Expecting a baby? While moms-to-be would want to deliver a baby after a full term, few circumstances might lead to pre-term delivery of the baby, which might occur naturally or induced by the obstetrician owing to few health risks that might hinder the life of the baby or the mother. Such babies are called as premature or preterm babies as they are delivered before reaching 37 weeks of pregnancy. This is because carrying a baby for a full period of 40 weeks is considered as a full term.
If your baby is born before the completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy, she will be considered a preterm baby. Preterm births have a few subcategories, based on the gestation age of the baby.
- A baby born before 28 weeks gestation is considered extremely premature.
- A baby born between 28 and 32 weeks is considered very premature.
- A baby born between 32 and 37 weeks is known as moderate preterm baby.
Though premature birth is common these days, it is essential to be aware of the various causes of delivering a premature baby, the risks associated with such a preterm labour and the precautions you must take to avoid premature birth. So now you have known what is preterm labor, lets learn what are the causes of premature labor.
Causes of Preterm Labour:
There may be several risk factors associated with a preterm labour- here we’ve listed down some of the most common causes of a premature labor.
Any kind of infection affecting the mother might lead to premature labor. The development of bacteria can make the internal membranes get weaker, and may also affect the amniotic sac, which in turn can rupture the membranes. This is generally known as “water breaking”.
A common infection that can cause you to deliver a premature baby is known as bacterial vaginosis or BV, which is common among pregnant women. The symptoms that are associated with this infection include
- Burning sensation while urinating.
- Vaginal discharge-mostly light white or gray in colour.
- Irritation occurring in the skin of your genital region.
Other infections such as Chlamydia, trichomoniosis and gonorrhea can also lead to premature delivery.
[ Read : Infections During Pregnancy ]
History Of Premature Birth:
If you already have a child with a premature delivery, you are at high risk of delivering a premature baby next time you conceive. You would be advised medications to evade contractions and bed rest to avoid another premature delivery. Always make sure to consult with your doctor before you plan for a second baby if you already have a premature baby.
Various health issues that the mother may develop during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia or a blood clotting condition, heart issues or lupus can be the underlying cause of initiating a premature delivery. Mostly, doctors would schedule a caesarean section when the mom or the baby is prone to any health complication. This is because sometimes allowing the mother to stay pregnant for some more days might put the mother or her baby to high health risks.
Mothers, who have an unhealthy lifestyle and have low body weight, undervalued prenatal care or malnutrition issues are likely to have pre-mature deliveries. Also habits like smoking, consuming lots of alcohol, too much drugs, emotional issues like depression, stress or anxiety and working too much can lead to premature birth of babies.
Multiple Babies In Womb:
Moms who are opting for various methods to conceive such as IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) can sometimes have twins, triplets or quadruplets, which might cause premature births. When more than one foetus is carried during a single pregnancy, your doctor would advise early induction to save all the babies in the womb.
Short Intervals Between Two Pregnancies:
If you have conceived your second baby within a period of 6 to 9 months of delivering your first baby- it may be a risk factor for a premature birth. Studies show that a spacing between 6 months to 11 months is essential for a woman to get pregnant again as it can avoid all kinds of birth defects, low birth weight and preterm births.
But many times, premature births occur without any apparent cause. No matter the cause, most premature babies have to deal with a number of health complications.
Complications & Risks Associated With A Premature Baby:
When you have a premature baby, you have to take extreme care of your newborn to make sure that he or she is free from all kinds of risks associated with a preterm delivery. However, complications of preterm labor tend to last for many years, even after your child grows.
First let us give you the good news. Not all premature babies experience complications. This is especially true if your baby is born after 32 weeks of gestation. The chances of survival go up dramatically after 28 weeks. There have been a number of cases where babies born as early as 25 weeks have lived on! This is the miracle of modern medicine.
Short Term Complications Of Premature Birth:
In the days and weeks following her birth, a premature baby might encounter the following difficulties:
1. Breathing Difficulties:
The biggest problem most premature babies’ face is breathing difficulties. The lung is one of the last organs to mature. If a baby is born before her lungs are fully functional, she may encounter breathing problems. This condition is more likely to affect babies born before 35 weeks. Without proper oxygen intake, other organs of the body can get affected too.
2. Heart Issues:
Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) and low blood pressure (hypotension) are the most common heart problems faced by premature babies. PDA, if left untreated can cause excessive blood flow through the heart and cause heart failure.
3. Brain Problems:
If a baby is born before 28 weeks, she is at the risk of developing intraventricular hemorrhage – bleeding in the brain. Thankfully, most brain bleeds are mild and resolve with time. But if a baby experiences heavy brain bleeding, she can end up with permanent brain injury. Some brain bleeds even require operation to resolve the issue.
4. Difficulty Managing Body Temperature:
Most premature babies lack body fat. This makes it impossible for them to manage their body temperature. This is why most preemies tend to lose body heat rapidly. Why is that a problem? Well, a baby stands the risk of hypothermia if her body temperature dips too low. Hypothermia can make the blood sugar levels to drop. Not just that! When a preemie exerts all her energy just to stay warm, she cannot possibly gain weight and grow. That’s why many premature babies are placed inside incubators.
[ Read : Causes Of Low Birth Weight ]
5. Gastrointestinal Problems:
Preemies are at a greater risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). This is a potentially serious condition. It primarily occurs in premature babies after they start feeding. Premature babies who are breastfed have a much lower risk of developing NEC.
6. Blood Problems:
Preemies stand the risk of developing blood related problems such as anemia and infant jaundice. Both these issues are common and need a little medical intervention.
7. Weak Immune System:
Most newborns have a weak immune system. But for preemies, it can lead to life-threatening situations! A simple infection is all it takes to send a preemie to the hospital. This is why, many preemies are not allowed in public till they develop their immune system.
Long Term Complications Of Premature Birth:
Some complications take time to manifest. Here are a few long-term complications a preemie may encounter:
8. Cerebral Palsy:
Cerebral palsy is a common disorder among extremely premature babies. Babies with cerebral palsy show symptoms such as low muscle tone, movement disabilities or posture problems as the brain would suffer from poor blood circulation and low supply of oxygen.
9. Developmental Delays:
If you have a premature baby, stop comparing her with other full term babies. This is because most preemies encounter developmental delays. They are also likely to face learning disabilities at school.
10. Vision Problems:
Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is another problem preemies born before 30 weeks may encounter. This disease causes blood vessels to swell and overgrow in the light-sensitive layer of nerves at the retina. If left undetected, ROP can cause retinal detachment, and in extreme cases blindness.
12. Hearing Issues:
Premature babies are at increased risk of hearing loss. So, make sure to get their hearing checked after you are discharged from the NICU.
[ Read : Hearing Loss In Babies ]
13. Chronic Health Conditions:
Premature babies might suffer from complications such as asthma, digestive issues, SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, gastric problems and periodical infections which might demand immediate medical supervision.
Low Rates Of Survival:
Most of the premature babies in intensive care facilities would be offered food through intravenous devices as they are not fully developed to suck milk from the mother or swallow it. Hence, the survival rates are 80% in preterm babies as they might develop some infections, which can lead to fatal medical issues.
The list may seem endless. But please do remember that not all premature babies face these issues. Taking care of a premature baby is a battle. But it is a battle worth fighting!
If you are planning to have a baby anytime soon, please make sure you seek the advice of your doctor to have a safe pregnancy and avoid premature births.
Hope that after knowing in detail about chances of preterm labor, causes and risks of preterm labor. You will be careful and avoid any complications. Have a happy pregnancy!
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