One of the most common and serious fears among pregnant women is premature birth. Even if the pregnancy isn’t complicated, the woman is healthy, and does not belong to any risk group, the fear of such a dangerous situation remains very strong. That is why it makes sense to get acquainted with this topic in advance.
What is a Premature Birth?
For a long time, the birth was called preterm only from the 28th week. Until this term, the labor was called a miscarriage. However, modern medical technologies allow saving children born after the 22nd week and weighing more than 1.1 lb. Therefore, at this time, birth is called premature if the child was born alive and lived for at least 7 days.
Due to the fact that children born before 28 weeks are too difficult to nurse to health, many doctors still say that premature birth is childbirth after 28 weeks, and before that, it can only be called a miscarriage. In the end, not every hospital has expensive equipment to save the lives of children, weighing less than 2 lb.
Types of Premature Birth
By the term of pregnancy, premature births are divided into 3 types:
- Very early – premature birth at 22-27th weeks – the weight of the fetus during this period is usually from 1.1 to 2 lb.;
- Early preterm delivery at week 28-33 – the weight of a newborn is from 2 to 4 lb.;
- Premature birth at week 34-37 – the weight of the child is about 5.5 lb.
Separately doctors also single out 1) the threat of premature birth, 2) the beginning premature birth and 3) the premature birth that has already begun. The types of treatment will depend on the type of premature birth, timing, and also the general condition of the mother and her child. In addition, the chance for the survival of the child also largely depends on the time at which premature birth occurs. However, in any case, the longer the baby is in the womb, the better it is. And every other day will make the baby healthier and stronger.
Statistics of Premature Births
As an encouraging moment for women, who are overcome by the fear of premature birth, there are general statistics of preterm labor. Note, that only 6-8% of all births are premature. Just think about it, only 8 women out of 100 give birth before the term. The rest give birth at full term.
And from this number, only 5-7% falls on the terms from 22 to 27 weeks. Of course, these children are the most difficult to nurse, but doctors managed to save a lot of lives.
More than 50% of all premature births occur in the 34-37th week. Babies that appeared during this period differ from full-term only in size. All systems in their body are already sufficiently developed to exist independently in the external world.
As you can see, the majority of women have absolutely nothing to worry about. Still, it is very important to visit a doctor regularly and on time. The sooner the treatment starts, the more chances of a successful outcome a baby will have.
Causes of Premature Birth
What are the causes of premature birth? There are a lot of them. At the early stages, it is usually a variety of inflammation and infectious diseases. Any inflammation in the uterine cavity affects the muscle tissue and prevents it from stretching. But as the baby grows and develops, the uterus must constantly stretch. If there are any obstacles to this, the uterus tries to “throw the fetus off”, and a premature birth begins.
This is one of the reasons why doctors so strongly recommend taking tests for infectious diseases before conception. Ideally, infections should be treated before pregnancy. However, if you did not do this in advance, then it’s time to do it in early pregnancy.
In any case, during the entire pregnancy, a woman needs to be checked for infectious diseases. The sooner the disease is discovered, and the treatment is started, the more chances there are to keep the pregnancy.
Premature birth at the 27th-29th week and later often begin because of the pathology of the cervix which is called cervical incompetence. Because of this pathology, the cervix is too weak to retain a gradually increasing fetus. As a result, under pressure, it begins to unfold. It provokes the onset of premature birth.
Very rarely cervical incompetence is congenital. Most often, this pathology is a direct consequence of abortions and miscarriages, after which endometrectomy is necessary, or other artificial interventions in this area, using special tools to expand the cervix.
However, sometimes the cause of cervical incompetence lies in the excessive number of male sex hormones in the body of a woman that is produced in the adrenal glands of the mother, and from a certain period in the child’s body.
Infectious diseases and pathologies of the uterus – these are only the most common causes of premature birth. There also exist others. So, multiple pregnancies, during which the uterus is stretched excessively, can also end in labor before the term.
Also, one should not forget about the pathologies of the development of the uterus. Infantilism, arcuate or bicornuate uterus can also cause premature birth. Various endocrine diseases, including diabetes mellitus or thyroid gland disorders, very often lead to premature birth as well.
In addition, it is noted that the risk of premature birth is higher in women from dysfunctional families. Hard work, constant stress, smoking, alcohol abuse, and drugs also have a bad impact.
If in the past a woman has already had a premature birth, in subsequent pregnancies the probability of a recurrence of the situation increases.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons. However, even if you see one or more signs, this does not mean that it is you who will definitely give birth ahead of time. In most cases, as you already know, women manage to bring the child to the end of pregnancy.
Moreover, if you know about all your problems, then doctors will monitor your condition and will be able to prevent an undesirable situation.
In obstetrics, the labor at 28 – 37th week is called preterm birth. If at this time you feel some unusual symptoms, this is an urgent reason at least to call the doctor, or even better to meet them. So, pay attention to the following signs. If you have any of them, immediately get in contact with your doctor:
- Drawing pains in the abdomen, similar to menstrual.
- Heaviness in the bottom of the abdomen (seems that something is pressing heavily on the bladder and the vagina).
- Bloody discharge from the genital tract.
- Cramping pain that lasts more than 30 seconds. Just do not confuse it with training fights.
- Leaking transparent liquid from the vagina.
- You don’t feel the fetus moving.
The doctor will evaluate your condition, and, probably, will offer hospitalization. But do not panic ahead of time. In many cases, the labor activity can be slowed down with the help of special drugs, psychotherapy, acupuncture, etc.
Signs of Premature Birth:
- spasms above the pubic bone, similar to menstrual cramps;
- compression or pain in the pelvis, hips or groin;
- dull back pain or a feeling of squeezing in the back;
- spasms in the intestines or diarrhea;
- intensifying vaginal discharge;
- watery liquid, pinkish or brownish discharge or blood from the vagina.
If you find any of these symptoms or have experienced more than four birth pangs per hour, call your doctor immediately.
Treatment for the Threat of Premature Birth
Having discovered the symptoms of premature birth, first of all, it is necessary to call an ambulance. Many women have a desire to get to the maternity home on their own, but it is better to abstain from this. Excessive movements and stress can accelerate the process of birth. Also, there are simply no necessary drugs and equipment in the car or a taxi.
In addition, if a premature birth begins in the early stages, it is very important to go to the hospital which specializes exactly in such complications. In this case, the hospital will not only have the equipment and drugs to help keep the pregnancy but also everything that is necessary for nursing preterm infants.
Management of Preterm Birth
The management of preterm delivery requires a special approach: a more careful and attentive one. Special attention is paid to anesthesia. It is equally important to monitor the condition of the mother and fetus continuously since the situation predisposes to various kinds of complications.
The Consequences of Premature Birth for Mother and Child
What are the consequences of premature birth? For the mother, the consequences will be minimal. Generally speaking, there is no big difference from ordinary birth. Moreover, because of the small size of the child, ruptures of the perineum occur less often. In some cases, a woman is still detained in the hospital, but, as a rule, this is related to the condition of the baby.
However, it will still be necessary for her to be examined for a more accurate determination of the causes of the incident, as well as the appointment of treatment to prevent a recurrence of the situation.
During the next pregnancy after premature birth, the woman will be under the constant supervision of the doctor. Especially at a critical time. Naturally, the deadline at which premature birth began last time will be equated with the critical one.
Consequences for the Baby
For a child, the consequences of preterm birth will be more complicated. Although, much depends on the term the baby was born.
If the child is born in a period before 28 weeks, the infant is likely to be immediately transferred to a specialized hospital, where all the necessary means will be provided.
This does not mean that the mother will not be able to see her child. Most likely, she will be allowed to visit the baby. And if the baby’s condition allows, the mother will be able to breastfeed and change diapers. It goes without saying that the baby needs the mother’s love and care.
Babies born in the period between 28 and 34 weeks are more viable. In this case, the baby can be treated in the intensive care unit at a conventional maternity hospital.
After 34 weeks, the child’s organs are already sufficiently developed to exist in the outer world. The baby can already breathe, eat, and digest food. The only problem of premature babies at this time is insufficient weight. In this case, the child can be with their mother in the same ward.
In all three cases, mom and relatives will have to spend a lot of time and energy caring for the premature baby. However, the body of young children is very flexible, and most importantly, it is still developing. This means that eventually the child will fully recover, and will not differ from other children.
Preventing Premature Birth
How to avoid premature birth? Prevention, as you know, is always better than treatment. In order to minimize the risk of preterm birth, it is necessary to take care of some very important points even before the beginning of a pregnancy:
- A woman needs to undergo a full medical examination, during which all chronic diseases, individual characteristics of the body and the uterus, as well as the presence of infections will be revealed. As a result, all infections and inflammations will be treated in advance. What’s more, doctors will know all chronic diseases and features of the woman’s body before conception, taking them into account when conducting pregnancy;
- A future mother needs to register in the women’s consultation. What’s more, she needs to tell the doctor about all her illnesses and peculiarities, show medical documents. In general, a woman should inform the doctor as much as possible about the state of her health;
- A woman needs to avoid contact with infectious patients, to avoid infection during pregnancy;
- Also, avoid exorbitant physical activity. Try to minimize the number of stressful situations. If a woman has a complicated profession, or the situation at home is stressful, it makes sense to take sedatives throughout pregnancy. Naturally, after a consultation with the attending physician;
- Regularly pass all necessary examinations, including tests for viruses and infections, ultrasound, fetal monitoring and so on;
- Carefully monitor your condition before and during pregnancy.
All these measures will minimize the risk of premature birth. However, the main thing is to remember that no matter what week a premature birth begins, the doctors will do everything possible to preserve the life and health of the child and the mother. A woman’s task here is to follow all the doctor’s recommendations and try to stay calm.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.