Each year worldwide, 15 million babies are born too soon and over 1 million of these babies sadly lose their fight for life from preterm birth complications. In Australia, 1 in 10 babies (8.6%) is born prematurely before 37 weeks gestation with 73 babies born too soon every day.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Australia’s ‘Mothers and Babies’ report provides up-to-date information on women who have given birth in Australia. The AIHW is a major national agency which provides reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics. The Institute’s mission is authoritative information and statistics to promote better health and wellbeing.
The results of the Mothers and Babies report in 2014, shows that 307,844 women gave birth to 312,548 babies in Australia. Overall, 8.6% of babies were born pre-term (before 37 weeks gestation), with most of these births occurring at gestational ages of between 32 and 36 completed weeks. In 2014, 26,835 babies were born preterm and heartbreakingly 781 neonatal deaths occurred (2.5%). Up to 15% of live born babies (42,442) were admitted into a neonatal intensive care unit or special care nursery, although the figure in table 3.18 does not include WA’s admission statistics.
The average gestational age for all pre-term births was 33.3 weeks. Nationally, (0.8%) of births were at 20–27 weeks gestation (0.8%) were at 28–31 weeks and (7.0%) were at 32–36 weeks. Babies born in multiple births were vastly more likely to be born pre-term, around 63% of twins and all other multiples (triplets and higher) were born pre-term in 2014.
In August 2014, a world first Melbourne-based study to determine how being born prematurely affects your adult life has shown that premature babies born at 24-weeks gestation have a 60% chance of survival and that survival rates have never been higher.
There are many factors which will determine your premature babies chances for survival. Here are just a few very important factors:
- Gestational age at birth (number of completed weeks of pregnancy)
- The weight of the baby
- Indications of breathing problems or not
- Severe medical complications such as infections
- The presence or absence of congenital abnormalities or malformations
- The baby’s condition at birth
- Multiple pregnancy
- Antenatal steroids
- Birth at a hospital that offers specialised neonatal care
Extremely preterm (<28 weeks)
Very preterm (28 to <32 weeks)
Moderate to late preterm (32 to <37 weeks)
‘Low’ birth weight at birth: Weighs less than 2,500 grams
‘Very low’ birth weight at birth : Weighs less than 1,500 grams
‘Extremely low’ birth weight at birth: Weighs less than 1,000 grams
– Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn deaths (babies in the first four weeks of life) and the second leading cause of death after pneumonia in children under five years.
– Other factors may influence survival by altering the rate of organ maturation or by changing the supply of oxygen to the developing fetus.
– Rupture of the fetal membranes before 24 weeks of gestation with loss of amniotic fluid markedly decreases the baby’s chances of survival even if the baby is delivered much later.
– Male infants are slightly less mature and have a slightly higher risk of dying than female infants.
– For a given weight, African-American babies have a slightly better survival than Caucasian; most other races are intermediate between the two.
– Severe high blood pressure before the 8th month of pregnancy may cause changes in the placenta, decreasing the delivery of nutrients and/or oxygen to the developing fetus and leading to problems before and after delivery.
Each situation is different, each baby is different. Your baby will be fighting to survive but their doctor will be able to give you the best estimate of your baby’s chances and outcomes.
For further information about a premature babies outcome by their gestational age when born, please visit Preemiehelp.com.
AIHW 2014. Australia’s mothers and babies 2012. Perinatal statistics series no. 30. Cat. no. PER 69. Canberra: AIHW.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australia’s mothers and babies 2014—in brief. Perinatal statistics
series no. 32. Cat no. PER 87. Canberra: AIHW..
Information compiled from Meriter Health
Table source – NSW Neonatal Intensive Care Study (NICUS) data for 2001 – 2004
WHO Fact Sheet N°363 – www.who.int
The subject matter provided in these articles is strictly for informational purposes alone and should never be used in the place of a doctor’s advice. Please ALWAYS contact your doctor if you ever have questions or need advice in any area where medical advice is needed or medication is suggested.