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Prematurity at a glance


“These babies are born too soon, but they are not born to die.  Their deaths are utterly preventable.”
-Dr. Lawn, March of Dimes

Prematurity is a condition by which early birth deprives a baby of some period of development inside the mother.  Premature birth, also known as preterm birth, is the birth of a baby at less than 37 weeks gestational age.  These babies are known as preemies.  Premature infants are at greater risk for cerebral palsy, delays in development, hearing problems, and problems seeing. These risks are greater the earlier a baby is born.


Preterm birth is the most common cause of death among infants worldwide.  About 15 million babies are preterm each year (5% to 18% of all deliveries).  In many countries rates of premature births have increased between the 1990s and 2010s.  Complications from preterm births resulted in 0.74 million deaths in 2013 down from 1.57 million in 1990. 


The chance of survival at less than 23 weeks is close to zero, while at 23 weeks it is 15%, 24 weeks 55% and 25 weeks about 80%.  The chances of survival without long term difficulties is less. 


Anybody who knows the term “premature” likely knows someone or the parent of someone who was born as a preemie.  Juliet Grace is our premie.  She was born over three months early (a 24-weeker) , and lived for six months.  It is in her spirit that the Juliet Grace Smith Foundation works with families impacted by prematurity by supporting programs and initiatives at Washington DC Metro area facilities such as the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 





  • Babies born between 32 and less than 37 completed weeks of pregnancy make up 85 percent (or 12.6M) of the 15 million preterm babies born annually.
  • “We know what it takes to address the challenge of prematurity and we are committed to bringing partners together behind proven, affordable solutions,” says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who launched The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children's Health in 2010. The Global Strategy is supported by Every Woman Every Child, an umbrella movement that has already leveraged more than $20 billion in new money and aims to save the lives of 16 million by 2015.
  • The countries with the greatest numbers of moderate to late preterm births annually are:  India –2,959,300; China –981,050; Nigeria –665,080; Pakistan –633,640; Indonesia –564,350; United States –438,410; Bangladesh –355,030; Philippines –295,780; Democratic Republic of Congo –291,750; and Brazil –233,320.


Countries with highest incidence of premature birth

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