Premature birth

From ArticleWorld

A premature birth is the birth of any infant before 37 weeks gestation and after achieving the limits of viability, which is currently in the range of 22-23 weeks. Prior to 20 weeks gestation, the “birth” of an infant is considered a spontaneous abortion rather than a premature birth. A baby is generally born around 40 weeks gestation and some infants born after 37 weeks are still not mature enough and can have respiratory problems.

Maternal factors

There are numerous factors that can lead to a premature birth. A woman can have abnormalities of the uterus or weakness of the cervix that contribute to irritability of the uterus and the possibility of preterm birth. Infections of the bladder, cervix or uterus can also cause uterine irritability. Very young (under 18) or very old (over 40) women are also at risk for preterm births. Substance abuse during pregnancy and chronic maternal disease can factor into having a premature birth. Even conditions such as high blood pressure of pregnancy and stress can cause a premature birth.

Some maternal factors actually cause premature birth by virtue of uterine irritability while other factors result in an unplanned preterm birth due to a condition that is threatening the health of the fetus and/or the mother. In those cases, the infant is taken by Cesarean section prematurely.

Fetal or placental factors

A preterm birth is likely in situations involving multiple pregnancies or if a large amount of amniotic fluid becomes built-up in the uterus, causing irritability and possible premature rupture of the membranes. In addition, if bleeding from the placenta occurs, such as in partial separation of the placenta, the uterus can become irritable or the fetus can become distressed, leading to the need for urgent delivery.

Prolonging premature births

There are few things one can do to undo the factors contributing to premature birth except undergoing a procedure called a cervical cerclage that essentially sews the cervix shut. Abstaining from drugs and alcohol as well as maintaining good nutrition are also helpful in preventing premature births.

Premature contractions are relatively common in pregnancy and do not always lead to premature birth. A woman with premature contractions is often treated with bed rest, adequate nutrition and sometimes with medications such as magnesium citrate or terbutaline that work to stop this type of contraction. If a baby must be born prematurely, specialists such as neonatologists often care for them for up to several months