World Prematurity Day

Click here for a list of landmarks that will light purple on November 17th in Canada.

Why is World Prematurity Day on November 17th?

The date 17 November was chosen at the first European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) Parent Organization Meeting in Rome, Italy. That day, one of the founding members of EFCNI became proud father of a daughter, after having lost his triplets due to preterm birth. A new awareness day was born. In 2010, the US organisation March of Dimes, the African organization LittleBigSouls, the Australian National Preemie Foundation, and EFCNI joined together across continents to celebrate this special day.  


Canada’s Role in Raising Awareness on World Prematurity Day 


CPBF-FBPC has played a major role in bringing World Prematurity Day, celebrated on November 17, to the forefront across Canada, and has partnered with several organizations to promote nationwide programming. We have supported the International Global Illumination Project, which has meant that significant Canadian landmarks have been illuminated in purple to honour preemies, their families and their dedicated caregivers.

Although many events occur on November 17, planning for World Prematurity Day happens all year round.  If you have World Prematurity Day events you would like us to know about, or if you would like assistance in organizing something in your community, please email us at

Our social media tags for the day are #WorldPrematurityDay and #PreemiePowerCanada


Looking for ways to celebrate and fundraise on World Prematurity Day?


Whether you are celebrating with your family or you would like to host a larger event, we are here to support you with your planning!


Tips for celebrating and raising awareness on World Prematurity Day


Contact your City to request any LED lit landmarks be lit purple for World Prematurity Day and visit that evening – Don’t forget to send us pictures!


Contact the NICU your baby stayed in and offer to help run a World Prematurity Day celebration (Note: Advance notice and planning will be required)


At the beginning of the school year, contact your child’s school Principal to request to have students wear purple on the date closest to World Prematurity Day


Ask your co-workers to wear purple and donate to Canadian Premature Babies Foundation


Contact your local news media to request they do a story about World Prematurity Day 


Find and light up your home exterior with purple light strands or purple lightbulbs


Host a bake sale


Get creative and let us know how you plan to celebrate this year’s World Prematurity Day!


Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, tag us and use our hashtags #PreemiePowerCanada #WorldPrematurityDay

World Prematurity Day 2020

Click here for a list of landmarks that will light purple on November 17th in Canada.


Why We Need To Raise Awareness

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Definition & epidemiology

The World Health Assembly (= decision-making body of WHO) provided the first definition of preterm birth in 1948. Nowadays this is the most extensively used and accepted definition of preterm birth.

The average pregnancy lasts for approximately 37 to 42 weeks. Every baby born before completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy (also called weeks of gestation) is considered as preterm. The following subcategories are used for further distinction:

  • extremely preterm: <28 weeks of gestation

  • very preterm: 28 to <32 weeks of gestation

  • moderate to late preterm: 32 to <37 weeks of gestation

  • late preterm may still be differed with referring to 34-37 weeks of gestation [1]


Preterm babies are also differentiated in terms of unusually small body length and weight for the number of weeks of pregnancy (gestation period, also called gestational age). Babies born preterm have much higher rates of low birthweight. Low birthweight refers to babies who are born weighing less than 2,500 grams (about 5.51 pounds), very low birthweight to babies with a birth weight less than 1,500 grams (about 3.30 pounds). The concept of small for gestational age describes babies who are smaller than the usual average for the number of weeks of pregnancy.

Worldwide situation

  • Worldwide, estimated 15 million babies are born preterm annually [2] – that means 1 baby in 10 is born premature. Worldwide. And the number is rising.

  • Preterm birth complications are the main cause of global under-5 deaths [3].

  • Preterm birth complications were responsible for nearly 1 million deaths in 2015.

  • Three-quarters of them could be saved with current, cost-effective interventions.

  • Many survivors face a lifetime of disability, including learning disabilities and visual an hearing problems. [4].

  • Across 184 countries, the rate of preterm birth ranges from 5% to 18% of babies born. [4].

  • Inequalities in survival rates around the world are stark. In low-income settings, half of the babies born at or below 32 weeks die due to a lack of feasible, cost-effective and basic care, e.g. warmth, breastfeeding support, basic care for infections and breathing difficulties. [4].

  • In Europe, preterm birth is one of the two leading causes for neonatal mortality and accounts for more than half of all deaths in later childhood. Prevalence rates of preterm birth range from 5.4 to 12.0 % – an average of 7.3% of all live births [5].


[1] World Health Organization. Preterm birth. 2016. Available from:

[2] Althabe F, Howson CP, Kinney M, Lawn J, World Health Organization. Born too soon: the global action report on preterm birth. 2012. Available from:

[3] GBD 2015 Child Mortality Collaborators, and others. Global, regional, national, and selected subnational levels of stillbirths, neonatal, infant, and under-5 mortality, 1980–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. 2016. The Lancet, 388 (10053): 1725–1774.

[4] World Health Organization. WHO fact sheet on preterm birth. Available from:

[5] EURO-PERISTAT Project. European Perinatal Health Report. Core indicators of the health and care of pregnant women and babies in Europe in 2015. Available from: