Premature babies

A child born between the 38th week of pregnancy and the 42nd week was born full term.

If a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy it is classed as premature.

It is around 22 - 24 weeks of pregnancy that a fetus is considered viable.

Babies born between 33 weeks and 37 weeks of pregnancy are more common and have excellent prognosis.

Between 32 and 34 weeks is the time at which the babies lungs mature, therefore these babies may require help with their breathing by means of a ventilator.

Approximately 7,000 children, are born between 27 and 33 weeks of pregnancy and will certainly require ventilation and care in a special baby care unit.

For babies born before 27 weeks of pregnancy there is a 50% risk of mortality and they can have significant problems

The number of babies born prematurely has steadily increased over the last few decades, with assisted conception and multiple pregnancies being more prominent.

Other reasons for the increasing number of premature babies

  • Women choosing to have babies later in life
  • Women working more
  • Development of assisted conception clinics

Risk Factors for premature labour

  • Women with twin or multiple babies
  • Pregnant woman with gestational diabetes
  • Pregnant woman with hypertension
  • History of miscarriages
  • Excessive smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Recreational drug use and abuse
  • Stunted fetus
  • Abnormalities of the placenta
  • Women who have previously undergone surgery on the uterus or cervix
  • Large fibroid or congenital malformation of the uterus
  • High fever
  • Vaginal Infections
  • Bleeding
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Demanding physical activity: prolonged periods of standing on their feet, commuting long distances and long hours, strenuous exercise, domestic violence and abuse.
  • Women from low social or economic backgrounds

Regular antenatal care and medical follow-ups are essential, especially during any pregnancy which is at risk. It is important the these 'at risk pregnancies' are closely monitored so that any threat of a premature labour can be identified and appropriate steps and care plans implemented to help prevent the possibility.

How to avoid a premature birth?

  • Attend ALL antenatal appointments, even if no abnormality has been found previously. This allows doctors to quickly identify any anomalies that might cause the threat of a premature delivery.
  • Seek medical advice immediately if you have a fever, any sign of infection or urgent symptoms all of which can cause contractions.
  • Do not take any medication without medical advice.
  • Seek urgent medical advice if you have early rupture of membranes or contractions.
  • Rest, work less... : In fact, excessive activity can cause contractions in the 6th or 7th month of pregnancy.

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