(HealthDay News) – The global burden of preterm birth is considerable, representing 11.1% of all live births worldwide.

Hannah Blencowe, MBChB, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues collected data from National Registries, Reproductive Health Surveys, and studies identified through systematic searches, to report worldwide, regional, and national estimates of preterm birth rates for 184 countries in 2010. For 65 countries with reliable time trend data and more than 10,000 live births per year, time trends were estimated from 1990–2010.

The researchers found that in 2010 there were an estimated 14.9 million babies born preterm. This represented 11.1% of all live births worldwide, ranging from about 5% in some European counties to 18% in some African countries. Although >60% of the preterm babies were born in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (where 52% of global live births occur), preterm birth also affected rich countries, including the United States, which is one of the 10 countries with the highest number of preterm births. From 1990–2010, reduced preterm birth trends were only seen in three countries (Croatia, Ecuador, and Estonia).

“The burden of preterm birth is substantial and is increasing in those regions with reliable data,” the authors write.

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