When a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it’s considered a premature birth. Premature birth is a significant health concern because babies born too early are at risk for a range of complications, including breathing difficulties, jaundice, infections, and developmental delays. The earlier the birth, the more serious the health risks to the baby. Preterm infants need careful monitoring and special care to help them grow and develop outside of the uterus.
Premature birth can be caused by a number of factors, including –
- Preterm labor – This occurs when the uterus begins to contract and cervical changes occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy. The exact cause of preterm labor is not always known, but it can be triggered by infections, chronic health conditions, and certain lifestyle factors like smoking.
- Infection – Infections of the uterus or amniotic fluid can cause premature labor or premature rupture of the membranes, which is when the sac surrounding the baby breaks before 37 weeks of pregnancy
- Medical conditions – Certain medical conditions, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and placenta previa, can increase the risk of premature birth.
- Multiple pregnancies – Women who are carrying more than one baby are at higher risk of premature birth, particularly if they have a history of preterm labor.
- Incompetent cervix – In some cases, the cervix may begin to dilate too early in the pregnancy, leading to premature labor.
- Lifestyle factors – Certain lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drug use, and poor nutrition, can increase the risk of premature birth.
How can premature birth be prevented?
There is no single way to prevent premature birth, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of premature labor:
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol or drugs while pregnant.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Get thorough prenatal care throughout your pregnancy.
- Reduce your stress level.
- Wait at least 18 months between pregnancies.
In summary, premature pregnancy occurs when a baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation, and can have a variety of causes. If you suspect you may be experiencing premature labor, seek medical attention immediately to help ensure the best possible outcome for you and your baby.