​World Prematurity Day

​World Prematurity Day - Sunday, November 17, 2024


What is World Prematurity Day?

On November 17 we take a moment to show compassion and support for families who are experiencing the anxiety of premature births by observing World Prematurity Day, created by the March of Dimes. We love our babies from the moment they’re born. World Prematurity Day reminds us of babies born too early and the health challenges they can face as they grow up. These little ones need loads of love and support and World Prematurity Day is a chance to show it.

History of World Prematurity Day

World Prematurity Day was created on November 17, 2011 to raise awareness for the millions of children every year who are born prematurely. While technologies and medical procedures in America have increased over the years, preterm babies still carry a huge vulnerability to develop cerebral palsy, delays in development, hearing problems, and sight problems. 
Additionally, while neonatal death in the United States is low in comparison to most of the world, premature births account for a quarter of all neonatal deaths. 
That’s part of the many reasons why World Prematurity Day was created – to shine a light on the risk and hardships created by premature births, cost-effective and proven solutions, and spreading compassion for families who have experienced premature births. 
That being said, many premature babies grow up to completely healthy individuals, with some even becoming notable public figures such as Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein.

World Prematurity Day calls attention to the special issues facing infants born prematurely, celebrates the development and growth of older babies and children who were born prematurely, and is a great day to support members of your community who work with newborns or premature infants, or are parents adjusting with a prematurely born infant.

History of World Prematurity Day

A full-term pregnancy lasts between 37 and 42 weeks, and “prematurity” describes when a baby is born earlier than 37 weeks (gestational time).  Prematurely born infants face many special issues, which can include breathing difficulties, feeding difficulties, and low birth weight. 

Prematurely born babies generally have a longer hospital stay than babies born full-term, and many end up spending time in NICU units (neonatal intensive care) or special care nurseries until it can be established that they are stable and healthy enough to be brought home.  This can be a very difficult time for many families.

There are some risk factors for having a premature birth, such as the mother’s general health and lifestyle choices, and carrying multiple babies (twins or triplets), but for many mothers who deliver a premature baby, it is unexpected, with no discernible cause or identifiable risk factors- mothers under excellent prenatal care, who do everything “right” can still end up delivering their baby prematurely. 

If you are pregnant, it is a good idea to learn the warning signs of pre-term labor, which include cramping, regularly times contractions, and backache, and discuss pre-term labor risks and planning with your care provider.  If you do believe you are experiencing pre-term labor signs, it is critical to seek medical attention right away, because there are steps that can be taken to manage, delay, or prevent a baby from being born prematurely.

Thanks to advances in modern healthcare, the prognosis for most babies born prematurely has improved dramatically.  Statistically, the earlier a baby is born, the more serious his or her health problems are likely to be.

How to Celebrate World Prematurity Day

World Prematurity Day is a great time to look back on the advances there have been to pre-natal and neonatal care, and celebrate how new research and interventions have dramatically improved the probable outcomes for so many infants who are born prematurely each year.  If you are pregnant, World Prematurity Day is a great reminder to discuss pre-term labor with your pre-natal care team.

Prematurely born infants often have trouble regulating body heat, so another way to celebrate World Prematurity Day would be to host a gift drive for new blankets, hats, mittens, or booties for local parents or hospitals who are welcoming prematurely born infants.  You may also want to check with your local hospital to see what the needs of their nursery are, or what donated gifts would be especially useful to the parents of prematurely born infants who may have an extended hospital stay.

World Prematurity Day is also a good time to reach out to parents you may know who have babies who worn born prematurely, to see how things are going or provide them with encouragement.  If you are interested in helping families who are caring for prematurely born infants, or learning more about the special issues that face those babies, you many want to reach out to your local pregnancy center, midwife, or hospital birth center.

​World Prematurity Day timeline


​"Strong Start" Promoted Healthy Babies

"Strong Start," a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and a national group of obstetricians and gynecologists, supported the March of Dimes' campaign urging the public to avoid scheduling a medically unnecessary delivery prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy.


​The March of Dimes Created the Preemie Act

The Preemie Act, launched by the March of Dimes, became law in 2006 — requesting federal support for lifesaving research and education about babies born too early.

​The 1990s

​Strides in technology improved prematurity

The decade reflected many achievements in successfully treating premature infants born as early as 23 weeks and weighing just over a pound.

​The 1980s

​Family First

This decade saw many family-centered changes in how to help premature babies — including parental rooming-in policies in hospitals, and older children allowing to help in the infants' care.

​World Prematurity Day FAQs

Can preemies have babies?

A preemie is a baby so, no, a preemie can not have a baby. But as an adult, sure, there’s no reason why simply being a preemie would prevent you from conceiving. 

What is the ribbon color for premature babies?

To show support for World Prematurity Day individuals show wear purple ribbons. It’s totally your color, BTW. 

What qualifies as a premature baby?

Any birth that takes place three weeks or more before the baby’s due date is a premature birth.

What month is the March of Dimes?

The March of Dimes month is held every November. 

​5 Things To Give You Pause Over Premature Births

  1. ​It's why full-term pregnancies are important

    ​Did you know that the brain, lungs and other organs don't develop until the last few weeks of pregnancy?

  2. ​It's an uphill battle

    ​Each year one in ten American births result in infant mortality.

  3. ​Preemies can grow up to be famous

    ​Many famous historical figures were born prematurely including physicist Albert Einstein, writer Mark Twain, political leader Winston Churchill, French author Victor Hugo, the emperor Napoleon, and scientist Isaac Newton.

  4. ​It produces powerful mother's milk

    ​One interesting thing happens to mothers who deliver premature babies; the milk mothers produce contains special properties including extra minerals, fat, and proteins that these tiny infants need.

  5. ​Gender plays a role

    ​Boys are more likely than girls to be born prematurely due to a outsized risk of high blood pressure and placenta abnormalities in the mothers.

How to Observe ​World Prematurity Day

  1. Post pictures on social media

    Many people have never seen a premature baby. You can make a difference by posting pictures of preemies on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It may be unnerving to see such tiny human beings with tubes coming out of their mouths or in incubators. But it's an important way to put the problem of premature babies front and center. Your pic could just start a movement.

  2. Give a care package

    Many organizations sponsor care packages for preemies. These gifts contain tiny diapers, bottles, blankets, and in many cases, doll-sized clothes. Some hospitals also provide these packages without charge to families with babies weighing less than three pounds. Or, just go out and buy some things and share them with a new mother.

  3. Pull out the purple

    Purple is the official color for National World Prematurity Day. Wear your purple ribbon pin or even get a purple ribbon tattoo. Light your home or office with a purple bulb. Whatever way you can show your support empowers the families who are struggling to keep a premature baby alive. It's a way to do your part to educate and sensitize the community to this unfortunate problem that can affect any one of us.

Why ​World Prematurity Day is Important

  1. Premature births are increasing in the U.S.

    Every year the March of Dimes issues a report card that assesses the efforts to reduce premature births in the U.S. Unfortunately, our country is losing ground in this battle for healthy babies. In fact, our overall grade is a "C" — showing a widening gulf of differences in survival rates depending on racial background and socioeconomic conditions of the mothers. The best grades go to states in the west and northwest and failing grades go to states in the southwest and southeast.

  2. There's more than one kind of premature birth

    When we speak in general terms about premature babies, we tend to dismiss the variety of premature births that occur. A late preterm baby is born sometime between 34 and 37 weeks of a pregnancy. An actual preemie is a still developing infant born just under 32 weeks of gestation. The tiniest of all babies is a micro-preemie, born at under 25 weeks into a pregnancy and weighing about a pound.

  3. Premature births carry high risks

    According to the March of Dimes, the number one global cause of death in children under five years old is premature births. When infants are born prematurely, they can face health challenges affecting their brain, lungs, hearing or vision. Risk factors include being African-American, a teen mother, a woman over 35, and coming from a low-income background. World Prematurity Day raises our consciousness about these infants so that we provide better research for healthier pregnancies and babies.

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