Typically, a pregnancy is supposed to last up to 9 months. However, when a birth occurs more than 3 weeks (or prior to the start of the 37th week of pregnancy) before your due date, this is known as premature birth (preterm labour.) Preterm labour happens when the contractions of the uterine causes the cervix to open earlier than it should. In most cases, babies that are born prematurely go on to grow and develop as normal; this is due, in part, to the advances that have been made in health care over the years. However, not all premature births are without risk.
There are many risk factors that can lead to premature birth. While some of those risk factors can be decreased, others cannot. For example, certain lifestyle habits can play a significant role in whether or not a pregnancy will last full-term. Doing illegal drugs, smoking or drinking alcohol not only put the mother at risk of going into preterm labour, but also put the baby at risk of health problems. Stress, too, can also lead to premature birth. In order to protect not only your own health, but the health of your child, it is important to make positive, healthy changes to your lifestyle. For help on making those changes, reach out to your family physician.
If you do not have a family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary is available to provide care to patients on a walk-in basis at Brentwood Medical Clinic. You can find his walk-in schedule by visiting the clinic’s website at brentwoodwalk-inclinic.com. You can also find Dr. Ali Ghahary’s schedule on his own website at alighahary.ca.
Women who have previously experienced preterm labour are also at a higher risk of experiencing it with future pregnancies. Studies have also shown that multiple gestations (such as being pregnant with twins or triplets, etc.) also put the mother at a higher risk of preterm labour – in fact, as many as 50% of premature births occur with multiple gestations, whereas that number is significantly lower with the birth of a single infant – at just 10%.
There are also certain medical conditions that can lead to preterm labour. Some of these medical conditions include having high blood pressure, a history of UTI’s (urinary tract infections), STI’s (sexually transmitted infections), being under or overweight, diabetes, IVF (in vitro fertilization), and more. Mothers of certain ages and ethnicities are also more likely to go into preterm labour.
As mentioned previously, not all premature births are without risk. Babies that are both prematurely are at risk of developing respiratory problems, heart problems, brain problems, jaundice, and anemia – though the list of risks is much longer. Premature babies are also at a much greater risk of developing infections, such as pneumonia or sepsis, due to their immune systems not yet being fully formed.
In order to ensure that your baby receives the best care possible, they may be required to stay in-hospital for an extended period of time. This is to ensure that they are able to breathe on their own, are at a healthy weight (at least 4 pounds) and can gain weight steadily, can keep warm on their own without the use of an incubator, and are able to breastfeed or bottle-feed.