​Babies who were born prematurely form the largest group of children at risk of physical and developmental disability. Whereas babies born before week 32 are at the highest risk, those born between weeks 33-36 are also at increased risk of disease and even death. The rate of premature births in developed countries has been reported to be on the rise. This rise is attributed to the increase in the mother’s age at birth, a larger number of pregnancies due to fertility treatments and high rates of interventions at the end of the pregnancy.
In a study based on the birth register at the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Interior between 2000 and 2011 the trends over time of the births of premature babies in Israel. For 2008-2010, the risk factors for the total premature births were investigated (all births prior to week 37), through to highly premature births (birth prior to week 33), and extremely premature births (birth prior to week 28), by a multi-variable analysis. Due to the close link between multifetal pregnancy and premature birth, the model evaluated the risk factors for single-birth pregnancies only.
Survey results: The overall rate of premature delivery has changed little between 2000-2011 and varies between 6.5%-7.1%. The percentage of births before 33 weeks has gone down from 1.3% to 1.0% and the percentage of births before 28 weeks has gone down from 0.3% to 0.2%.

Whereas the total percentage of premature delivery has decreased slightly among the Jewish population, it has increased from 6.6% to 7.4-7.7% among the Arab population. This percentage has remained stable since 2006.
A multifetal pregnancy is the strongest indicator of a premature delivery. The standardized risk ratio (standardized by the mother’s education and age, and congenital defects) per premature birth in a multifetal pregnancy, was 20 times higher for the total premature births at less than 37 weeks and 30 times higher for premature births at between weeks 28-32, compared to births at weeks 37-44.
In the multi-variable analysis, premature delivery was most clearly linked to premature delivery along with a substantial congenital defect. Premature deliveries were also linked to the Arab nationality, the older mother’s age, low level of education, marital status other than married, infant gender and Ethiopian-born mother. A gap of more than 6 months up to less than 5 years between pregnancies was protective.
The variables analysis indicated that premature delivery is related to Arab nationality, young mother, low level of education, very short and very long intervals between pregnancies, unmarried marital status, previous premature delivery, first pregnancy, multifetal pregnancy and significant congenital defects.
Conclusions: Between 2000 and 2011, stable rates of premature deliveries were found for the entire population in Israel, as opposed to a 13% increase within the Arab population between 2000 and 2006. The rate of premature deliveries in Israel among the Arab population is stable. Ethiopian women were identified as being at relatively higher risk of premature delivery. Identification of at-risk populations is the first step in identifying risk factors suitable for intervention.