There are various factors that can influence the amount of time your baby spends in the womb. From hereditary factors, genetic conditions, medical complications, and physical characteristics to outside influences including such things as physical injury or emotional trauma, drug and alcohol use, and poor diet.
Although modern medical technology has made an amazing number of advances that have greatly improved the survival rate of premature babies, it is extremely important for expectant mothers to understand the many risk factors which influence premature birth.
It is also important to remember, that sometimes, although an expectant mother does everything right and is without common risk factors, prematurity often happens for unexplainable reasons.
Between eight and ten percent of all pregnancies in the United States result in an early delivery. A full term human pregnancy lasts approximately forty weeks and a baby is considered to have been born prematurely if he or she was born before completing the thirty-seventh week in the womb.
Typically, the severity of the prematurity has a great impact on the medical and developmental complications premature babies face. While some early births result in perfectly developed infants with few or no complications, many premature babies are challenged with numerous health concerns due to the lack of time in the womb.
Common risk factors include:
- LMultiple babies- carrying more than one baby (twins, triplets, etc) can significantly increase the chances of a pregnancy resulting in premature delivery.
- Personal history- having a personal history of pregnancy that ended prematurely increases the chances that additional pregnancies will not continue to full term.
- Uterine or cervical complications- Cervical cancer, uterine separation, and other conditions can impact the amount of time a pregnancy continues.
- Health conditions- Diabetes, high blood pressure, and various other chronic heath conditions can influence the term of a pregnancy.
- Tobacco use- It is more common for women who smoke cigarettes to have a pregnancy that results in low birth weight of the infant and premature delivery.
- Alcohol use- The use of alcohol during pregnancy increases the chances of premature birth, and can have a major effect of the development of the fetus during pregnancy as well.
- Drug use Drug use is associated with an increased risk of pregnancy that results in premature birth.
- Certain types of infections- some types of infections experienced during pregnancy can increase the risk of the baby being born prematurely.
Warning signs of premature labor often include:
- Contractions of the uterus (tightening similar to cramping) that occurs every ten minutes or more often and continues regularly regardless of a change in position.
- Increases or changes in vaginal discharge including bleeding or "spotting", or discolored discharge.
- Pressure in the mother's pelvic area- often feeling like the baby is pressing against the pelvic area.
- Cramping that resembles menstrual cramping, with or without diarrhea.
- Persistent back ache, usually described as a dull ache in the lower back.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and drug use during your pregnancy.
- Attend medical check-ups regularly during your pregnancy.
- Actively seek medical treatment and advice for any warning signs or concerns you might have.
- Eat a healthy diet
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Observe restrictions that coincide with any health conditions you might have, and continue to treat conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.