Premature baby born every two hours in Ireland
Of the 70,000 babies delivered in Ireland every year, 4,500 are born pre-term - one every two hours.
The Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, the second busiest maternity hospital in the country, is celebrating World Prematurity Day by holding a party today for all premature babies born there in 2015 who weighed less than 1.5kg.
Decades ago, babies born at 28 weeks had a slim chance of survival but now babies born at just 26 weeks have an 80pc chance of survival with modern medical care.
Professor Fergal Malone, Master of the Rotunda, said one of the main risk factors for pre-term birth is having delivered pre-term in a prior pregnancy.
"The Rotunda has recently launched a new specialist pre-term birth prevention clinic, in which a dedicated specialist in maternal-foetal medicine reviews all such high-risk mothers," said Prof Malone.
The clinic "provides the latest interventions" to prevent recurrent prematurity, he said.
"In regards to advances in neonatal medicine, we have seen the rates of chronic lung disease halved in the hospital's neonatal unit, which is very promising and reassuring," he said.
One of the biggest changes in helping babies with under- developed lungs to breathe is a process known as "volume guarantee". Professor Naomi McCallion, based at the Rotunda, is one of the world's leading experts in this innovation.
Survival rates nationally for pre-term infants relate to the degree of prematurity.
Dr Michael Boyle, consultant neonatologist at the Rotunda, said it was heartening that far more babies were surviving now with the latest advances in the care available.
Veteran staff recall that many babies surviving now would not have survived a generation ago, he said.
The Rotunda Foundation has launched a new project in which volunteers craft cuddly octopus toys to be placed in incubators with premature infants.
The tentacles can feel like the umbilical cord to babies, with significant calming effects.