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There is a range of days or months between which pregnant women are expected to give birth, this is called the gestation period. Some times the delivery date of pregnant women doesn’t fall into this range and it is earlier. When a baby arrives earlier than37 weeks of pregnancy, it is referred to as a premature birth in the medical terms.
When a baby is delivered well ahead of the delivery date there could be some complications. When babies are born premature with less than 34 weeks in the womb, they are usually too weak and feeble to face the ordeals of life.
Babies born after 35 weeks are less likely to have problems. They may however be small in size and weight and may also experience some difficulties in breathing. The chance for the survival of babies born after 28 weeks of conception is less considering the health care settings that are available in most places. Even those who eventually survive may end up having mild to severe disabilities.
Reasons Behind Premature Birth
There are many risk factors responsible for this and these could be medical or social factors.
Medical Factors: Some of the medical factors that can predispose a pregnant woman to have a premature baby include; the premature rupture of membranes, certain abnormalities found in the uterus, expectation of twin babies, infections of the urinary tract and the vagina, previous surgery done to the cervix, previous premature birth, previous terminations of pregnancy or what is called abortion and previous miscarriages especially when these occurred between 16 and 24 weeks.
Social Factors: Some of the social and lifestyle factors that have been implicated in premature labor and birth include falling victim of a domestic violence, being subjected to poverty, smoking, changing sex partners between the birth of the first two babies because this has been associated with pre-eclampsia and the use of some recreational drugs like ecstasy, cannabis or cocaine.
Possible Reasons a Baby Might Need To Be Born Early
This may sound a little out of place but yes, there are occasions when doctors have to decide a baby would need to be born earlier for some medical reasons. It may be considered best to induce the labor or carry out a caesarean section.
Steps To Be Taken When Premature Labor Is Envisaged
There are few things you must note as soon as you discover that your labor has come on earlier. If you observe contractions before 37 weeks of pregnancy or you are able to discover that your waters have broken, you need to contact the hospital or your doctor immediately. This can happen at any time of the day and you really need to be prepared for this. If it is in the middle of the night, this is something you can not suspend till the following morning.
At the hospital, examinations would be done and your doctor would check through your medical history and confirm the details of your present pregnancy status. One of the reasons your doctor would want to go through your medical history is to confirm if a similar thing happened in your previous pregnancies or if you have suffered miscarriages before. You may be required to give a sequential account of events that took place before you got to the hospital. Depending on the outcome of your doctor’s verification, you may be admitted into the antenatal ward where a number of tests would be conducted to check the possibility of infections such as urine tests, blood test, vaginal swab and amniocentesis.
A vaginal examination would be conducted on you by your doctor to determine whether your cervix is opening and shortening. Depending on the hospital you go, you may be required to do a vaginal ultrasound scan in order to see how long your cervix is. With a short cervix, this may be the indication you need to confirm that labor has started. Your doctor is not likely going to be able to stop labor when it is underway but if your pregnancy is less than 34 weeks, you can be given some drugs to delay the coming of your baby up to the time you would be transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital or another one if this facility is not available in your hospital.
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