Premature Birth

There are many factors that influence premature birth. In this section, we'll explore definitions of prematurity, why some babies might be born prematurely, and what a premature baby might look like.

It is estimated that approximately 10% of babies are born prematurely worldwide. This means that approximately 15 million babies are born prematurely every year. 

Here in Ireland, the figure stands around 4,500 a year (about 1 in every 16 babies), so there is a baby born prematurely every 116 minutes.  Despite the high number of preterm births in the world, there is little known about prevention of preterm delivery and the problems and risks for development.

Rest assured: you are not alone, and there is support available.

Baby feet in cotton socks

Advances in our understanding of how to care for these vulnerable babies means that more and more go on to live healthy and happy lives.

Each baby is different, and simply labeling all babies born before 37 weeks’ gestation as premature does not tell us what the baby may experience. For example:

  • A baby born at 36 weeks’ gestation may be slow at feeding initially.
  • A baby born before 33 weeks’ gestation may have more serious problems such as immature lungs.  This may result in the baby requiring assisted breathing until their lungs develop.  Over 90 % of babies born before 33 weeks’ gestation survive.
  • Being born before 28 weeks’ gestation causes significant problems, but many babies go on to thrive. The natural development of major organs of the baby will have been disrupted and there is a potential for severe health risks.  However, the survival rate for these babies is quite remarkable.


Each baby is different.  You and your baby’s medical team will learn your baby’s personality and specific needs.  With time and care, your baby will grow and develop.

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