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Resource Type: Report

WHO Recommendations on Interventions to Improve Preterm Birth Outcomes

World Health Organization, 2015

Preterm babies are prone to serious illness or death during the neonatal period. Without appropriate treatment, those who survive are at increased
risk of lifelong disability and poor quality of life. Complications of prematurity are the single largest cause of neonatal death and the second leading cause of deaths among children under the age of 5 years. Global efforts to further reduce child mortality demand urgent action to address preterm birth.

Infant death and morbidity following preterm birth can be reduced through interventions provided to the mother before or during pregnancy, and to the preterm infant after birth. Interventions can be directed at all women for primary prevention and reduction of the risk of preterm birth (e.g. smoking cessation programmes) or used to minimize the risk in pregnant women with known risk factors (e.g. progestational agents, cervical cerclage). However, the most beneficial set of maternal interventions are those that could improve survival chances and health outcomes of preterm infants when preterm birth is inevitable. These interventions are provided to the mother shortly before or during the birth process with the aim of overcoming immediate and future health challenges of the preterm infant, such as lung immaturity, susceptibility to infection, and neurological complications. Essential and additional care of the preterm newborn to prevent or treat potential complications is also critical to newborn survival without disability.


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