Being born prematurely is the leading cause of death among children younger than 5 years of age worldwide. Premature babies are more susceptible to various illnesses than infants born at full-term. It’s important to be aware of how prematurity and its consequences can affect infants so that every baby can be given the opportunity to survive against all odds.
Preterm Labor And Its Signs
When you go into labor well before the 37th week of pregnancy, it’s called a preterm labor. Following are the characteristic signs that indicate you are in preterm labor.1
- Excessive vaginal discharge
- Amniotic fluid leak
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Feeling pressure in the pelvis like the baby is trying to push downwards
- Periodic tightening, contractions or abdominal pain
- Lower back pain with or without diarrhea
It’s best to get help and rush to your doctor immediately so that you can avoid any unforeseen complications. Understand that many women feel Braxton Hicks contractions throughout pregnancy which is infrequent and irregular. There’s no need to freak out about these because that’s just your body adjusting to the pregnancy.2
Normal pregnancy is about 38–40 weeks long. When an infant is born anywhere between 20 and 37 weeks of pregnancy, it’s known as a preterm birth. It’s a major health crisis because the newborn isn’t fully developed, unlike babies who complete a full term.
They usually have health conditions that compromise their mental and physical development right from birth. Any baby who’s born before 34 weeks of pregnancy is at a much higher risk than those born after this period.3
Risk Factors For A Preterm Birth
Not all pregnancies can lead to a preterm birth. Several long-term studies have found that certain risk factors in expecting women can heighten the chances of a preterm birth.
- History of having a preterm birth in the past pregnancies
- Having a narrow and short cervix
- History of multiple pregnancies with a gap of less than 18 months
- Past history of surgeries on the cervix or uterus
- Smoking or substance abuse during pregnancy
- Poor dental hygiene with gum inflammation4
- Having systemic illnesses that affect vital organs
Management Of Babies Born Prematurely
Expert medical assistance is required for providing a premature newborn with a fighting chance for her survival.
- Babies born before 24 weeks of pregnancy have only 50% chances of survival.
- Babies born before 34 weeks of pregnancy are admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until they are certified fit.
- Babies born within 34 to 37 weeks may not require a stay in the NICU, if they do, they are not kept for long as they are mostly on the healthier side.
Ways To Prevent A Preterm Labor
A lot of the decisions you make during your pregnancy can play a major role in lowering the chances of a preterm labor. Following are the ways you can prevent a preterm labor.
- Have prenatal vitamins and follow a balanced diet with real foods.
- Make sure you don’t gain more than 25–35 pounds during pregnancy.
- Stay hydrated and keep sipping water at regular intervals whenever you are awake.
- Don’t hold your pee even if you feel like going a million times. Holding urine can lead to inflammation of the uterus and urinary tract which can lead to a preterm labor.
- Studies have found that not having proper oral health during pregnancy can increase the risk of going into a preterm labor.
- Practice the polar bear position daily for 15 minutes each 4 times in a day. This pose helps you to take pressure away from the cervix and avoid any chances of its dilatation. Practice exclusive yoga poses for pregnant women.5
- Don’t skip your monthly appointments with the gynecologist as you could be losing out on expert care and assistance during an important time.
17 November is commemorated as World Prematurity Day to raise awareness about this life-threatening health concern that affects infant health, across the world.
It’s important that we are all sensitized as a community about the risks and signs of preterm labor and birth so that we can prevent it.6
|↑1||Preterm (Premature) Labor and Birth. The American Congress Of Obstreticians And Gynecologists|
|↑2||Schleußner, Ekkehard. “The prevention, diagnosis and treatment of premature labor.” Deutsches Ärzteblatt International 110, no. 13 (2013): 227.|
|↑3||Moore, Mary Lou. “Preterm birth: a continuing challenge.” The Journal of perinatal education 11, no. 4 (2002): 37.|
|↑4||Saini, Rajiv, Santosh Saini, and Sugandha R. Saini. “Periodontitis: A risk for delivery of premature labor and low-birth-weight infants.” Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine 1, no. 1 (2010): 40.|
|↑5||Narendran, Shamanthakamani, Raghuram Nagarathna, Vivek Narendran, Sulochana Gunasheela, and Hongasandra Rama Rao Nagendra. “Efficacy of yoga on pregnancy outcome.” Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 11, no. 2 (2005): 237-244.|
|↑6||World Prematurity Day. World Health Organization|