Preterm and Early Term Birth Prevention: Birth After 39 Weeks

Preterm birth (PTB) is the single most important cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity in the developed world.

In collaboration with the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, WHA is committed to safely lowering the rate of preterm birth and highlighting the importance of pregnancy continuing to 39 weeks whenever possible.

WHA is collaborating with Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance (APBPA) to support a reduction in the rates of preterm and early term birth in maternity services in Australia. APBPA is playing a leading role in facilitating the development and implementation of preterm birth prevention strategies, providing a platform for individuals, health services, and communities to collaborate on the significant goal of reducing the number of babies born before 37 weeks gestation. 

On the 9th of May 2021, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, announced that $13.7 million will be allocated to support preterm birth prevention efforts.

Preterm birth is defined as a birth delivered before 37 and after 20 completed weeks of pregnancy. In Australia, approximately 1 in 12 pregnancies results in a preterm birth. This rate is more than double in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and disadvantaged communities. A preterm baby can have issues ranging from behavioural and learning problems to developmental delays, diabetes, or cerebral palsy, depending on their age of gestation at birth (Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, n.d.).

With the discovery of innovative and successful strategies within Australia and internationally (see Resources section below), reducing rates of preterm births at a population level has become possible. These include initiatives such as the Western Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Initiative, Every Week Counts and the OPQC Prematurity Prevention (Progesterone) Project.

WHA is committed to partnering with the APBPA to help reduce rates of preterm and early term birth around Australia.

References: Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance. (n.d.). What is Preterm Birth. Retrieved April 29, 2021, from…(link is external)

For further information on this collaboration, please contact us. 

Resources for current preterm birth prevention initiatives:


Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance(link is external)

Every Week Counts(link is external)

Newnham et al., 2017. Reducing preterm birth by a statewide multifaceted program: an implementation study(link is external)

United States of America

Ohio Perinatal Quality Collaborative (OPQC)(link is external)

OPQC Prematurity Prevention (Progesterone) Project(link is external)

OPQC 39-weeks Delivery Charter Project (2008)(link is external)

39+ Weeks Quality Improvement(link is external)

Resources:  2021_the_whole_nine_months_magazine.pdf

Recent conversations: 

Tthis conversation is hosted in our online Members Community – members must be logged into your account to access the presentation

  • Preterm Birth Prevention Initiative – Professor John Newnham, the Chair of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, talks about seven interventions that have significantly reduced the numbers of pre-term births in WA since mid-2014