Understanding preterm birth: what it is?
Preterm births are a leading cause of death amongst young children in India. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 450,000 babies were born preterm in India which is equivalent to 12% of all live births. This article will provide an overview of the causes, symptoms, complications, and treatments of preterm birth.
What Is Preterm Birth?
Preterm birth typically refers to a baby born before 37 completed weeks of gestation. A normal full-term pregnancy normally lasts from 38 to 42 weeks gestation. Any birth prior to that is preterm or premature. Babies born before the 28th week are referred to as ‘very premature’ or ‘extremely preterm’. They also require more intensive care than those born later in the third trimester.
What Causes Preterm Birth?
The cause of preterm birth varies from woman to woman. It can be divided into four categories: infection, spontaneous labor, multiple pregnancy, and medical complications. Infections, including bacterial infections such as Group B Streptococcus (GBS) and urinary tract infections, are one common cause. Along with this is inflammation or sepsis.
What Are The Symptoms Of Preterm Birth?
- Strong Uterine Contractions at Regular Intervals: One common symptom of preterm birth is having contractions that start at regular intervals. These contractions occur more frequently than Braxton-Hickslabor contractions, which will typically start and stop
- Lower Back Pain or Pelvic Discomfort: Another typical sign of preterm birth to watch out for is lower back pain or pelvic discomfort (if it feels like your hips are being spread open). This type of pain can be accompanied by other abdominal discomforts such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Vaginal Spotting: If you notice a small amount of vaginal spotting or bleeding, talk with your doctor immediately. It could indicate problems such as infection or placenta previa. You should also notice if you pass blood clots larger than a quarter inch or four cents piece size
- Leaking Amniotic Fluid: You should also seek help if you think your water has broken before 37 weeks. This leaking amniotic fluid is another warning sign that you might be going into preterm labor. Both light wetness around your underwear and heavy gushes may indicate that you’re leaking amniotic fluid. This requires immediate medical attention as continuing pregnancy becomes less likely after water breaks. Even with proper medication given by health professionals.
- Regular Blood Pressure Checks: In cases where premature rupture of membranes (PROM) has occurred prior to 37 weeks gestational age, regular blood pressure checks are recommended for monitoring maternal hypertension – an indication that could put both mothers’ lives in danger if left untreated. This can help identify underlying issues early on so expectant mothers can receive appropriate care from their healthcare provider before any major event occurs during the childbirth process.
The Consequences of Preterm Birth
Premature babies are more likely to have serious medical issues such as difficulty breathing, organ dysfunction, learning disabilities, and long-term developmental delays that can last into adulthood. Very premature babies also have higher mortality rates compared to those who reach full-term development with appropriate interventions in place. Depending on gestational age at delivery and other prenatal factors, a baby might need additional care after birth such as respiratory support (such as oxygen), tube feeding, or breathing therapy.
Consequences for Mother & Baby
Sometimes even after the delivery has been completed successfully there might still be repercussions due to premature birth. According to a National Institute Of Health study “Of infants born between 20–32 weeks’ gestation who survive delivery hospitalization, 43% had at least 1 moderate/severe morbidity at 36 weeks’ postmenstrual age”. Common impairments among these are pulmonary issues like respiratory distress syndrome. As well as immature neurological connections related to vision hearing language development and attention deficit disorder even later in life. While some mothers experience little beyond transient difficulties such as episiotomy healing others may face more severe long-term consequences. Including incontinence pain sensation loss in sexual function changes accompanied by psychological impairment. This is why it is important for women who give birth prematurely to remain closely monitored until their health returns back to usual levels.
How Can Parents Detect Preterm Birth Risk?
Knowing the signs associated with preterm labor can help parents proactively seek treatment or take preventative measures to protect their children from being prematurely born. These warning signs include abdominal cramps, uterine pains accompanied by vaginal bleeding, leaking amniotic fluid, or regular contractions that make it difficult to talk through them or change position while they occur – four signs which should immediately alert you to call your healthcare provider right away if diagnosed during your doctor visits routinely throughout your child’s pregnancy journey so far!
Ultimately, becoming familiar with preterm birth risks helps increase an expectant mother’s preparedness for childbirth outcomes —familiarity with these scenarios helps ensure the best possible care for her newborn baby once it arrives safely into this world after completing full-term pregnancies!
What Are The Treatments Of Preterm Birth?
- Monitoring Baby’s Vital Signs: Babies born prematurely have much more delicate organs, so doctors will closely monitor their vitals to make sure everything is working as it should be. This includes heart rate and respiratory rate, blood pressure, temperature readings, oxygen saturation, and oxygen therapy if needed.
- Administration of Nutrients Intravenously: Babies who are born prematurely may not be able to feed orally yet because their digestive system is still developing.
- Indirect Calorimetry Tests to Measure Energy Expenditure: Indirect calorimetry tests measure a baby’s oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output which allows doctors to monitor how many calories they are receiving and how they must adjust nutrients accordingly. This helps ensure that babies maintain optimal calorie intake in order to reach appropriate growth milestones post-birth.
- Additional Therapies Based on Developmental Needs: Typically prematurity can lead to delays in physical development such as gross motor skills. To help these babies reach their fullest potential physical therapists will utilize various therapies. Such as positioning aids (mats or beds), and strengthening exercises for weak areas like arms and legs. Also some range of motion activities during baths or other quiet times throughout the day.
- Short-Term Treatments: The most common short-term procedures used to treat preterm infants include providing oxygen therapy or an artificial surfactant. This help with breathing difficulties caused by immature lungs. Some medications may also be given intravenously or orally to reduce inflammation, prevent infection, and control symptoms.
- Long-Term Treatments: In some cases where more severe complications occur due to prematurity, long-term treatments may be necessary. In order to improve the quality of life and help premature infants reach developmental milestones normally. Long-term treatments often involve physical and occupational therapy sessions in order for a preemie’s muscles or organs that were not fully developed at birth to catch up with those typically seen in full-term babies.
- Alternative Treatments: In addition to traditional medical and therapeutic approaches, there are alternative treatments available for treating premature infants such as aromatherapy and massage therapy which have been found helpful in easing pain levels and helping them sleep better while remaining calm during uncomfortable medical procedures like heel pricks or chest X-Rays.
Delaying Preterm Births
There are a variety of treatments available depending on the severity, timing, and cause of preterm labor. These include medicating with drugs or IV fluids, bed rest, and lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or reducing stress levels. As well as surgical procedures such as a cesarean section in certain cases. Certain factors can put mothers at higher risk for premature births than others. These include being pregnant with multiples and having had a previous preterm birth. Working in a job that involves heavy lifting, having high blood pressure, smoking, or using drugs.
Managing Labor and Delivery During Preterm Births
If preterm labor does occur then delivery must take place immediately due to individual circumstances. Specialists will consider factors like whether there are any existing medical conditions that could affect the pregnancy along with gestational age. This includes administering special medications depending on how early the baby was born that may assist with maintaining fluid balance in the body. This will also help reduce edema.
What is the status of Preterm Births in India in 2023?
The prevalence of preterm birth in India for 2023 is slightly lower than it was in 2019. However, it still remains a significant public health problem nationwide. According to data from The National Family Health Survey (2015-16), approximately 10% of infants have preterm births each year across Indian states. With the highest rates seen amongst mothers between 18-35 years of age. Furthermore, evidence suggests that this problem disproportionately affects rural areas where access to adequate antenatal care and medical treatment.
The Final Takeaway,
Here’s what you need to know about preterm birth prevention and how to take care of a preterm baby if they’re born early:
- Regular Doctor Appointments During Pregnancy
- Stay Healthy and Stress-Free
- Know The Signs of Premature Labour
- Seek Support from Others
- Ensure Proper Follow-up Care After Preterm Delivery
Giving birth prematurely can be a daunting experience, both for the mother and for those closest to her. For this reason, it is important to ensure that the mother is healthy during her pregnancy so as to avoid the risks of preterm births.