About 15 million babies are born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) each year, and the rates are rising in almost all countries. Improving the health and status of women and girls worldwide is the key to reducing the risk of these childhood deaths. Ensuring good quality health care for all women before and during pregnancy and while in labor and delivery — regardless of their ability to pay — can help reduce the emotional, physical and societal burden of preterm births and birth defects.

Glaring disparities

Although premature birth and birth defects affect all nations and races, there are troubling disparities in the rates of survival of affected babies within countries and regions by social, racial and economic factors. For example, in high-income countries where almost all births are attended by skilled staff, 50 percent of the babies born as early as 24 weeks survive. In a low-income country, even a baby born at 32 weeks has only a 50 percent chance of surviving due to the lack of good-quality specialized care. A baby born with a serious birth defect in a lower-income country has a high likelihood of not surviving beyond childhood.

A better start

March of Dimes believes that every baby deserves the best possible start in life. Investing in universal women’s and maternal healthcare at birth can save newborns and children from death or serious disability caused by premature birth or birth defects. This includes empowering women around the world with health information and advancing global policy and program initiatives that focus on health promotion and disease and disability prevention in moms and babies.

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every family can have the best possible start. To spread the word about these issues, November has been declared Prematurity Awareness Month, and November 17th will be recognized around the globe as the 8th annual World Prematurity Day.