Premature Birth: Meaning, causes, and treatment

Premature birth is when a baby is born more than three weeks before their due date. A typical pregnancy (foetal development) lasts about 40 weeks or nine months. Also called a preemie, or preterm birth occurs at 37 weeks or less and can be risky to both the mother and the baby's health.

Different levels of prematurity

There are different categories of prematurity depending on the birth timings of the baby. Some of these categories are listed below.

  • Late Preterm: Birth between 34th and 36th week.
  • Moderately Preterm: Birth between 32nd and 34th weeks.
  • Very Preterm: Birth occurring 32 weeks before the due date
  • Extremely Preterm: Birth before the 25th week of pregnancy.

Causes of premature birth?

There is no definite cause of premature birth. However, some factors put a woman at an increased risk of premature labour. Pregnant women with the following conditions are more likely to give birth prematurely.

  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease

Pregnancy-related factors that result in premature birth are:

  • Inadequate nutrition intake before and during pregnancy
  • Smoking, consuming drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
  • Infections of the urinary tract or the amniotic membrane
  • A previous pregnancy's premature birth
  • Uterus abnormalities or a weak cervix

Complications in premature babies

To develop healthily, a foetus must be carried to full term in the womb. They may not fully develop when they are born too soon. Preemie babies are more likely to suffer from heart, brain, lung, or liver problems such as:

  1. Brief hindrances during breathing while sleeping.
  2. Underdeveloped lungs
  3. Intestine inflammation.
  4. Low weight

Premature babies may also be born with potentially fatal conditions, such as:

  1. Pulmonary haemorrhage or bleeding in the lungs
  2. Brain haemorrhage or bleeding in the brain
  3. Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia
  4. Neonatal sepsis.
  5. Pneumonia
  6. Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome
  7. Anaemia
  8. Low red blood cell count

Diagnosis of Premature Birth

Different health issues require different tests and treatments. However, some of the most essential tests include:

  • Blood tests to check glucose, calcium, and bilirubin levels
  • Blood gas analysis to assess oxygen levels in the blood
  • X-ray of the chest to examine the growth of the lungs and heart.

Treatments For A Premature Birth

Premature babies frequently require specialised medical care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Some babies spend weeks or months in the NICU.

The primary goal of hospital treatment for preterm infants is to assist in the development of their important organs throughout the first few days and weeks of life.

The infant will be kept in an incubator with temperature control. The infant's blood oxygen levels, breathing rate, and heart rate are all observed.

Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding is typically possible until the baby is strong enough to suck and swallow. Babies are also fed crucial nutrients intravenously or via a tube introduced through the nose or mouth and into the stomach as they can't yet coordinate sucking and swallowing.

The use of a ventilator to pump oxygen, constant positive airway pressure, and an oxygen hood are also preferred if the premature baby's lungs aren't developed fully.

Preventing premature birth

Eating a nutritious diet not just during pregnancy but before as well can work wonders to improve overall health and prevent any pregnancy complications. Eat plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. You can also take folic acid, vitamin or calcium supplements at the behest of your doctor.

You must drink the recommended amount of water i.e. eight glasses every day and more if you work out regularly. If you suffer from high BP your doctor may prescribe 60-80 milligrams of aspirin daily.

You should also refrain from smoking, engaging in drug use, or abusing prescription medications. These activities while in pregnancy increase the risk of birth defects, premature births and miscarriages. Be sure to consult an expert healthcare provider to know better about ways to prevent premature birth.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Hyderabad - Kondapur. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. Are there any health issues for pregnant women due to premature birth?

The issues depend on your body condition, however, a premature baby can have a significant emotional impact on the entire family. People who give birth prematurely are more likely to have anxiety. depression after childbirth, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

2. Are there any long-term health issues for a pre-mature infant?

Premature babies are all at risk of long-term complications. Developmental, medical, and behavioural issues can persist throughout childhood. Some may even result in permanent disabilities such as hearing issues, loss of vision, physical and mental disabilities and delayed growth.

3. Who is at more risk of having premature birth?

Pregnant women who are younger than 17 or older than 35 are at a greater risk of giving birth prematurely.

4. What are the different levels of premature birth?

The different levels of premature birth include Late Preterm, Moderately Preterm, Very Preterm, and Extremely Preterm.

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