In 2015, the US had the highest proportion of live premature births, defined as a gestational age of fewer than 37 weeks, across the seven major markets (7MM: the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and Japan).

Live premature births across seven major markets, 2015

Source: GlobalData © GlobalData

In 2015, 9.63% of live births in the US were born with fewer than 37 weeks’ gestation age, making it the highest rate across the 7MM.

Preterm births 2015

Japan had the lowest rate with 5.7% of births born prematurely. In Europe, the rate was fairly stable across all markets at around 7.5%, with the exception of Germany, where 8.6% of live births were born prematurely.

Being born prematurely confers significant risk to a newborn during their first year of life. As a result of having underdeveloped cardiovascular systems, children born prematurely are at significant risk of developing severe conditions including congenital heart disease, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and congenital lung disease.

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Additionally, premature infants are at increased risk of contracting an infectious disease such as a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can lead to the development of pneumonia and death.

There are several social, medical and behavioural factors that may increase the risk of premature birth, although a single specific cause of premature birth is not known. Risk factors that increase the risk of giving birth prematurely include smoking during pregnancy, being overweight or obese, having a previous preterm birth, stress and traumatic events.

Across the 7MM, there is high variability in the prevalence of all of these risk factors, so identifying a single factor that contributes to the high premature birth rate in the US is difficult. However, it is apparent that in order to reduce the rate of premature births in all markets, early prenatal care is necessary. Through education, behavioural modification, and medical intervention, where appropriate, some of these risk factors can be mitigated and the number of children born prematurely can be reduced.

Forthcoming reports:
GlobalData (2019). RSV: Epidemiology forecast to 2028, to be published

GlobalData (2019). RSV: Epidemiology forecast model to 2028, to be published