Originally published by 2 Minute Medicine® (view original article). Reused on AccessMedicine with permission.

1. Global preterm births have remained stable from 2010 to 2020 (13.4 million vs. 13.8 million).

2. A large proportion of preterm births occur at less than 32 weeks of gestation.

Evidence Rating Level: 1 (Excellent)

Study Rundown:

Preterm birth is a leading cause of neonatal mortality, accounting for one-tenth of all live births in 2014. Addressing the global burden of preterm births is key to improving neonatal outcomes and preventing early childhood mortality. This systematic analysis aimed to update global preterm birth rates and trends, including estimated gestational age subgroups, to inform global health goals. The primary outcome was the estimation of global preterm birth rates, while the key secondary outcome included regional disparity. According to study results, global preterm birth rates over the last decade have remained stagnant. Although this study was well done, it was limited by a lack of comprehensive data in high-burden regions, highlighting the need for improved data and investments in prevention and care for preterm births.

In-depth [systematic review]:

Population-based data on preterm birth from Jan 1, 2010, to Dec 31, 2020, was included in this systematic analysis. Information was collected from 679 data points across 103 countries. There was no significant increase in preterm birth from 2010 (13.8 million preterm babies, 95% credible interval [CrI] 12.7-15.5 million, 9.8% of all births) to 2020 (13.4 million preterm babies, 95% CrI 12.3-15.2 million, 9.9% of all births). Notably, regions like southern Asia (26.8%) and sub-Saharan Africa (28.7%), despite having 55.6% of total live births, accounted for 65% of all global preterm births in 2020. Furthermore, most preterm births occurred at < 32 weeks of gestation (15%), requiring more neonatal care (4.2% for <28 weeks, 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.1-5.0 and 10.4% for 28-32 weeks, 95% CI 9.5-10.6). Overall, findings from this study suggest that global preterm birth rates remained relatively stable over the last decade, underscoring the urgency of addressing these challenges.

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