Trends in place of birth for preterm infants in New South Wales, 1992-2001

C L Roberts, C S Algert, B Peat, D J Henderson-Smart
Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 2004, 40 (3): 139-43

OBJECTIVE: To examine trends in preterm births, especially those less than 33 weeks gestation, occurring in perinatal centres in New South Wales (NSW) from 1992 to 2001.

METHODS: Population data were obtained from the NSW Midwives' Data Collection. Trends in the proportion of births in perinatal centres by gestation and by type of preterm birth (spontaneous or elective), and in Apgar scores and neonatal mortality were determined.

RESULTS: The preterm birth rate increased from 6.1% in 1992 to 6.7% in 2001. Factors contributing to the increase in preterm births were multiple births and elective preterm deliveries. Births less than 33 weeks gestation in perinatal centres increased from 76% to 83% and for multiple births from 77% to 87%. This coincided with a decrease in 1-minute Apgar scores less than 4 but no significant change in 5-minute Apgar scores or neonatal mortality.

CONCLUSIONS: Progress has been made towards the National Health and Medical Research Council guideline that births less than 33 weeks gestation occur in perinatal centres. Preterm births are increasing, creating greater demands for neonatal intensive care unit care and ventilation services.

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