A detailed study that has been conducted by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has shown that in 2020 around 13.4 million infants were born prematurely, which means before 37 full weeks of pregnancy. 13.4 million premature infants account for 1 baby in 10 of all live births. The findings of the study have been released in the Lancet today.
Premature birth is the main cause of infants’ death in early years
As per the report, early birth or premature birth is the main cause of infants’ death in early years. Experts say that there is a pressing need for preventive efforts to strengthen preterm baby care and maternal health and nutrition. Preterm birth also leads to an increased risk of development delays, chronic diseases in adulthood such as diabetes and heart issues, major ailments, and other disabilities.
The study has revealed that India accounted for 3.02 million preterm births in 2020, which is the highest number of preterm births in the world. India contributes to more than 20 per cent of all preterm births worldwide. Other trends linked to maternal health show that no region in the world has recorded any major reductions in the rate of preterm births in the last 10 years. The annual worldwide rate of reduction in preterm births from 2010 to 2020 was just 0.14 per cent. Health experts say that it is essential to ensure access to valued health care before and during every pregnancy.
The study has offered national, regional, and global estimates of preterm birth in 2020. The findings reveal major inequalities between regions and countries. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for about 65 per cent of premature births in 2020. Southern Asia contributed to more than 13 per cent of pre-term births. Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Malawi were found to be the most affected countries with premature birth rates of 16.2 per cent, 14.3 per cent, and 14.5 per cent respectively.
Serbia, Moldova, and Kazakhstan were the least affected by preterm birth. Premature birth equally affects low and high-income nations. In high-income countries such as Greece and the US, rates of preterm birth were found to be 11. 6 percent and 10 percent correspondingly.