Born too soon - Global action report
New report (2 May 2012) shows premature birth is on the rise globally. Report proposes actions for governments, NGOs and communities in order to reduce premature birth rates round the world
Premature birth comes under the international spotlight today with the release of a global report on premature birth. ‘Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth’ is a joint effort of almost 50 international, regional and national organizations, led by the March of Dimes, The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Save the Children and the World Health Organization in support of the Every Woman Every Child effort, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The report provides the first-ever national, regional and global estimates of preterm birth, and shows the extent to which premature birth is on the rise in most countries. It is now the second leading cause of death globally for children under five, after pneumonia.
The report includes the first ever country by country premature birth rates, and explains what is known about preterm birth, its causes, and the kind of care that is needed.
Key figures highlighted for the UK include:
- UK rates of preterm births are 7.8 percent of live births (2010)
- UK ranks 46 out of 184 countries for numbers of preterm births (2010)
- The countries with the lowest rates are mainly in Northern Europe
- Australia, New Zealand, Paraguay, Guatemala all have similar rates to the UK
- There are nearly 60,000 preterm births per year in the UK (2010)
- Preterm birth rates in the UK are increasing at a rate of 1.5 percent (1990-2010)
- Most European countries are increasing whereas the USA has a much higher rate but may be levelling or reducing.
The report calls for a strong research programme to identify risk factors clearly and understand how their interactions may lead to preterm birth, so women at risk can be screened and treated to prevent their babies arriving early.
Until research provides the answers that are required however, the report advises ‘taking effective measures now, such as screening women for known medical conditions that could put them at risk during pregnancy, assuring good nutrition before and during pregnancy, and making sure that all women have access to good preconception and prenatal health care and receive the recommended number of visits during pregnancy’.
These two key points on the importance of medical research and lifestyle match Tommy’s own focus in funding research in to the causes and preventions of premature birth, and providing expert advice on the best lifestyle choices for parents-to-be, to help prevent premature birth from happening in the first place:
More funding for this is needed as there is currently no accurate screening test available to identify women at risk in their first pregnancies. Tommy’s research priority is to develop effective screening tests and treatments to prevent premature birth from happening in the first place.
Through our London and Manchester research centres we are searching for biological markers identifying women likely to have premature babies. We have previously found that fetal fibronectin is a reliable indicator of preterm birth and we have also discovered that lower than expected levels of progesterone in saliva are a predictor of spontaneous preterm labour.
Our research into premature birth is also focusing on strategies to prevent or delay early labour. At our centre in Edinburgh, Tommy's Professor Jane Norman is leading a major trial of over 8,000 women (the OPPTIMUM trial) to see whether progesterone is effective in preventing preterm birth. We're also looking closely at ways to prevent the contractions that begin the labour process. Read more about Tommy's research into premature birth
Improving awareness about lifestyle choices and the links to premature birth/pregnancy complications (amongst the general public and health professionals) is essential. Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, lack of adequate diet and nutrition, being obese/underweight, and drinking and smoking can all be contributing factors to a baby coming early.
These specific issues are addressed by the Tommy’s Five point pregnancy plan, which aims to raise awareness of the known risks amongst women and provide them with practical tools to improve their lifestyles - so that women are in the best possible health pre, during and in-between pregnancies. Tommy’s midwives also provide free and confidential lifestyle advice specifically for women most at risk of pregnancy complications - due to smoking, stress, poor diet and obesity – as well as bereavement counselling for women experiencing a pregnancy loss, through our freephone PregnancyLine (0800 0147 800).
Tommy’s also recently launched a new guide this year – ‘Having a premature baby’ - thanks to funding from the Asda Foundation, to provide essential support for parents of babies born too soon, as well as for those parents at risk of giving birth early. It is the only comprehensive guide available to parents from the moment they find out they are at risk of giving birth early, to taking their baby home. Click here to order a copy of Having a premature baby
Beckie Lang, Health Campaigns Manager for baby charity Tommy’s, says: 'We’re pleased to see premature birth being put under the international spotlight with the release of this report. Premature births have a huge impact on families, health services and societies round the world, and is also a huge problem here in the UK, with many short and long-term health consequences for the child. As the report highlights, effective prevention of premature birth remains key for the UK, yet we need more research to be able to do this as many premature births remain unexplained. This is why Tommy’s priority is to fund medical research – and provide expert advice on the best lifestyle choices for parents-to-be – to help prevent premature birth happening in the first place'.
Tommy's funds medical research into the causes and prevention of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, and provides free information to parents-to-be about health in pregnancy. Visit www.tommys.org and for more information about premature birth, visit www.tommys.org/prematurity.
For more information, spokespeople and case studies, please contact Vicky Hubbard (email@example.com, 020 7398 3448) or Dawn Tennant (firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7398 3446) in Tommy’s Press Office.
At Tommy’s we believe every pregnancy should have a happy ending.
We want to give every baby the best chance of being born healthy, so we work to fund medical research into the causes of premature birth, stillbirth and miscarriage, and provide a free information service that educates all parents-to-be about health in pregnancy.
Our information service is informed by our medical research and includes a telephone midwife service, a comprehensive website and free books and leaflets promoting health in pregnancy.
By 2030 we want to halve the number of babies who die during pregnancy or birth.
Tommy’s registered charity number is 1060508 and SC039280.
To speak to a Tommy’s midwife call our PregnancyLine free on 0800 0147 800