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What month are most babies born in?

For More Babies, Birth Comes Too Soon

Full-term babies are born between 37 and 42 completed weeks of pregnancy. Babies born prior to 37 weeks gestation are considered premature. More than half a million babies are born before they have reached 37 weeks of maturity. Premature babies have an increased risk for complications, such as respiratory distress syndrome and infections. Most preterm babies spend weeks or months in a hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). A NICU has a specialized team of nurses and doctors that can care for the special needs of premature babies. The problems don’t end with discharge. Preemies can face respiratory distress, brain damage that includes cerebral palsy and learning disabilities, digestive problems, and hearing and vision loss. Complications can follow them through life. Early birth also includes risks for lower birth weight and immature organ development that can lead to long-term physical, social, and learning disabilities.

Suspected factors

  • Abnormalities of the uterus, cervix, or placenta
  • Being younger than 20 or older than 35
  • Previous preterm births (even being born early yourself)
  • Poor or no prenatal care
  • Poor nutrition (such as being underweight)
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Vaginal infections
  • Smoking or alcohol abuse
  • Excess stress
  • Domestic violence before or in pregnancy

Many of these factors can—and should—be addressed before conception. It’s important to get early and regular prenatal care to help identify risks and problems as soon as possible.

Strategies that may help:

  • Commit to a healthy lifestyle. Avoid smoking and alcohol, control your weight, lower your stress, and add a folic acid supplement. Doctors recommend 400 mcg of folic acid a day. Taking folic acid even a month before you conceive seems to limit preterm births, studies show. Folic acid also prevents certain birth defects. Eat lots of folic-acid-rich foods, too, such as oranges, leafy greens, and fortified cereals.
  • Treat pre-existing conditions. These include sexually transmitted infections, vaginal infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even gum disease.
  • Use the right tactics for multiple pregnancies. The chances of premature birth rise if you carry more than one baby. Doctors may suggest bed rest.
  • Be wary of «scheduling» birth. It’s not always easy to pin down due dates. Opting for a cesarean section delivery that’s not medically required, or inducing labor when you think the baby is due, could lead you to deliver a baby who hasn’t reached full gestation.
  • Space out pregnancies. Getting pregnant within nine months of giving birth raises preterm risk. Delivering at 18-month to five-year intervals lowers the risk.
  • Be alert for signs of early labor. These include regular contractions, vaginal spotting or bleeding, and a low, dull backache. Early labor may be halted with bed rest on your left side, interventions to slow contractions, or hormone injections to extend pregnancy. Talk with your health care provider.
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Preterm birth

Preterm is defined as babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are completed. There are sub-categories of preterm birth, based on gestational age:

  • extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks)
  • very preterm (28 to 32 weeks)
  • moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks).

Babies may be born preterm because of spontaneous preterm labour or because there is a medical indication to plan an induction of labour or caesarean birth early.

An estimated 15 million babies are born too early every year. That is more than 1 in 10 babies. Approximately 1 million children die each year due to complications of preterm birth (1). Many survivors face a lifetime of disability, including learning disabilities and visual and hearing problems.

Globally, prematurity is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5 years. Inequalities in survival rates around the world are stark. In low-income settings, half of the babies born at or below 32 weeks (2 months early) die due to a lack of feasible, cost-effective care such as warmth, breastfeeding support and basic care for infections and breathing difficulties. In high-income countries, almost all these babies survive. Suboptimal use of technology in middle-income settings is causing an increased burden of disability among preterm babies who survive the neonatal period.

Why does preterm birth happen?

Preterm birth occurs for a variety of reasons. Most preterm births happen spontaneously, but some are due to medical reasons such as infections, or other pregnancy complications that require early induction of labour or caesarean birth.

More research is needed to determine the causes and mechanisms of preterm birth. Causes include multiple pregnancies, infections and chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure; however, often no cause is identified. There could also be a genetic influence.

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Where and when does preterm birth happen?

The majority of preterm births occur in Africa and southern Asia, but preterm birth is truly a global problem. There is a dramatic difference in survival of premature babies depending on where they are born. For example, more than 90% of extremely preterm babies (less than 28 weeks) born in low-income countries die within the first few days of life, yet less than 10% of extremely preterm babies die in high-income settings.

The solution

Preventing deaths and complications from preterm birth starts with a healthy pregnancy. WHO’s antenatal care guidelines include key interventions to help prevent preterm birth, such as counselling on healthy diet, optimal nutrition, and tobacco and substance use; fetal measurements including use of early ultrasound to help determine gestational age and detect multiple pregnancies; and a minimum of 8 contacts with health professionals throughout pregnancy – starting before 12 weeks – to identify and manage risk factors such as infections.

If a woman experiences preterm labour or is at risk of preterm childbirth, treatments are available to help protect the preterm baby from future neurological impairment as well as difficulties with breathing and infection. These include antenatal steroids and tocolytic treatments to delay labour.

In 2022, WHO also published new recommendations on the care of the preterm infant. These reflect new evidence that simple interventions such as kangaroo mother care immediately after birth, early initiation of breastfeeding, use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and medicines such as caffeine for breathing problems can substantially reduce mortality in preterm and low birthweight babies.

WHO guidance stresses the need to ensure the mother and family take the pivotal role in their baby’s care. Mothers and newborns should remain together from birth and not be separated unless the baby is critically ill. The recommendations further call for improvements in family support including education and counselling, peer support and home visits by trained health workers.

WHO response

WHO is committed to reducing the health problems and lives lost as a result of preterm birth, including working with Member States and partners to implement Every newborn: an action plan to end preventable deaths, adopted in May 2014 in the framework of the UN Secretary-General’s Global strategy for women’s and children’s health; and strengthening the availability and quality of data on preterm births.

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WHO regularly updates clinical guidelines for the management of pregnancy and mothers with preterm labour or at risk of preterm birth, and guidelines on the care of preterm and low birth weight babies.

WHO also supports countries to implement WHO’s guidelines, aimed at reducing the risk of negative pregnancy outcomes, including preterm births, and ensuring a positive pregnancy and postnatal experience for all women and their infants. This includes developing and updating tools to improve health workers’ skills and assess the quality of care provided to mothers at risk of preterm delivery and preterm babies.

WHO also undertakes research to improve care for women and preterm newborns in low- and middle-income countries, including the WHO ACTION Trials (Antenatal Corticosteroids for Improving Outcomes in preterm Newborns); the nutritional management of growth faltering in early infancy trial; and an implementation research trial to scale-up immediate kangaroo mother care (KMC). WHO works with partners around the world to conduct research into the causes of preterm birth and provides updated analyses of global preterm birth levels and trends every 3 to 5 years.


1. Perin J, Mulick A, Yeung D, Villavicencio F, Lopez G, Strong KL, et al. Global, regional, and national causes of under-5 mortality in 2000-19: an updated systematic analysis with implications for the Sustainable Development Goals. Lancet Child Adolesc Health. 2022;6(2):106-15. doi:10.1016/S2352-4642(21)00311-4

2. Blencowe H, Cousens S, Oestergaard M, Chou D, Moller AB, Narwal R, Adler A, Garcia CV, Rohde S, Say L, Lawn JE. National, regional and worldwide estimates of preterm birth. The Lancet, June 2012. 9;379(9832):2162-72. Estimates from 2010.

WHO recommendations

  • Launch of the WHO recommendations for care of the preterm or low birth weight infant
  • WHO recommendations on antenatal corticosteroids for improving preterm birth outcomes , 2022
  • WHO recommendation on tocolytic therapy for improving preterm birth outcomes , 2022
  • WHO recommendations on interventions to improve preterm birth outcomes , 2015

Data and evidence

  • UNICEF-WHOLow birthweight estimates
  • Born too soon: the global action report on preterm birth
  • Evidence for Global Health Care Interventions for Preterm or Low Birth Weight Infants
  • A population-based, multifaceted strategy to implement antenatal corticosteroid treatment versus standard care for the reduction of neonatal mortality due to preterm birth in low-income and middle-income countries: the ACT cluster-randomised trial
  • The World Health Organization ACTION-I (Antenatal CorTicosteroids for Improving Outcomes in preterm Newborns) Trial
  • Immediate “Kangaroo Mother Care” and Survival of Infants with Low Birth Weight | NEJM
  • Scaling up Kangaroo Mother Care in Ethiopia and India: a multi-site implementation research study (
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How popular is your birthday?

A peak in births in late September show that more babies are conceived in the weeks leading up to and days after Christmas than at any other time of the year.

18 December 2015

A peak in births in late September show that more babies are conceived in the weeks leading up to and days after Christmas than at any other time of the year.

Birth data for England and Wales has been used to look at trends in the most and least popular birth dates over the past two decades. It reveals that highest number of births occur at the end of September. The interactive graphic shows the average number of births on any given day and the rank from first to 366 th .

How popular do you think your own birthday is? Find out with our interactive graphic

Average daily births, England and Wales, 1995 to 2014

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Technically February 29 has the lowest number of births over the 20 year period, but we are reporting the average which adjusts for the number of times the day occurs over the period.

September 26 most popular day to be born over the last two decades

September 26 was the most popular day to be born over the last two decades, which falls 39 weeks and two days after Christmas day.

8 of the top 10 dates of birth were towards the end of September – with the other 2 being early October. Part of the reason for this increase in births could be due to couples planning to have children at the start of the school year. 1

If births were evenly distributed throughout the year we would expect on average 1,800 births each day. But the average number of births on September 26 was around 2,000.

England and Wales is not the only country to have seen this trend. Similar analysis using data for New Zealand and the U.S shows a larger number of babies born in September.

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Babies born over the Christmas holidays

Average daily births, England and Wales, 1995 to 2014

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While the Christmas holidays may be a popular time to make a baby there tend to be fewer babies born, with 6 of the 10 least popular dates of birth falling in the Christmas and New Year period.

This is likely to be due to the large number of bank holidays over the period. Hospitals will generally only be delivering natural births and carrying out emergency caesareans over the holidays. Induced births and elective caesareans are likely to be scheduled on alternative dates.

February 29 has the lowest total number of births over the twenty year period because it only occurs once every 4 years. However, the average number of births on February 29 takes into account the day only occurs on a leap year, resulting in a value just under the overall daily average.

Interestingly April 1 is ranked low, perhaps due to parents electing not to have an April Fool’s Day baby where possible.

One born every minute

Over the past 20 years there were 8 days where 1,440 babies were born. On these days, to coin a phrase there was one born every minute:

  • 25 December 2014
  • 6 February 2005
  • 16 May 2004
  • 6 July 2002
  • 9 February 2002
  • 13 April 1998
  • 25 October 1997
  • 11 February 1996

Contrary to the saying, over the last two decades,on average a baby has been born every

Visit the website for more information on births in England and Wales, or contact

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  1. IFS (2011) Does when you are born matter? The impact of month of birth on children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills in England.

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