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premature labor

Premature labor and birth is when the body readies itself for birth, earlier than the due time. Any baby that arrives before 37weeks of pregnancy is usually referred to as a premature baby. Most premature births are usually five to three weeks before the due date and this may affect the baby’s chances at survival and thriving. Typically, the longer a baby reaches full term, the better and stronger the vital organs develop.

Premature babies who come between the 34th to the 36th week have a much better chance at survival. Depending on the cause of the premature labor and birth, the baby can either have a healthy growth or suffer long lasting developmental problems. During a premature labor and delivery, it is advised that the baby’s heart rate be constantly monitored even after delivery.

Some of the problems associated with premature birth are: Cerebral palsy, autism, hearing and learning difficulties, loss of vision and intellectual impairment.

Stages of Premature birth

Extreme Premature Birth- This is very early birth usually occurs at the beginning of the third trimester, i.e. earlier or by the 27th week. Here, the baby is very unlikely not to have complications as most of the vital organs are still not functional. Risk factors of an extremely premature baby are: severe breathing problems, hypothermia, infections and low blood pressure. The baby would be in a critical condition and will require oxygen support to help with the breathing.

Moderately Extreme Premature Birth- The baby comes by the 28th to 30thweek of pregnancy and even though it appears less severe, the baby still faces a number of risks. Some of these risks are: hypothermia, low blood sugar, infection and breathing problems. The baby will need to be put in a special care unit.

Moderately Early Premature Birth- Here, the baby is born by the 31st to 33rd week of pregnancy. In this case, the baby will have a greater chance of survival as there is a stronger immunity and more developed organs. The baby might be at a risk of breathings problems or infection.

Early/ Near term Premature birth- By the 34th to the 36th week of pregnancy, the baby’s chances of survival are at its highest. Though the baby might appear small, all of its vital organs are fully developed and may not run into any risks. Some of the risks to look out for however are; infections and problems with the blood pressure and sugar levels.

Warning signs of premature labor:

  • Spotting or vaginal bleeding
  • Sustained or infrequent backache
  • Recurrent contractions
  • Very noticeable vaginal discharge or watery fluid leakage
  • Contractions at frequent intervals
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Intense pressure in the pelvis or vagina
  • Acute stomach pain

It is very important to pay attention to the warning signs of a premature labor as an early intervention can help things. If a premature labor is contained till at least the 34th week of pregnancy, the chances of having a normal delivery and a healthier baby are higher.

Causes of premature labor

An early and unprecedented rupture of the fetal membranes

Placental abruption

Bacterial infection

Severe bleeding

Sudden hormonal changes

A fully stretched womb. This is typical in multiple pregnancies.

An incompetent or weak cervix. Here the cervix slowly gives way before the due date.

A short cervix

Excessive amniotic fluid

Previous record of premature birth

Womb abnormalities