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World Prematurity Day on Friday, 17 November is also celebrated in Aarhus, Denmark.

Just above 7% of all children in Denmark are born prematurely. This amounts to approximately 4,500 children a year or 1-2 pupils in each school class. Previously, there was a considerable risk of death and severe disability for children born prematurely and there were many ethical dilemmas in connection with treatments.

In the last few years, treatments have improved considerably. The majority of children survive and even though children born prematurely have an increased risk of experiencing developmental problems, the majority are completely healthy.

It may be a very traumatic experience to have a premature child. Even though the child survives, the birth process and the often prolonged hospitalisation are characterised by stress, anxiety and grief, which may affect the family for many years.

- The preterm birth is a huge strain and grief for a mother, who has often been hospitalised during her pregnancy and is already experiencing stress and worry. When the birth is over, she loses the hopes and dreams she had for a normal pregnancy and post-pregnancy period, says consultant Jesper Padkær Petersen from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. 

- All of this affects the mental health of both parents and the important close physical contact between parents and their child is often limited by the need for incubators, respirators and other medical equipment. Moreover, the parents are admitted  together with one or two other families without the possiblity to sleep together with their child.

World Prematurity Day 2017 in Denmark will focus on how children, parents and professionals see the challenges of premature birth today. Politicians from the municipalities, regions and the parliament are invited to participate in the discussion about possible improvements.



  • Just above 7 % of all children born in Denmark are born prematurely (before the full 37 gestational weeks). This amounts to approximately 4,500 children/year or 1-2 pupils in each school class
  • The majority (3,500) are born slightly or moderately prematurely (in gestational weeks 32 to 36); around 1,000 are born very prematurely (before gestational week 32). Of these, approximately 200 children are born extremely prematurely (before gestational week 28)
  • Today, it is most often a disease and not the prematurity which is the reason for a child not getting well. In these cases, the disease is most often the underlying cause of the premature delivery
  • The mortality in gestational week 28 is today around 1-2 %, and mortality decreases with increasing gestational age
  • In gestational weeks 26-27, the mortality is 5-20 %
  • The group with a very high mortality is among those born in weeks, 23, 24 and 25; here the mortality is 90 %, 45 % and 30 %, respectively. The annual number of children born in these weeks is around 40-50 in Denmark
  • Children born prematurely have an increased risk of experiencing developmental problems, but most of the children are well. Even children with problems attend regular school education and generally, most experience an independent adult life
  • The frequency of severe problems decrease with the increasing gestational age and the risk of severe problems is estimated to be less than 5% in gestational week 30. The risk of more ”common” challenges such as ADHD and learning disabilities is twice as high in premature children
  • Among extremely premature children, more serious disabilities such as spasticity (approx. 5%), considerable cognitive deficits and autism are more frequent (total 30-40%). However, the majority of children also in this group are well.


Further information:

Jesper Padkær Petersen, MD, Consultant, Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, Aarhus University Hospital. Tel.:+45 3071 5171, E-mail: jesppete@rm.dk.