World Prematurity Day

World Prematurity Day

World Prematurity Day (WPD) is celebrated on November 17 each year. The goal is to raise awareness across the globe of the challenges of preterm birth and to honor preterm born babies and their families. Globally, there are more than 15 million premature births each year. WPD brings attention to the challenges clinicians face when working with these fragile preterm neonates either during the neonatal transition in delivery rooms or later in neonatal intensive care units.

Preterm Birth Complications

Preterm birth complications are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age. In addition to the morbidity and mortality associated with preterm birth in the neonatal period (the first month of life), preterm birth may lead to continued poor health in infancy (the first year of life), and even into adulthood. Infants born preterm, and even more so the extremely preterm, have immature organ systems and are more vulnerable to organ injury, death, chronic illness and neurodevelopmental disability than full-term newborns. The lungs of very preterm infants are susceptible to injury because they are structurally immature, surfactant-deficient, fluid-filled, and not supported by a stiff chest wall. Supporting the preterm baby in the neonatal transition can be a challenging task for midwives and neonatologist.

Challenges for Clinicians

When a preterm infant fail to breathe adequately immediately after birth, international guidelines advocate positive pressure ventilation. The purpose is to apply positive pressure ventilation (PPV) in an appropriate, gentle way to create a functional residual capacity, facilitate gas exchange and minimize lung injury.  Despite being one of the most important interventions taking place in the delivery room, manual ventilation is one of the least controlled. The tidal volumes (VT) given during neonatal transition are rarely monitored and it is up to the caregiver to estimate the volumes given trusting his or her clinical experience. Both over and under-ventilation can seriously damage lungs and brain of the newborn infant. Intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH) and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) are major complications of premature birth.

About World Prematurity Day

WPD was originally initiated in 2008, by the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) and partnering European parent organizations. The day became global in 2010, when EFCNI joined forces across continents with the US organization “March of Dimes”, the African organization “LittleBigSouls” and the Australian “National Premmie Foundation”. In the US, November is also Prematurity Awareness Month and dedicated to raise awareness on premature birth.

Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, which is considered healthy. According to the WHO definition, every baby born before the completion of 37 weeks of gestation, is considered preterm. Preterm births can be categorized in late preterm, very preterm and extremely preterm.

  • Late preterm – babies born between 32 and 37 weeks of gestation.
  • Very preterm – babies born between 28 and 32 weeks of gestation.
  • Extremely preterm – babies born before 28 weeks of gestation.


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