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 overall, 8.6% (1 in 10) 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:

  • 81% were born between 32 and 36 weeks of gestation.
  • Average gestational age for all pre-term birth was 33.3 weeks.
  • From 2004 to 2014, the proportion of babies born between 37 and 39 weeks increased

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

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australia’s mothers and babies 2014—in brief. Perinatal statistics series no. 32. Cat no. PER 87. Canberra: AIHW.

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