• A Short Intro to Preterm Birth

    The typical pregnancy measures roughly 37 weeks from beginning to end. Any births that occur after week 20 but before week 37 are classified as ?preterm births.? Premature labor can be a frightening prospect for a parent. An infant born prematurely can miss out on significant and necessary fetal development, which means that preterm births can often present major health complications.

    That said, preterm births occur with surprising frequency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 births during the year of 2018 were preterm births. Preterm infants are less common than they used to be, but they still represent a statistically significant percentage of births.

    The more you know about preterm births, the better you?ll be able to assess risk and make informed decisions along the way. If you have any questions about your risk for preterm labor, talking to your OBGYN or midwife can help deliver clarity and reassurance.

    What is Premature Birth?

    Babies born between weeks 20 and 36 of pregnancy are considered to be premature or preterm. Such babies usually have unique challenges and complications, including low body weight. However, it is possible for a baby to be born underweight without necessarily being short of full term. Underweight births can present their own unique health challenges.

    If you think you are experiencing premature labor, it?s important that you contact a medical professional immediately. Prompt medical intervention is important for two critical reasons:

    Preterm Classifications

    Preterm births are usually broken down into four different categories:

    The preterm classification of a baby will help determine some of the immediate needs they may have. Of course, every baby will also be evaluated as an individual to see what unique medical requirements may be present.

    What Causes Preterm Birth?

    Scientists, researchers, and doctors have not been able to identify a single cause of preterm birth. Instead, most data can only illustrate specific risk factors. Some of those risk factors may include:

    This list is by no means exhaustive. You can talk to your midwife or OBGYN if you have questions about your preterm labor risk factors.

    It should also be noted that risk factors are statistical tools and not necessarily predictive. It?s entirely possible for a new mother to present several risk factors and enjoy an entirely healthy and normal labor. However, lowering the prevalence of risk factors can minimize the probabilities of a preterm birth..

    What Are the Dangers of Preterm Births?

    The dangers associated with preterm birth will vary considerably depending on the preterm classification. The earlier the baby is born, the more complications may arise. Positive outcomes increase substantially if the baby?s lungs have had a chance to develop fully. Generally, the most concerning complications include the following:

    Babies born before 32 weeks tend to have the highest rates of death and disability. Some of these dangers are acute and will need to be treated immediately. Other conditions could be chronic and need to be addressed over a longer period of time. Every birth is different, so if you have questions about the dangers of preterm birth, be sure to talk to your midwife or OBGYN.

    Can You Prevent Preterm Births?

    Because no one is sure entirely why they happen, no one can guarantee the prevention of any given preterm birth. However, there are some steps you can take to lower your overall risk profile.

    Your OBGYN or midwife will be able to provide personalized care instructions that will maximize your potential for a healthy, full term pregnancy.

    Managing Risks

    The prospect of a preterm birth or a preterm baby can be understandably frightening for parents. So it?s important to keep in mind that, as is the case with all pregnancies, the best approach is to adequately understand and appreciate the risks involved. That way, you can take measured action to minimize your risks where appropriate.

    To learn more about our obstetrics services please click here. If you have questions about preterm births, contact our Wilmette or Glenview offices to schedule an appointment today.