November 17th is Prematurity Awareness Day, a day to shine a spotlight on this maternal and infant health crisis. Approximately 32,000 Canadian babies are born prematurely every year.
What Is Prematurity?
Every baby born before completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy (also called weeks of gestation) is considered as preterm. The following subcategories are used for further distinction:
- extremely preterm: <28 weeks of gestation
- very preterm: 28 to <32 weeks of gestation
- moderate to late preterm: 32 to <37 weeks of gestation
- late preterm may still be differed with referring to 34-37 weeks of gestation
Babies born preterm have much higher rates of low birthweight. Low birthweight refers to babies who are born weighing less than 2,500 grams (about 5.51 pounds), very low birthweight to babies with a birth weight less than 1,500 grams (about 3.30 pounds). The concept of small for gestational age describes babies who are smaller than the usual average for the number of weeks of pregnancy.
- Worldwide, estimated 15 million babies are born preterm annually  – that means 1 baby in 10 is born premature. Worldwide. And the number is rising.
- Preterm birth complications are the main cause of global under-5 deaths .
- Preterm birth complications were responsible for nearly 1 million deaths in 2015.
- Three-quarters of them could be saved with current, cost-effective interventions.
- Many survivors face a lifetime of disability, including learning disabilities and visual an hearing problems. .
- Across 184 countries, the rate of preterm birth ranges from 5% to 18% of babies born. .
- Inequalities in survival rates around the world are stark. In low-income settings, half of the babies born at or below 32 weeks die due to a lack of feasible, cost-effective and basic care, e.g. warmth, breastfeeding support, basic care for infections and breathing difficulties. .
- In Europe, preterm birth is one of the two leading causes for neonatal mortality and accounts for more than half of all deaths in later childhood. Prevalence rates of preterm birth range from 5.4 to 12.0 % – an average of 7.3% of all live births .
- Up to 60% of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) parents suffer from varying degrees of trauma.
How You Can Help
- Share your Story – Sharing your story helps by raising awareness and providing support for other families who may be on the same journey. Stay tuned for stories from our members who have experienced premature birth firsthand!
- Send a personal note of encouragement to a NICU family to show them they are not alone during their difficult time
- Think Purple – Light it purple, including your office or home or city – click here for a list of landmarks across Canada that will be lit up purple! If you can wear it, make it purple. And don’t forget to share pictures on your social channels with #WorldPrematurityDay and #PreemiePowerCanada
- Donate – The Canadian Premature Babies Foundation (CPBF) is there to help support families of the most vulnerable. Click here to donate now.
Covid and Premature Babies
With the cancellation of all in-unit support groups and programs across the country due to COVID-19, there is an extra layer of fear and isolation for parents of premature babies. Extreme emotional and psychological anxiety that result from these restrictions may last for months. That’s why the CPBF is offering virtual short-term support by mental health professionals, including clinical psychologists and perinatal mental health specialists. They also have a ton of resources for families including peer support, what to do in the NICU, info on kangaroo care, feeding and advocacy.
 World Health Organization. Preterm birth. 2016. Available from: http://www.who.int
 Althabe F, Howson CP, Kinney M, Lawn J, World Health Organization. Born too soon: the global action report on preterm birth. 2012. Available from: www.who.int/pmnch/media/news/2012/201204_borntoosoon-report.pdf
 GBD 2015 Child Mortality Collaborators, and others. Global, regional, national, and selected subnational levels of stillbirths, neonatal, infant, and under-5 mortality, 1980–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. 2016. The Lancet, 388 (10053): 1725–1774.
 World Health Organization. WHO fact sheet on preterm birth. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs363/en/
 EURO-PERISTAT Project. European Perinatal Health Report. Core indicators of the health and care of pregnant women and babies in Europe in 2015. Available from: http://www.europeristat.com/images/EPHR2015_Euro-Peristat.pdf