Facts & Figures - a quick look

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Globally preterm birth accounts for over 9.5% of all births.  This means that over 13 million babies are born too soon every year.


90% of Preemies survive

Thirty years ago less than 25% of the tiniest preemies were surviving, now almost 90% survive.  Learning about preterm birth can help increase awareness of the unique needs of preemies and their families.

Here you can find out about General Statistics and Preemie Outcomes. Make sure to have a look...

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preemie outcomes at 23 - 25 weeks

Preemie babies born 23 to 25 weeks gestation are also called micro preemies. Ten to fifteen years ago preemie babies born this early were unlikely to survive, now with the advancements made in neonatal medical care micro preemies have a much better chance of surviving.

With each week of life the chances of survival increase significantly.

Survival: Preemie Babies (micropreemies)

  • Preemie babies born at 23 weeks: survival is between 15% and 40%
  • Preemie babies born at 25 weeks: survival is between 55% and 70%.

Health outcomes for Micro Preemies

Due to the immaturity of preemie babies bodies and because they often must endure a lot of poking and prodding, such as machines to help them breathe, or tubes for feeding or antibiotics, they are at risk for a number of long-term health difficulties. It is important to remember that not all preemie babies will have long-term problems and it is not always easy to predict which babies will have continuing difficulties but the following information is based on data that has been reported by experts in the field of preterm birth.
Of preemie babies born between 23 and 25 weeks gestational age, (micro preemies);

  • Approximately 30-40% will develop normally without any major health concerns or disabilities.
  • Around 20 to 35% will have severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy, severe intellectual impairment, blindness, deafness, or a combination of these, which will require significant medical care well beyond that usually needed to care for babies of the same age
  • 25 to 40% will have mild to moderate disabilities, such as subtle forms of visual impairment, mild cerebral palsy affecting motor control, chronic asthma, learning difficulties, and behaviour problems like attention deficit disorder v(i.e. ADHD/ADD).

There are several factors that increase the risk of having a disability. The main risk factors are those preemie babies who suffered damage to the white matter of the brain, chronic lung disease (also called bronchopulmonary dysplasia), and growth restriction in their mother’s womb.

(Saigal, Rosenbaum, Hattersley, & Milner, 1989)(Dani, Poggi, Romagnoli, & Bertini, 2009)(Johnson, Fawke, Hennessy, Rowell, Thomas, Wolke, et al., 2009).

Other considerations: Preemie Babies


Interesting information about development and the way preemies look

  • Preterm infants at this age will spend most of the day trying to sleep
  • Will have a relatively large head compared with his/her tiny body
  • Downy hair on face and body – called lanugo, this is normal for this stage of the babies’ development and will disappear naturally
  • The skin appears transparent (i.e. you can see the delicate pattern of blood vessels under the skin, this is because the fatty layer under the skin has not had time to build up
  • The tone of his/her skin is often darkish red because circulation may not be very good and may not contain enough oxygen
  • Skin bruises easily and may look waxy – it is very fragile and vulnerable to handling
  • Eyes may be fused and may not have eyelashes yet
  • Ears are soft and flexible
  • For girls, her clitoris will seem quite prominent, protective folds of the labia have not grown
  • For boys, testes have not descended and will be tucked inside his body
  • Babies will be low in energy
  • May stretch and bring hand to mouth to suck thumb or fingers, make a fist or splay them open
  • Physical sensations – may detect simple black and white images, can hear, and feel pain
  • Preemies can communicate using facial expressions and body language (these may differ from full term babies – see baby watching; understanding preemie body language for more information)
  • Can’t feed for themselves because they can’t coordinate their sucking, swallowing, and breathing (this means they can’t breast feed or feed from a bottle without choking)
  • May be able to recognise voices, especially mother’s voice
  • Cannot lie in fetal position unless supported to do so rather lies with arms and legs sprawled out sideways. Premature babies do not have the active muscle tone in their limbs to curl and lay in the fetal position or lift their head.
  • Preemies born this early will not be able to cry
(Anderson & Doyle, 2006; Bradford, 2003; Doyle &a Anderson, 2005; Hack et al., 2005; Taylor, Espy, & Anderson, 2009)


Technical Reference List

Anderson, P. J., & Doyle, L. W. (2006). Neurodevelopmental outcome of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Seminars in Perinatology, 30(4), 227-232. Bradford, N. (2003). Your premature baby the first five years. Toronto: Firefly Books. Doyle, L. W., & Anderson, P. J. (2005). Improved neurosensory outcome at 8 years of age of extremely low birthweight children born in Victoria over three distinct eras. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed, 90(6), 121-128. Hack, M., Taylor, H. G., Drotar, D., Schluchter, M., Cartar, L., Andreias, L., et al. (2005). Chronic conditions, functional limitations, and special health care needs of school-aged children born with extremely low-birth-weight in the 1990s. Jama, 294(3), 318-325. Taylor, H. G., Espy, K. A., & Anderson, P. J. (2009). Mathematics deficiencies in children with very low birth weight or very preterm birth. Dev Disabil Res Rev, 15(1), 52-59.



AlbertEinstein_iconOne of the greatest minds in history, Albert Einstein was born preterm.

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Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



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