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Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2012;5(2):100-5.

Premature delivery and the millennium development goal.

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  • 1Department of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, Harvard Medical School Boston, MA.


Worldwide, approximately 15 million babies (1 in 10) are born prematurely each year. Prematurity is the leading cause of death among newborns, accounting for 1 million deaths per year, and, after pneumonia, is the second leading cause of death in children under age 5 years. Newborns who do survive preterm delivery (PTD) struggle with visual, auditory, and learning disabilities. In order to reach the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG-4) of reducing the mortality rate in children under age 5 years by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, there must be significantly fewer PTDs. In high-income nations, 50% of babies born at 24 weeks survive, whereas in low-resource nations, this survival rate is not achieved until 32 weeks of gestation. Over 90% of babies born in low-resource settings before 28 weeks die in the first few days of life (< 10% die in high-income nations), a 10:90 survival gap. Over 60% of PTDs worldwide occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Risk factors for PTD include adolescent pregnancy, short interval between births, poor prepregnancy weight (very low or high body mass index), chronic diseases (diabetes and hypertension), infectious disease, substance abuse, cervical incompetence, and poor psychological health. Thus, a commitment to improving maternal health and the quality of prenatal care is necessary to achieve the MDG-4.


Millennium Development Goal; Neonatal death; Preterm birth; Preterm delivery; Prevention; World Health Organization

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