What is prematurity?

Prematurity is the term used to describe when a baby is born early. For most women, pregnancy lasts around 40 weeks. Babies that are born between 37 and 42 weeks are considered full-term and babies born before 37 weeks are considered premature.

In Australia just over 8% of all babies are born prematurely and approximately 15% of all babies need admittance into a Newborn Intensive Care Unit or Special Care Nursery.

According to the latest Australia's Mothers and Babies report, of all premature babies born in Australia, approximately:

  • 79% were born between 32 and 36 weeks of gestation.
  • 10% were born between 28 and 31 weeks of gestation.
  • 11% were born at less than 28 weeks of gestation.

Other terms often used for prematurity include ‘premmie’, ‘prem’ and ‘pre-term’. Pre-term birth is associated with a higher risk of neonatal problems.

Li Z, Zeki R, Hilder L & Sullivan EA 2013. Australia’s mothers and babies 2011. Perinatal statistics series no. 28. Cat. no. PER 59. Canberra: AIHW National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit.

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