Mama Ye Factsheet on Preterm Birth in Tanzania 2015

Packaging Evidence
Learn about preterm birth and take action!

To mark World Prematurity Day on 17 November 2015 Mama Ye produced this factsheet on preterm births in Tanzania. It summarises the latest evidence on prematurity, including interventions. 

What is Preterm Birth?

A preterm birth is when a baby is born alive but before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed.

In Tanzania, one in four newborn deaths are due to preterm birth complications.

Babies born too soon are approximately seven times more likely to die during the first four weeks of their lives than babies born at term.

In addition, preterm survivors often suffer from lifelong disabilities, such as visual and hearing impairments, chronic lung disease, long term cardiovascular ill-health, learning and behavioural impairments.

Prematurity has a far-reaching impact on their development and on their health as children and adults.

Preterm Birth is a Public Health Problem in Tanzania

Tanzania ranks twelfth in the world for the number of preterm births - every year 236,000 babies are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed – this is one in every 9 babies born alive.

Prematurity is the second largest cause of death for babies in the first month of life, with 9,400 newborn deaths due to preterm birth every year.

What can be done in Tanzania?

Many of these deaths could be prevented, through both prevention of preterm birth, and care for the premature baby.

  • Adolescent pregnancy, older age pregnancy, short time gaps between births, chronic and infectious diseases, and unhealthy pre-pregnancy weight increase the risk of preterm birth.
  • Family planning strategies, including birth spacing and adolescent-friendly services, can reduce the risk of preterm birth.
  • Encourage early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding.
  • Quality antenatal and postnatal care, along with skilled care at delivery, can help to reduce deaths due to preterm birth. Investing in trained and equipped health workers is key, with a focus on the 48 hours surrounding birth.

In August 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) published new recommendations to improve the survival and health of babies born too soon. 

Decision-makers should review and revise national clinical guidelines and essential medicines lists; promote the new recommendations widely; strengthen the skills of health workers to  deliver the  interventions; support health workers to accurately assess gestational age; and monitor adherence to the guidelines.

Through these largely simple cost-effective solutions and technologies, more than three quarters of deaths due to prematurity could be averted with the right care before, during and after delivery.

In 2014 Tanzania committed to the Every Newborn Action Plan and the Sharpened One Plan. These strategies set out the priority solutions, and call for a united effort to dramatically maternal and newborn deaths, and preventable stillbirths.

We must prioritise the evidence-based, cost-effective and feasible solutions in all health facilities that provide pregnancy and delivery services, as well as ensure better data collection on pregnancy outcomes to enable responsive action where it is most needed.

Now is the time to scale up quality care to all women and newborns for them to survive, thrive and transform society!

Evidence for Action. (2015). Mama Ye Factsheet on Preterm Birth in Tanzania 2015. London: Evidence for Action.
Mama Ye Factsheet on Preterm Birth in Tanzania 2015