Prevalence of Late Preterm and Early Term Birth in Portugal

Joana Goulão Barros, Nuno Clode, Luís M. Graça


Introduction: Late preterm birth (defined as birth between 34 and 36 complete weeks’ gestation) and early term birth (defined as birth between 37 and 38 complete weeks’ gestation) have become a topic of recent discussion as the morbidity associated with delivery at these gestational ages has become increasingly evident. Our objective was to evaluate the characteristics of late preterm and early term birth in Portugal.
Material and Methods: We developed a survey questionnaire that was sent to the Obstetric Department of all public hospitals in Portugal. The questionnaire consisted on questions on prevalence and mode of delivery of late preterm and early term period and associated neonatal morbidity and mortality. The questions referred solely to single births occurred during 2013.
Results: We received completed questionnaires from 14 hospitals, corresponding to nearly one third (33.5%) of total deliveries in Portugal. We report 5.4% of late preterm and 27% of early term deliveries. Approximately two thirds of late preterm and three quarters of early term deliveries were spontaneous. The cesarean section rate was higher in late preterm (39.1%) than in early term (26.4%) births. Neonatal complications were more frequent in late preterm neonates (34.2%) when compared to early term neonates (14.2%).
Discussion: The prevalence of late preterm and early term birth in our cohort is comparable, although slightly reduced, to other published series.
Conclusion: The obstetric community should raise efforts to limit deliveries below 39 weeks’ gestation to the ones with a valid medical indication.


Infant Mortality; Infant, Premature; Portugal; Premature Birth; Prevalence; Surveys and Questionnaires.

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