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Twenty–one per cent of the babies born in India are premature and the numbers are rising both in rural as well as urban areas, a report said here on Saturday.

The "Delivered too soon" report was released by the Indian Foundation for Premature Babies (IFPB) to raise awareness on pre–term births, a leading cause of infant mortality in India.

"The paradigm of premature deliveries in India is changing and it has become a disease of the marginalised as well as the affluent," said Lata Bhat, head of the neonatology department at Fortis hospital.

Around three lakh pre–term babies die annually in India, Bhat added.

As per Lata Bhat, late marriage, stress, junk food, lifestyle diseases all lead to infertility amongst women in urban areas.

Premature Births Rising in India: Report

They are then forced to go for assisted reproductive techniques to get pregnant which at times cause premature deliveries.

In rural areas, infections at the time of delivery, poor health of the mother and advanced maternal age are the culprits.

"The most important intervention in this regard is birth spacing and treatment of maternal infections," said Neelam Kler, head of the department of neonatology at Sir Ganga Ram hospital.

"Three–quarters of premature babies could be saved by simple and cost–effective interventions like steroid injections, antiseptic cream for the umbilical cord, and antibiotics to treat newborn infections," she added.

"Thus we need highest level of awareness on this issue," Kler added.

DNA India
16 November 2013,
New Delhi, India

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