Nearly 10% of babies born each year worldwide arrive prematurely, and the stress of caring for them "is exacting a huge toll emotionally, physically and financially on families, medical systems and economies," the March of Dimes said today. Some 13 million babies are preemies, and more than 1 million of them live less than a month. The problem overwhelmingly affects Africa, where 12% of births are early, followed by North America and Asia.
"We need to know more about the underlying causes of premature birth in order to develop effective prevention strategies," says a March of Dimes exec. Driving up North America's numbers is the fact that the rates of premature birth in the US have soared, thanks in part to increased use of technologies that result in multiple births, HealthDay News reports.