Symptoms and Causes of Premature Birth


Most mothers-to-be don’t expect to go into labor early. But the fact is, more than 1 in 10 babies are born early worldwide. This is problematic because organs and systems vital for sustaining life may not yet be fully developed. Fortunately, there have been many astounding medical advances that can sustain the life of a baby until the organs have sufficiently developed, as well as a growing understanding of possible causes of premature birth.

Cause of premature birth

There is a plethora of reasons a pregnant woman can start early labor causing premature birth. The following are some of the most common:

  • Smoking
  • Being extremely under or overweight before pregnancy
  • Using illegal drugs or drinking alcohol during pregnancy
  • Mom having health conditions, such as preeclampsia, high blood pressure, infections, or diabetes
  • Baby having certain birth defects
  • Being pregnant from in-vitro fertilization
  • Being pregnant with multiples
  • A family history of premature labor
  • Getting pregnant too soon after having a baby
  • Being younger than 17 or older than 35

This doesn’t mean that if you happen to fit one or several of these descriptions that they will positively result in premature birth. Perfectly healthy pregnant women often start preterm labor without any previous indications she might do so. Sometimes preterm labor resulting in premature birth is simply unexplainable.

Symptoms of preterm labor

Knowing the symptoms of preterm labor and getting help quickly can make a significant difference in avoiding (or minimizing the risks of) the premature birth of your baby. These are some signs you may be experiencing preterm labor:

  1. Backache – Usually in your lower back, this pain won’t lessen when you change positions but it may be constant or come and go
  2. Contractions every 10 minutes or less
  3. Cramping – Menstrual-like cramps in your lower abdomen
  4. Leaking fluid or increased discharge from the vagina
  5. Vaginal bleeding
  6. Increased pressure in pelvis or vagina
  7. Flu-like symptoms – Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

You can’t be too cautious when it comes to learning the facts about premature births and recognizing these early labor symptoms. Most importantly, check with your doctor or midwife if you think you might be facing preterm labor.

Can labor be stopped?

Thankfully, there are some actions a physician can recommend to stop or slow labor. Once he/she has confirmed that you have begun preterm labor, he/she may suggest:

  • Bed rest
  • IV fluids
  • Antibiotics
  • Tocolytic medicines – These slow or stop labor contractions, if only for a few days, which you can use to begin corticosteroid treatments and get near a hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
  • Antenatal corticosteroids (ACS) are administered to help speed up your baby’s lung development, which decreases the likelihood of breathing problems your baby will experience as a result of premature birth. For babies, the lungs are among the last of the organs to fully develop during pregnancy, which is why most babies born prematurely have challenges breathing.

If preterm labor can’t be stopped, your doctor or midwife will prepare to deliver your baby. The thought of your baby undergoing premature birth may reasonably seem overwhelming. Babies born early often require more care than full term newborn babies, but there are many supportive resources available to help parents with premature babies.

Visit this article for expert advice on what to expect after your preemie delivery.


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