In US, 1 in 8 Births Are Premature

Worldwide, about 1M too-soon babies die each year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 2, 2012 6:32 PM CDT
This 2006 handout photo provided by the March of Dimes Foundation shows a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Albany Medical Center.   (AP Photo/Jennifer Coate, March of Dimes Foundation)

(Newser) – About 15 million premature babies are born every year—more than 1 in 10 of the world's births and a bigger problem than previously believed, according to the first country-by-country estimates of this obstetric epidemic. The startling toll: 1.1 million of these fragile newborns die as a result, and even those who survive can suffer lifelong disabilities. Most of the world's preemies are born in Africa and Asia, says the report released today.

It's a problem for the US, too, where half a million babies are born too soon. That's about 1 in 8 US births, a higher rate than in Europe, Canada, Australia, or Japan—and even worse than rates in a number of less developed countries, too. Three-quarters of deaths could be prevented by spreading inexpensive treatments to the neediest countries, the report concludes. For example, providing $1 steroid shots during preterm labor hastens development of immature fetal lungs. Even more lives could be saved by teaching "kangaroo care," in which moms carry their tiny babies nestled skin-to-skin on their bare chests for warmth when no incubators are available. (Read more premature baby stories.)

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