Premature Birth Overview
Medical professionals suggest that premature birth is defined as one that occurs at least three weeks prior to the newborn’s expected due date. However, in many instances, premature births occur well before this period.
These events are differentiated into four separate categories:
- Late Preterm – These births occur between the 34th and 36th week of pregnancy.
- Moderate Preterm – This category applies to newborns arriving anywhere from their 32nd and 34th week of development.
- Very Preterm – Newborns in this category are born in their 32nd week of development.
- Extremely Preterm – These babies arrive during their mother’s 25th week of pregnancy or sooner.
There are several circumstances that might precipitate a premature birth. These can be broken down into:
- Health Concerns – Several health issues might precipitate premature birth such as being obese or underweight, being malnourished, having infections located within the reproductive tract and experiencing an underlying condition like diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Biological Issues – In some instances, untimely births occur because of biological issues like damaged reproductive organs or a prior history of premature birth or miscarriages.
- Lifestyle Habits – Women who smoke cigarettes or consume alcohol excessively during their pregnancy stand at an increased risk.
- Miscellaneous Issues – Other factors that might contribute to an early birth are expected multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.), experiencing a stressful life event and participating in artificial fertility methods such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Prematurely born infants could be subject to numerous health problems. Specific issues will depend upon how premature their birth is. Health issues could range from minor and correctable to severe birth defects and major cognitive function and developmental disturbances.
Potential Preventative Measures
Occasionally, premature births will be an act of nature that no preparation or preventative action could have prevented. Fortunately, however, in many instances, this potentially serious event may be prevented by following steps such as:
- Remain as Active as Possible – Granted, engaging in physical activity might present a greater challenge as pregnancy progresses. However, women might reduce their risk of premature births by partaking in light exercise such as walking.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight – It is crucial for expecting women to stay within the normal weight classes for someone of their height and physical build. Obesity, as well as being underweight, could precipitate numerous problems that might lead to early births.
- Manage Stress – Experiencing a stressful life event such as the death of a family member or a mental illness like anxiety and depression could exacerbate a newborn’s premature arrival. Ergo, expecting women are encouraged to engage in stress-alleviating hobbies or activities. Moreover, pregnant individuals are encouraged to obtain treatment for any existing mental health issue or receive a diagnosis for any underlying condition.
- Eliminate All Potentially Dangerous Vices – Expecting women are strongly advised to eliminate potentially detrimental habits like drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and using illicit drugs.
- Consume a Nutritious Diet – Eating a well-balanced diet consisting of produce, lean meats, whole grain products and curtailing intake of processed, canned or frozen foods, as well as items containing excessive amounts of sugar, salt and fat will decrease the chance of having a premature birth.
- Remain Properly Hydrated – Consuming healthy quantities of water is critical to ensuring proper bodily functions occur and could help strengthen the immune system and prevent potentially dangerous occurrences like infections.
- Obtain Frequent Medical Checkups – Expecting women are encouraged to receive frequent and thorough evaluations from their physicians and are strongly advised to report any untoward, unexpected or new physical manifestations to these medical professionals immediately. Additionally, pregnant individuals are encouraged to see their dentists during their terms. Dental problems could be the genesis of numerous potentially dangerous issues that could precipitate or exacerbate a condition that could lead to premature birth.
Related Content: The Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping
In the past, the common practice was to pass Dad the surgical scissors and have him perform a quick snip just before the newborn babe was whisked away to be cleaned, measured and dosed with vitamin K. Any delay in cord cutting was viewed as unnecessary in promoting general health for the baby or mother. However, recent research suggests that a delay of even three minutes can have a significant positive impact on infants.