Before Time-Preterm Labor

More than 11 percent of all babies born arrive preterm. By definition, preterm labor is labor that begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy and may include one or more of the following symptoms: uterine contractions, ruptures of the amniotic sac (membranes), or cervical dilatation (opening of the cervix).

The Exact Cause for Preterm Labor Is Unknown

While the exact causes of preterm labor are not known in many cases, one of the major factors for preterm labor is rupture of the membranes. There are related factors involving the pregnancy such as abnormal or decreased function of the placenta, placenta previa which means the placenta is positioned low and towards the cervix, early detachment of the placenta from the uterus which is called placental abruption and too much amniotic fluid.

Maternal Issues May Be The Trigger

Maternal factors which may cause a preterm labor include preeclampsia; medical illness that is chronic such as heart disease, strep infections or infections of the placental tissue, an irregular or abnormally shaped uterus, cervical incompetence which means the cervix is unable to stay closed during pregnancy and drug addiction or a previous preterm birth.

Problems Within The Uterine Can Cause Preterm Labor

Sometimes there are problems with the baby which are precursors to preterm labor. One of these factors is a situation when the baby's behaviour indicates the environment within the uterus is unhealthy. If there is a multiple pregnancy, that is twins or triplets or more, it may trigger preterm labor. If the baby has erythroblastosis fetalis, which is Rh/blood group incompatibility, then this too may create preterm labor.

What Happens When A Baby Is Born Prematurely

Preterm labor carries with it increased risks for complications. The March of Dimes reports that 12 percent of babies born in the US are born preterm, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Of the preterm babies born, 84 percent are born between 32 and 36 weeks of gestation and about 10 percent are born between 28 and 31 weeks of gestation. Six percent are born at less than 28 weeks. When babies are born prematurely, their bodies and organs have not completely matured. Their birth weight is low and they are often very small. Breathing, staying warm, eating and fighting infection are all major efforts and concerns for preterm babies. Babies born before 28 weeks are even more vulnerable as many of their organs may not be mature enough for them to live outside of the mother's womb and are too immature to function.

Problems, Challenges And Dangers To Babies Born Preterm

-Premature babies encounter myriad difficulties including:

-Temperature instability, the inability to stay warm due to low body fat.

-Respiratory problems such as chronic lung disease caused by injury to lung tissue; air leaking from the lung to other tissue; incomplete lung development; apnea or stopped breathing which occurs in about half the babies born before 30 weeks.

-Cardiovascular difficulties such as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) which is a heart condition that causes blood to divert away from the lungs; blood pressure that is either too low or too high; low heart rate

-Blood and metabolic issues like anemia or jaundice; unstable levels of minerals or other substances in the blood such as calcium or glucose; immature kidney function.

-Neurologic problems include bleeding in the brain, softening of tissues in the brains, seizures, poor muscle tone, infections and abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eyes.

Premature babies can have long-term health problems and if there are complications with preterm labor and medication is given, this too puts the baby at risk.


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