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Preterm birth complications
Preterm means that the baby has had less than 37 weeks to gestate.
About 15 million babies are born preterm every year, and about 1 in 15 of those die due to complications arising from their preterm birth. Mostly in developing countries.
If you are lucky enough to live in a high-income country, then your preterm baby will almost certainly survive.
In low income countries, about half of all babies born earlier than 32 weeks die due to complications arising from inadequate heating and feeding, and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties.
The causes of preterm birth are not all understood, but appear to relate almost exactly to the living conditions of the mother. 90% of all extremely premature births (before 28 weeks) are in low income countries, for example.
Overall, there is a 9% chance of preterm birth in a developed country, and 12% in developing.
Preterm birth complications can be helped by keeping healthy while you are pregnant, and frequent care from health professionals before, during, and after the birth. Frequent skin-to-skin contact mother to child, breastfeeding, antibiotics to treat infections, and continued midwife care after the birth help a lot.
The number of preterm birth complication related deaths has decreased over time. In England in 2006, the survival chance for very premature babies was 53%. Only five years later, it was 80%. In Norway, mortality decreased by 65% from 1990 to 2013.
Recent developments in artificial wombs present some intriguing possibilities in not only saving preterm baby lives, but also in preventing the issues caused by being born preterm (under-developed lungs, brain bleeds, heart problems, gastrointestinal problems, cerebral palsy, impaired cognition, problems with the eyes, ears and teeth, as well as sudden death syndrome, and others).
A research team in Philadelphia successfully brought 8 lambs born just over half-term to full term in artificial wombs, and tests showed minimal differences between those born in artificial wombs and control lambs born naturally.