Pregnancy Vivian | 26 Aug 2010 04:13 am

Preterm Labor And Birth

Preterm birth is when the birth of the baby occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy. Usually doctors count the gestation period from the first day of the woman’s last normal menstrual period. In contrast a full term baby is usually born within 2 weeks of the due date, which is 40 weeks after the last menstrual period.

Preterm babies are great risk when they are born and studies have shown that these babies are at 10 times greater risk of contracting problems like vision and hearing complications, chronic lung diseases, and cerebral palsy.

Before having a preterm birth, a woman first has a preterm labor which is regular contractions of the uterus coupled with a change in the amount of opening and thinning of the cervix before the 37th week of pregnancy. However, it has been seen that nearly half the women diagnosed with preterm labor go on to have a full term pregnancy without any medical treatment or intervention.

It is not known why preterm labor and birth happens but sometimes due to malformation of the uterus or cervix can be associated with this issue. Another cause of preterm labor is the premature rupture of membranes and when the fluid leaks out, labor usually occurs within few days. Another possible cause could be infections in the vagina, cervix or uterus which causes the membranes to become weak and rupture causing preterm labor and birth.

In the United States nearly 10 percent of newborns are born too early and these births account for 75 percent of newborn deaths which are not related to malformations. Although over the last few decades there have been significant improvement in newborn intensive care, newborn mortality rate has decreased dramatically but there has been no reduction in the number of preterm births.

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