Expecting the Unexpected: Preventing Premature Birth

Pregnancy is expected to be a momentous, joyful experience for most women and their families. Upon learning about the good news, you find yourself in the process of choosing the name of your little one and contemplating your future with a healthy baby. Then, happiness fills your heart once you start feeling your baby’s movements for the first time.

But then something happens. As you visit the clinic, the doctor tells you that you’re going to have a premature birth. Feelings of anxiety, guilt, and fear abruptly entrap you, and as the world stops, everything associated with preparing for birth comes to a halt.

For expecting mothers out there, we will discuss all premature birth and how to prevent them from happening.

What is Premature Birth?

Preterm or premature birth is when the baby is born at fewer than 37 weeks gestational age, more than 3 weeks before the baby’s estimated due date. Known as preemies, these premature infants are at a greater risk for several health problems such as cerebral palsy, delays in development, hearing problems, heart problems, gastrointestinal problems, sight problems, and behavioral and psychological problems.

When the baby is born earlier than expected, the greater the risks of complications will occur. When your baby is born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, they are late preterm. When born between 32 and 34 weeks, they are moderately preterm. Babies born at less than 32 weeks are very preterm while babies born at or before 25 weeks of pregnancy are considered to be extremely preterm.

After birth, you will see some noticeable signs of prematurity of the baby. Unlike a normal baby with chunky and squishy arms and legs, a preemie looks small and thin with a disproportionately large head, resembling a malnourished one. He has not yet developed the suck and swallow reflex so the baby is usually fed intravenously until he can develop this function. Some preemies can’t cry and others tend to sleep a lot. Their muscle tone is also underdeveloped. They are covered with soft, lightly colored hair called lanugo.

Instead of having the warm embrace of a mother’s arms and cheers of joy, these infants receive support from high-technology incubators, replacements that give them hope to continue living a healthy life despite the emotional and physical struggles because they have entered the world early. Preemies undergo a very critical and challenging situation where they must fight and hang on to their lives.

The Causes of Premature Birth

When the doctor informs a pregnant woman that there might be a chance for her to have a premature birth, she may think about the possible circumstances and reasons why these things happen to her. You may ask: what are the causes of premature birth?

Several observational and investigative research studies have shown that common reasons for indicated preterm births include pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, and intrauterine growth restriction. Causes of premature birth are multifactorial, according to gestational age, and likely to vary by geographic and ethnic contexts. The strongest predictors of spontaneous preterm birth are the short cervical length and a raised cervical-vaginal fetal fibronectin concentration.

There is a study conducted about the preterm prediction study and risk factors for indicated preterm births. It included 2929 women who are evaluated at 24 weeks gestation at 10 centers and they gathered information about demographic factors, socioeconomic status, home and work environments, drug and alcohol use, and medical history. Thus, the outcome of the study shows that the risk factors in preterm births are having müllerian duct abnormality, proteinuria, history of chronic hypertension, history of lung disease, and working during pregnancy.

Some are resulting from multiple causes, including infection or inflammation, vascular disease, and uterine overdistension. Risk factors for spontaneous preterm births include a previous preterm birth, black race, periodontal disease, and low maternal body-mass index. Others include alcohol and tobacco use, drug use, sexual activity, physical activity, and douching. Psychosocial factors include stress in life events and catastrophic events, and emotional responses and affective states like anxiety and depression.

How to Prevent Having Premature Birth

Efforts to prevent preterm birth have increasingly focused on early pregnancy and preconception care. Most interventions are based on the traditional medical model of identifying and correcting each potential cause or risk factor for preterm birth.

Recent trials have confirmed the use of progesterone beginning in the second trimester. Can be given as a shot, it can help lower the chances of going into labor early for women who have had a premature baby before or who have a short cervix. Doctors may also recommend cerclage which is a procedure that uses stitches to close a woman’s cervix to help prevent preterm birth.

If the labor starts early, you should go to a hospital that provides a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that specializes in treating preterm babies.

You may be prescribed and given antibiotics to treat or prevent infections and steroids to help speed up a baby’s lung growth and decrease the chances of breathing complications if the baby is delivered too soon. Some medicines can slow or stop labor contractions temporarily.

For expectant mothers out there, preterm birth is difficult to address and can’t always be prevented. But, you can lower the chances of going into labor soon. Here are the following things that you can do:

  1. Visit your doctor early and regularly for your prenatal care.
  2. Check your overall health condition and take care of yourself especially if you have any health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.
  3. Avoid smoking, alcohol drinking, or using illegal drugs.
  4. Eat a balanced diet especially foods rich in vitamins and minerals like folate, and iron.
  5. Keep yourself protected from infections at all times so regularly wash your hands properly.
  6. Be happy and fill yourself with joyful things to avoid stress in your life.

SUMMARY

Considering all things stated above, premature birth is a difficult condition to manage but with this information, you can enjoy your pregnancy and expect the healthy birth of your little one.

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