However, Dr. Hannah H. Chang of the Boston Consulting Group and colleagues said every year, 1.1 million babies die from prematurity worldwide and many survivors are disabled. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm, which is defined as less than 37 weeks' gestation, the study said.
"The understanding of drivers and potential benefit of preventive interventions for preterm births is poor," the study said. "We examined trends and estimate the potential reduction in preterm births for countries with very high human development index if present evidence-based interventions were widely implemented."
The researchers analyzed preterm rate increases in the United States from 1989 to 2004. For 39 countries, the researchers did a country-by-country analysis based on target population, incremental coverage increase and intervention efficacy.
Among the interventions that would help prevent preterm births were:
-- Smoking cessation.
-- Decreasing multiple embryo transfers during assisted reproductive technologies.
-- Cervical cerclage, used for the treatment of cervical incompetence or insufficiency.
-- Progesterone supplementation.
-- Reduction of non-medically indicated labor induction or delivery by Caesarean section.
The findings, published in The Lancet, found the annual economic cost savings of the interventions would be about $3 billion worldwide.