It's hard to know when exactly you give birth to a baby. Most people have a plan in mind for labour and childbirth, thinking that the pregnancy will last for the normal 40 weeks. But when it comes to delivering, sometimes the baby has a mind of its own and decides to come out early. There can be various reasons with some risks, including having a previous premature baby. Read below to know the risk factors and symptoms of preterm delivery and how to prevent it.
What is Preterm Delivery?
Preterm labour is giving birth to a baby at least three weeks before the due date. That means a preterm delivery happens before the start of the 37th week of pregnancy. A normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, and preterm delivery babies are born early. However, they often have complications, and it varies in degree. It can also pose a health risk to the mother and the baby. Based on how early the preterm delivery happens, a baby can be:
Late preterm: A baby delivered between 34-36 weeks of pregnancy.
Moderate preterm: A baby that is given birth between 32-34 weeks of pregnancy.
Most preterm deliveries happen in the late preterm.
Symptoms and Causes of Preterm Delivery
Premature delivery can happen all of a sudden and for no reason. Sometimes the healthcare provider induces premature delivery for medical reasons. However, some of the most common causes of premature birth include the following:
Short-term and Long-term Complications for the Baby
Some of the complications of premature birth can be seen immediately, while others manifest much later.
These are seen in the first few weeks of premature delivery or premature labour and include:
Breathing problems: A preterm infant has breathing issues. If the baby's lungs do not have enough surfactant, it can lead to respiratory distress syndrome. They can also develop bronchopulmonary dysplasia, which is a lung disorder.
Heart problems: Preterm babies tend to have low blood pressure and PDA, patent ductus arteriosus. It is a heart defect that closes as the baby grows. If not, it can lead to many complications.
Brain issues: There is a risk of brain bleeding if the baby is born too early, which is known as intraventricular haemorrhage. These may be mild and resolve with little impact. However, a few babies can have more bleeding, leading to permanent brain damage.
Issues with temperature control: Babies born from preterm delivery can lose heat in their bodies rapidly. As a result, they cannot produce enough heat. If the body temperature dips too low, it can lead to hypothermia.
Digestive problems: Premature babies have an immature gastrointestinal system which can cause NEC, necrotising enterocolitis. It is a severe condition where the lining of the cells in the bowel wall is injured.
Metabolism problems: They can have deficient blood sugar levels. Since they have less stored glucose, converting this into usable forms is more complicated.
Low immunity: Premature babies are at a high risk of infections due to an underdeveloped immune system. It can spread quickly and lead to sepsis.
Although the cause of preterm delivery is unknown, there are a few things women can do to reduce the risk of premature birth. It includes:
Taking progesterone supplements: Women with previous preterm birth history, or who have a short cervix can reduce the risk by taking this supplement.
Cervical cerclage: This is a surgical procedure done on women with a short cervix or a history of preterm delivery. In this procedure, the cervix is stitched with sutures to provide more support to the uterus. The sutures will be later removed when the time for birth arrives.
Other things to do: Avoid smoking, drugs and alcohol while pregnant. Consume a balanced and healthy diet and exercise regularly and meditate to reduce stress and anxiety. Wait for more than 18 months to get pregnant again. Ensure proper prenatal care during pregnancy.
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