15 Million Preterm Births & 2.6 Million Stillbirths Annually
Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn deaths worldwide. Annually, an estimated 15 million babies are born too early, and more than one million do not survive beyond their first month of life. Babies born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy have increased risks for serious infections, cerebral palsy, and respiratory, vision, hearing and developmental problems.
In the U.S., almost one in eight babies is born too soon. And disparities persist: Prematurity rates among blacks and Native Americans are nearly twice as high as those for whites or Asian Americans.
An even larger disparity exists between costs and research; preterm birth is a leading U.S. health care expenditure ($26B), yet preterm birth research ranks 99th and perinatal health research ranks only 52nd in NIH funding.
Additionally, a staggering 2.6 million stillbirths occur each year. These pregnancy losses are not considered in most health policies or goals. Most stillbirths occur in low- and middle-income countries. One million stillbirths occur during childbirth, and could be prevented with current interventions that are not readily available in these settings.
Maternal, fetal, newborn and child health outcomes are intertwined. Nearly half of all maternal deaths recorded worldwide are linked to stillbirths that happen during childbirth. And babies born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy are not fully developed; many who survive have serious short- and long-term health problems.
Preterm births and stillbirths occur in all countries and across all settings and income levels. Even a mother who has had state-of-the-art prenatal care may — for unknown reasons — deliver a baby prematurely. Preterm birth rates are increasing in middle- and high-income countries such as the United States. Stillbirths are most common in low-resource settings, yet no matter where they occur, stillbirths are rarely discussed and are often invisible to communities and governments alike.
GAPPS Collaborates for Solutions
GAPPS is forging a collaborative, global alliance for preventing prematurity and stillbirth. Our objectives include accelerating innovative research, fueling investments, supporting the development of new interventions, increasing awareness, and promoting effective health policies that will improve maternal, newborn and child health.
Getting the Numbers Right
Better data are needed on maternal mortality, stillbirths, preterm births and the impacts of preterm birth on newborn and child health. Preterm birth and stillbirth definitions vary from investigator to investigator and among national health ministries. In many countries, preterm births and stillbirths are inaccurately recorded or not reported at all. For example, household surveys are the main data source from countries with 75% of the global burden. We must improve the collection and quality of data from these countries to fully understand the breadth of the problem and begin to develop enhanced solutions.
GAPPS is focused on understanding the magnitude of the problem by:
GAPPS is assessing the impact of interventions for preterm birth on newborn and child health by: