Premature birth, also known as preterm birth, is defined as babies who are born too early, before 37 weeks of gestation. It is a cause of death in newborns.
Did you know that 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely? This means that they are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature birth is a leading cause of death in newborns and can also lead to lifelong health problems. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes of premature birth, the risks involved, and what you can do to help prevent it. We will also talk about the treatments available for premature infants.
What is premature birth?
Premature birth, also known as preterm birth, is defined as babies who are born too early, before 37 weeks of gestation. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including medical complications or early labor.
Premature baby often has to stay in the hospital for special care because their organs are not fully developed yet.
What causes premature birth?
Premature births can happen suddenly and for no clear reason. Sometimes doctors have to start labor early for medical reasons. Women can also go into premature labor due to:
- Maternal health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure
- Under the age of 20 or over the age of 40
- Have a family history of preterm births
- Infections during pregnancy
- Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
- Excessive alcohol use
- Use of certain drugs during pregnancy
- Stressful life events during pregnancy
- Previous preterm births
- Multiple pregnancies
- Preterm labor
- Underweight before getting pregnant
However, a woman can still have a premature birth even if she has no known risk factors.
Different levels of prematurity
Babies who are born before 37 weeks are considered premature, but there are different levels of prematurity.
- Mildly premature: born between 34 and 36 weeks
- Moderately premature: born between 32 and 34 weeks
- Very premature: born before 32 weeks
- Extremely premature: born before 24 weeks
What are the symptoms of premature birth?
The symptoms of preterm labor are:
- Contractions, which may feel like menstrual cramps
- Every 10 minutes or more frequently, the abdomen contracts
- A feeling of pressure in the pelvis
- Low, dull backache
- Mild abdominal cramps
- Increased urination
- Changes in vaginal discharge, which may be watery, pink, or contains blood
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider right away.
Symptoms in premature baby
The symptoms a premature baby may have depend on how early they are born.
For example, babies born before 28 weeks may not be able to suck or swallow, so they will be fed through a tube.
They may also have:
- Breathing problems
- Feeding problems
- Poor body temperature control
- The risk of infection
- Low birth weight
What are the risks of premature birth?
Premature babies are at higher risk for a variety of health problems, including:
- Breathing problems
- Feeding difficulties
- Birth defects
- Cerebral palsy
- Intellectual and learning disabilities
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Respiratory distress syndrome
How can I prevent premature birth?
There are some things you can do to help reduce preterm birth rates, such as:
- Getting early prenatal care
- Eating a healthy diet
- Gaining the appropriate amount of weight
- Avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and drugs
- Managing chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure
- Attending scheduled prenatal visits
- Listening to your body and being aware of changes
How is preterm birth diagnosed?
If your healthcare provider thinks you may be in labor, they will do a pelvic exam to check for changes in the cervix. They may also do a vaginal ultrasound to check the length of the cervix. You may also have other tests, such as a biophysical profile or non-stress test, to check the baby’s well-being.
If you are in labor, your healthcare provider will monitor you and the baby closely. They will do regular check-ups to see how the labor is progressing and to check the baby’s heart rate. If you are having a planned preterm birth, your healthcare provider will discuss the risks and benefits with you.
What are the treatments for premature birth?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The best course of treatment will depend on the individual situation.
If you are at risk for preterm labor, your health care provider may put you on bed rest or prescribe medication to help stop contractions.
If you go into labor, you will likely be given medication to help your baby’s lungs mature. In other cases, they may recommend delivering the baby.
Your baby will also need special care after birth, which may include:
- Oxygen therapy
- Intravenous fluids
- Respiratory support
- Nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube or IV
- Monitoring for infection
- Surfactant therapy
What is the outlook for premature babies?
The outlook for premature babies has improved dramatically over the past few decades.
Most premature babies now survive and go on to lead healthy lives. However, they may have some health problems that can last into adulthood.
How early can a baby survive if born prematurely?
With the advances in medical care, more premature babies are surviving.
Babies born before 28 weeks have the best chance of survival, with about a 93% chance. A premature baby born at 34 to 36 weeks has a nearly 100 percent chance of living.
Do premature babies have problems later in life?
There is an increased risk of health and learning problems for children who are born prematurely. However, many of these problems can be treated or managed.
Preterm babies are also at risk for developmental delays. It’s important to get your child early intervention services as soon as possible to help them reach their full potential.
If you have a premature baby, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your child’s healthcare provider, a support group, or other parents of premature babies.