Risk of Newborn Death Cut in Half When Pregnancy Lasts 39 Weeks

March of Dimes research – Adding just a few more weeks of pregnancy can cut a newborn’s risk of death in half – even if the pregnancy has reached “term” — adding more evidence to the argument that continuing a pregnancy to at least 39 weeks is crucial to a baby’s health.

The research by a team of investigators from the March of Dimes, the National Institutes of Health and the US Food and Drug Administration found that although the overall risk of death is small, it more than doubles for infants born at 37 weeks of pregnancy, when compared to babies born at 40 weeks, for all races and ethnicities.

In 2006, the infant mortality rate was 1.9 for every 1,000 live births or babies born at 40 weeks of pregnancy. The mortality rate increased to 3.9 per 1,000 when a baby was born just a few weeks earlier at 37 weeks of pregnancy, the study found.

There were 4.1 million births in the United States in 2009 2 fewer deaths per 1000 live births would save 8000 lives.

There are about 160-170 million births per year worldwide. Infant mortality worldwide is about 43 deaths per 1000 About 6.8 million lives could be saved if the near optimal level of infant mortality could be achieved worldwide.

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