Premature births increase7th November 2008
A charity has warned that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of babies being born prematurely in England.
The alert comes from Tommy’s baby charity, which is pointing to NHS figures that show during 2006/2007 some 8.6% of babies were born early.
The figures compares with a stable 7% over the past 15 years.
Tommy’s says the increase is an extra 10,554 premature births and more babies being born early with a risk of complications.
However, the NHS Information Centre says the figures may reflect changes to the way data is now collected.
Dr Rebecca Jones, from Tommy's Manchester Research Centre at St Mary's General Hospital, said: "It is hard to tell from the figures whether the increase is due to spontaneous births, when the woman goes into labour early, or whether it is due to medically-induced premature delivery.
"Potential reasons for the increase may be more mothers having babies at a young or late age, more multiple pregnancies because of IVF, changes in smoking rates, or changes in the general health of the population."
Premature births, before 37 weeks, currently accounts for three quarters of neonatal deaths in the first month of life.
Dr Jones added that the increase was a worry highlighted the need for more research in this area to help experts understand the reasons for premature birth and develop new treatments.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has, however, warned that there may have been disparities in how different hospitals recorded premature births.
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