifestyle factors associated with preterm births. Preterm or premature births happen due to medical and non-medical factors. However, despite taking the right care and maintaining a healthy lifestyle women still go into labour early giving birth to a preterm baby. The causes of these cases remain unknown.

The following are some maternal risk factors and causes responsible for preterm births:[6]

  • High blood pressure in the mother
  • Mother having diabetes
  • Women who become pregnant before the age of 17 years and after 35 years of age
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart-related diseases
  • Infertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Prior caesarean deliveries


Lifestyle-related habits can also increase the chances of preterm birth. They are as follows:[7]

  • Stress
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Taking Drugs
  • Doing excessive physical work
  • Undernutrition
  • Obesity


Signs of Preterm Labour

Often, the signs for preterm labour are unspecific. According to the ECFNI, the following are signs of preterm labour anytime before the 37 weeks or pregnancy are complete:


  • regular contractions or tightenings
  • period-type pains
  • a “show” – when the plug of mucus that has sealed the cervix during pregnancy comes away and out of the vagina
  • a gush or a trickle of fluid from the vagina – this could be the waters breaking
  • Getting a backache that’s not usual


Prevention of Preterm Birth


Prevention of preterm births is possible in many ways. By following a healthy diet and lifestyle, mothers can significantly decrease the chances of preterm births.

In addition, the following are some more measures for preterm birth prevention:[8]

  1. Giving antenatal steroid injections to pregnant women at risk of preterm labour and as per guidelines to strengthen the babies’ lungs
  2. Checking fetal measurements including ultrasound to help determine gestational age and detect multiple pregnancies
  3. A minimum of 8 contacts with health professionals throughout pregnancy to identify and manage other risk factors, such as infections is strongly advised.
  4. Better access to contraceptives and increased empowerment could also help reduce preterm births.
  5. Effective Midwifery care where available
  6. Appropriate counselling and information dissemination on preterm births, causes and prevention.

[1] World Prematurity Day,2019, EFCNI,

[2] World Prematurity Day,2019, EFCNI,

[3] World Prematurity Day,2019, EFCNI,

[4] World Prematurity Day,2019, EFCNI,

[5] Preterm Birth, World Health Organization, 2018.


[6] Premature Infant, Healthline,


[7]  World Prematurity Day,2019, EFCNI,

[8] Preterm Birth, World Health Organization, 2018.



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