Nunavut Territory has the highest rate of babies born pre-term in Canada..

February 3, 2009 - A Nunavut health official says expectant mothers' lifestyle choices, including the choice to smoke, are one reason why the territory has the highest rate of babies born pre-term in Canada.

Nunavut (meaning "our land") is the largest and newest territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999 via the Nunavut Act. Nunavut comprises a major portion of Northern Canada, and most of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, making it the fifth-largest country subdivision in the world. The capital Iqaluit (formerly "Frobisher Bay") on Baffin Island, in the east, was chosen by the 1995 capital plebiscite. Nunavut is both the least populated and the largest of the provinces and territories of Canada. It has a population of 29,474[2] spread over an area the size of Western Europe.

Figures released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) show that 10.8 per cent of Nunavut babies born in hospitals between 2006 and 2007 were pre-term — meaning they were born before 37 weeks of gestation. By comparison, the national average pre-term birth rate was 8.1 per cent. Seven per cent of Nunavut babies had a low birth weight, and about eight per cent were born smaller than expected for their gestational age, the report found. Babies born early are more likely to be small, and they are also more likely to develop health problems later in life.

Dr. Geraldine Osborne, Nunavut's deputy chief medical officer of health, said that "roughly around 80 per cent of pregnant women smoke and they are smoking more cigarettes than ever." Osborne said other factors include poor nutrition, unsteady food supplies in many Nunavut households and a high rate of teenage pregnancy in the territory.

The CIHI report found that 22.7 per cent of babies were born to teenage mothers in Nunavut, compared to 4.8 per cent nationally (excluding Quebec). Pre-term birth rates in the other northern territories were close to the national average: the Yukon's rate was 8.4 per cent, while the Northwest Territories was at 7.2 per cent. Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador led the provinces with the highest pre-term birth rates, at 8.7 per cent and 8.6 per cent, respectively.

Reference: Smoking while pregnant contributes to Nunavut's high rate of early births: 80 percent of pregnant women in Nunavut smoke: deputy medical health officer,, 2/3/2009.

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