Unexpected occurrences tend to happen in pregnancy. You will be wondering, what you did as to why this happened. Following this, pregnant women are recommended to be prepared at any cost for there are things that would not be seen coming despite gearing up with their doctor. We are talking about your earlier delivery here. It is common for pregnant women that somehow they may experience this. 

Maybe you were just relaxing at home binge-watching your favorite Netflix series when you suddenly felt an onslaught of water between your legs. Okay. your water just broke. Fret not, just calm down even though in the back of your mind it is not the big day yet. What just happened to you? Are you having this what they call premature birth? What are the keys to this? Are there lots of risks accompanying this? Find out everything you must know about it here!

What is a premature birth?

Premature birth is the birth which occurs more than three weeks before the baby’s approximated due date. It happens before the beginning of the week 37th of pregnancy. Premature babies need to stay longer in the hospital for adequate and proper care. This is because they may have complicated medical problems. The untimely in delivery a baby is born, the risks are higher for him to have health complications. Usually, premature babies are situated in the hospital’s newborn intensive care unit or simply called NICU. Big thanks to medical advancement nowadays because most babies born prematurely survive today unlike before. 

Stages of prematurity 

Health complications among premature babies may vary according to their degree of prematurity. The earlier the baby is born, the higher are the risks of health problems.

  • Late Preterm:  Born in between of the 34th and 36th week of pregnancy.
  • Moderately Preterm:  Born in between the 32nd and 34th week of pregnancy.
  • Very Preterm:  Born before the 32nd week of pregnancy.
  • Extremely Preterm: Born on or before the 25th week of pregnancy.

Most premature births usually happen in the late preterm stage.

What are the signs of premature birth?

The following symptoms before 37 weeks of pregnancy could be signs that you are about to go into labor:

  • an increase in pelvic pressure within the vagina or rectum.
  • an increase in discharge and/or a gush/repeat trickling of fluid, which could mean your waters have broken (preterm premature rupture of membranes).
  • bleeding or losing your mucus plug.
  • period type pains in your abdomen or lower back. These may have a rhythm or be constant.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is best to pay your doctor a visit.

What are the causes of premature birth?

Most often, the particular reasons for premature birth are not concise. However, listed below are the possible causes underlying it.

  • Being pregnant with twins and other multiple pregnancies.
  • Had already a preceded premature birth.
  • Developed with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
  • Less than six months of intervals in pregnancy.
  • Smoked cigarettes or use of illegal drugs.
  • Complications with the placenta, cervix, and uterus.
  • Persistent conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Infections specifically of the lower genital tract and amniotic fluid.
  • Stressful pregnancy.
  • Having too much weight or underweight while pregnant.
  • Multiple abortions or miscarriages.

What are the complications of premature birth?

Being born too early may cause both short and long term health problems, though not all premature babies can experience this. As mentioned above, the untimely the baby is born, the risks are higher in health problems and complications. Birth weight plays a vital role as well. Some complications may be evident at birth while others may occur later.

  • Breathing problems.
  • Brain problems.
  • Heart problems.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Temperature control problems.
  • Immune system problems.
  • Blood problems.
  • Metabolism problems.
  • Impaired learning.
  • Cerebral palsy.
  • Vision, hearing and dental problems.
  • Chronic health issues.
  • Behavioral or psychological problems.

How will a premature baby look like?

Babies born at 36 to 37 weeks usually look like small full-term babies. Very premature babies will be small (perhaps fitting in your hand) and look very fragile.

  • Skin: it might not be fully developed, and may appear shiny, translucent, dry or flaky. The baby may not have any fat under the skin to keep them warm.
  • Eyes: the eyelids of very premature babies may be fused shut at first. By 30 weeks they should be able to respond to different sights.
  • Immature development: your baby might not be able to regulate its body temperature, breathing or heart rate. They may twitch, become stiff or limp or be unable to stay alert.
  • Hair: your baby may have little hair on its head, but lots of soft body hair (called ‘lanugo’).
  • Genitals: the baby’s genitals may be small and underdeveloped.

Looking after your premature baby

Have a rigorous discussion with your baby’s doctor regarding any health conditions your baby may have. He may still need to stay in the NICU for a special and proper care or he may go home straight after birth. Your baby may go home from the hospital only when:

  • Can keep warm on his own without the help of an incubator (a piece of equipment which helps premature baby stay warm).
  • His weight is a minimum of four pounds.
  • He can already breathe on his own.
  • Can already breastfeed or bottle-feed.
  • Gains weight securely for at least ½ to 1 ounce in each passing day.

After your baby leaves the hospital, he may be required to have special equipment, treatment or medicine. Your doctor and the staff of the hospital can teach all the things you need to know about. 

How to prevent a premature birth?

Although the specific cause of premature birth is often not known, there are some ways to aid women to at least prevent this occurrence or to reduce their risk of having it. These include:

  • Cervical cerclage. When you have a short cervix or underwent a cervical shortening resulting in premature birth then this surgical procedure is performed during pregnancy. On this procedure, the cervix is seamed strongly closed with stitches to provide extra support for the uterus. The stitches are get rid off upon the time of the delivery. Do not forget to ask your doctor if you need to avoid or stop strenuous activities during your pregnancy.
  • Progesterone supplements. Progesterone supplementation may lower the risk of premature birth to women who already have a history of premature birth or a short cervix or both factors.

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