Babies Who are Born Too Soon are Not Born to Die

Written by Phil Carroll, MPH,Save the Childrens Associate Director of Media and Communications

Today marks the 3rd annual World Prematurity Day. Since its founding, much awareness has been raised about the risks associated with being born preterm, but the fact remains that prematurity is still the leading cause of newborn deaths worldwide.

And it’s getting worse.

Preterm birth rates around the globe are increasing and are now responsible for 35 percent of the world’s neonatal deaths; the condition is the second-leading cause of death among children under five, after pneumonia.

One of the striking things about prematurity is that it’s not just an “over there” problem. In fact, here in the U.S. the problem remains more common than in most other industrialized nations.

I experienced this first-hand just last week. I was in Kenya for a work meeting, and during a routine check-in call with my family, I was told that my pregnant cousin, whose due date was around Christmas, had just delivered a baby boy a full six weeks early.

Having worked in the public health field for most of my career, I immediately knew how dangerous the situation was and felt helpless that I was literally halfway around the world and couldn’t be with my family.

I also knew that, according to research released today in Nature, her baby, because he was male, was more at risk of death and disability than had my cousin given birth to a girl.

According to Save the Children’s Joy Lawn, M.D., PhD, the team leader of the new research, “these disabilities range from learning problems and blindness to deafness and motor problems, including cerebral palsy.”

Luckily, because my cousin acted swiftly and had access to a top-notch hospital, both she and her new baby are doing just fine today.

Women like her in the developing world are not as lucky, but they still have access to low-cost, high-impact interventions that can save their babies’ lives. Kangaroo Mother Care, for example, a simple process of keeping babies skin to skin with their mothers, has been estimated to save up to half a million newborns each year if it was promoted everywhere.

Please take the time to signal your support by joining the World Prematurity Day Facebook page and tell our world leaders that while too many babies are still being born too soon, they are not born to die.

Photo credit: Phil Carroll/Save the Children


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

The lack of health care is not always a factor. I had plenty of prenatal care but my oldest son was born 6 weeks premature. He is now 32.

Karen Chestney
Karen Chestney4 years ago

thanks.....There is not reason the death rate in the US should be as high as it is ....maybe with the onset of The ACA with more women having access to health care that rate will go down.!

Margaret Goodman
Margaret G4 years ago

I wonder if the United States has more preemies because of our health system, where, if you can't afford medical care, you don't get it.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L4 years ago

I didn't mean it's not serious today but 3# preemies are not as worriesome today.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L4 years ago

I was born 5 wks early in 1943 and weigh 3 lbs. My father said I looked like a monkey and could fit into a cigar box. I was born with my right leg turn around with the foot facing the back. I was place in an incubator and my mother went to a sanatorium because she had TB. Back in those days being a preemie was serious and I wasn't expected to live. I was in the hospital for 9 months while they straighten out my leg and took care of other things.

Many years later I worked in teaching hospitals in SF and use to go up to the Neonatal Department to see the preemies. We have come a long way since 1943 in saving preemies weighting a lot less than 3 lbs. I grew up listening to adults saying how there is something always wrong with preemies and I was watch very carefully when I was young. When my family found out I was gay some of the more bigoted ones said that was IT...I was gay because I was a preemie. LOL. There can be problems but it is amazing how far medical science has come in caring for these little babies. I saw preemies MediVac to the hospital’s Neonatal ICU in terrible shape, some deformed only to emerge months and in one case three years later to beautiful healthy babies. We always had them come back for their 5th year ‘graduation’…what a beautiful event that was. Never ever give up on a preemie.

Lin M
Lin M4 years ago

Thank you. Wish all mom's the best.

Rose Becke4 years ago

Thank you

Luna Starr
luna starr4 years ago

survial of the fittest

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago