Live birth

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

For organisms where the embryo develops inside the mother as opposed to an egg, see vivipary.


A live birth occurs when a fetus, whatever its gestational age, exits the maternal body and subsequently shows any sign of life, such as voluntary movement, heartbeat, or pulsation of the umbilical cord, for however brief a time and regardless of whether the umbilical cord or placenta are intact.[1]

Historical Perspective

This definition of the term "live birth" was created by the World Health Organization in 1950 and is chiefly used for public health and statistical purposes. Whether the birth is vaginal or by Caesarean section, and whether the neonate is ultimately viable, is not relevant to this statistical definition. However, the term "live birth" was in common use long before 1950.

In the United States, the term "born alive" is defined by federal statute.


  1. World Health Organization. International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems. Tenth Revision. Vol 2. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 1993:129.

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