World Prematurity Day 2019

By Talking Nutrition Editors

Prematurity is the world’s leading cause of death for children under five.

  • Seventy-five percent of premature deaths can be prevented.
  • Maternal nutrition plays a key role in the prevention of premature births.
  • DSM supports the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) as they raise awareness for World Prematurity Day on 17 November.

Over one million preemies die each year

Approximately 15 million babies are born prematurely each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Sadly, more than 1 million of these children will die each year due to complications of their premature birth – and these global figures are only increasing annually .

Preterm births are primarily concentrated in developing economies and in the United States. The ten countries with the greatest number of preterm births in order from most to least are:

  • India: 3,519,100
  • China: 1,172,300
  • Nigeria: 773,600
  • Pakistan: 748,100
  • Indonesia: 675,700
  • United States of America: 517,400
  • Bangladesh: 424,100
  • Philippines: 348,900
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: 341,400
  • Brazil: 279,300i

While affluence directly effects survival outcomes, it should give us hope that the risk of premature deaths can be reduced through interventions used during and after pregnancy. These interventions range from steroid injections and antibiotics, Kangaroo Care (or skin-to-skin contact), and nutritional supplements.

EFCNI’s European Standards of Care for Newborn Health

Three quarters of the deaths resulting from preterm births can be prevented, according to the WHO.1

The EFCNI’s European Standard of Care for Newborns Health sets out a comprehensive and transparent set of standards of care for key topics in newborn health - one of them is the topic ‘nutrition’. The standards on nutrition include advocating for breastfeeding and own mother´s milk as well as the role of nutrient supplements for preterm infants. However, they also advocate for the use of macro- and micronutrients, including a variety of nutritional supplements like fat soluble vitamins – especially vitamin D, iron, zinc and sodium.

With EFCNI toward better health outcomes for preemies

World Prematurity Day on 17 November was initiated by the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) and partnering European parent organizations in 2008 and extended throughout the world through other organizations like the March of Dimes.

EFCNI works tirelessly to raise awareness of preterm birth and its effects on both the newborn and its family. The foundation engages with parents, healthcare experts from different disciplines, scientists, policy makers, industry partners and NGOs to ensure all parties collaborate effectively toward the common goal of improving long-term health of preterm and newborn children. DSM is a proud partner of the EFCNI’s World Prematurity Day.

The right nutrition matters

Expectant mothers should consider the mounting evidence that links omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy with a lower risk of preterm birth. According to findings of the recent Cochrane Review2 and the authors’ recommendations, a daily dose of 500–1’000 mg of EPA and DHA, with at least 500 mg of DHA, may provide some protection against premature birth. While omega-3 supplementation does not eliminate risk, there are no adverse side effects from supplementation during pregnancy.

DSM continues to prioritize educating and building awareness around nutritional solutions to help reduce the risk of preterm birth and recently held its first Prenatal Nutrition Summit.

Published on

11 November 2019


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3 min read

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  2. Middleton  P, Gomersall  JC, Gould  JF, Shepherd  E, Olsen  SF, Makrides  M. Omega‐3 fatty acid addition during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD003402. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003402.pub3.

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