Preterm delivery is responsible for 75% of all neonatal deaths
Preterm or premature delivery is a birth that occurs before 37 weeks of the pregnancy or more than three weeks before a baby's due date. Throughout the course of a 40-week pregnancy, there are many important developments including the final months and weeks of the pregnancy.
How premature birth affects babies
Experts don’t know all the reasons that some babies are born too early. Certain risk factors can increase the chance that a woman will have a preterm birth. However, it's possible to still have a premature birth even without any known risk factors.
A premature or preterm baby is more likely to have certain complications such as brain and lung issues, bowel problems, jaundice, and longer hospital stays. The more preterm a baby is born, the more severe his or her health problems are likely to be. Although babies born very preterm are a small percent of all births, preterm delivery is the most frequent cause of infant deaths. Some premature babies require special care and spend weeks or months hospitalized in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Premature babies who survive may face lifelong problems such as:
- Intellectual disabilities
- Cerebral palsy
- Breathing and respiratory problems
- Vision and hearing loss
- Feeding and digestive problems
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Risk factors for preterm labor that exist before you get pregnant
- Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy or not gaining enough weight during pregnancy
- Having high blood pressure, preeclampsia, diabetes, or thrombophilias (blood clotting disorders)
- Having a sexually transmitted disease or other infections of the uterus, urinary tract, or vagina
- Having a family history of premature birth. This means someone in your family (like your mother, grandmother or sister) has had a premature baby. If you were born prematurely, you’re more likely than others to give birth early
- Exposure to the medicine DES, a man-made form of the hormone estrogen. This includes being exposed to DES in the womb (if your mother took DES when she was pregnant with you)
Risk factors for premature birth during pregnancy
- Bleeding from the vagina in the second or third trimester
- Preterm premature rupture of the membranes (also called PPROM). This is when the sac around the baby breaks early, causing labor to start
- Being pregnant after in vitro fertilization (also called IVF). IVF is a fertility treatment used to help women get pregnant.
- Being pregnant with a baby who has certain birth defects, like congenital heart defects or spina bifida
- Getting pregnant too soon after having a baby
Lifestyle risk factors for preterm delivery
- Smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs, or abusing prescription drugs
- Having a lot of stress in your life, including having little education, low income, being unemployed, or having little support from family and friends
- Being single
- Domestic violence: This is when your partner hurts or abuses you. It includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
- Working long hours or having to stand a lot
- Being exposed to pollutants, like air pollution and harmful chemicals at work
If you've experienced preterm delivery before, you should wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. Talk to your doctor about how long to wait between pregnancies if you're older than 35, or if you've had a miscarriage or stillbirth.
How this premature birth risk test works
Although most babies born a few weeks early usually do well with no health consequences, the earlier they are born, the more health problems they will have. This premature birth risk calculator was designed by Dr. Amos Grunebaum to help you assess and calculate your risk of having a preterm birth. We'll also show you preventative measures to take to safeguard your pregnancy.
Preventing Preterm Birth
The Effects of Premature Labor on Your Baby
Labor, Delivery, and Birth Guide