Report on Pre-Term Birth

  • 10 May 2023

On May 9th, 2023, a report titled "Born too Soon: Decade of Action on Pre-term Birth" was released by United Nations (UN) agencies and partners, shedding light on the issue of pre-term births in several countries, including India.

Key points of the report are:

  • Pre-term Birth Rate in India: In 2020, India had a pre-term birth rate of around 13 percent, resulting in approximately 3.016 million pre-term births.
  • Factors contributing to pre-term births in India include limited access to quality healthcare services, inadequate neonatal care infrastructure, lifestyle changes, chronic diseases, and pregnancies through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
  • Prevalence of Pre-term Births in Five Countries: Almost half of all pre-term births in 2020 occurred in five countries: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, China, and Ethiopia.
  • Pre-term Birth Rates Across Regions and Globally: The report indicates that pre-term birth rates have remained unchanged in regions worldwide over the past decades.
  • In 2020, the global pre-term birth rate was 9.9 percent, compared to 9.8 percent in 2010.
  • Southern Asia: The pre-term birth rate in Southern Asia was 13.3 percent in 2010 and slightly decreased to 13.2 percent in 2020.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: In both 2010 and 2020, the pre-term birth rate in Sub-Saharan Africa remained unchanged at 10.1 percent.
  • Collectively, these two regions account for over 65 percent of pre-term births globally.
  • Initiatives and Challenges in Neonatal Care: Initiatives like special newborn care units and improved labor rooms have helped save many pre-term babies in India.
  • However, there is a need for further expansion and improvement of neonatal care facilities, particularly in rural areas.
  • Government Programs: The Indian government has launched programs such as the India Newborn Action Plan and Rashtriya Bal Suraksha Karyakram to address pre-term birth issues.
  • Special Newborn Care Units (SNCUs) have been set up across the country to provide specialized care for pre-term infants.
  • Importance of Improving Access and Awareness: Emphasis should be placed on improving access to quality healthcare, raising awareness about the risks of pre-term births, and providing support to mothers and families.
  • Promoting practices like kangaroo care (prolonged skin-to-skin contact) and frequent breastfeeding can help reduce the risks associated with pre-term births.
  • Overall Goal and Importance of Quality Healthcare: Ensuring every woman has access to quality health services before and during pregnancy is crucial in identifying and managing risks, reducing the prevalence of pre-term births, and improving child survival and health outcomes.