Pregnancy Fears: Premature Births

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A normal pregnancy is about 40 weeks long but when you are at risk of delivering prematurely, it is no doubt worrying.



A baby is born prematurely if the mother delivers before 37 weeks. Premature babies are more susceptible to health problems that may require them to stay in the hospital longer. They also face a higher risk of developing long-term health problems such as delays or difficulties with regard to their physical development, behaviour, school performance, and communication skills.


Why it Happens              

There are a number of reasons that may lead to a baby being born prematurely. “Premature birth may be because of premature labour or premature rupture of membranes (which may be precipitated by infections like urinary tract infection, or a short cervix, or multiple pregnancies), or babies could also be delivered prematurely because of medical reasons like intrauterine growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, etc.,” explains Dr Tony Tan, specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, Raffles Women’s Centre, Raffles Hospital.



Some of these causes of premature birth can be treated if identified early.



For example, mothers are routinely screened for urinary tract infection early on in their pregnancy. “We also screen for a short cervix at the 20-week scan. If the cervix is short, progesterone pessaries have been shown to reduce the risk of premature labour,” says Dr Tan, “Any patient with a past history of premature labour may also benefit from having weekly injections with progesterone to reduce the risk of premature labour.”  


Spot the Signs  

There are several symptoms you can look out for to figure out if you are going through premature labour. “Look out for intermittent regular painful menstrual-like cramps in the lower abdomen or at the back. These might be painful uterine contractions. If there is any leakage of clear fluid from the vagina or blood from the vagina, these may also be warning signs of impending premature labour,” says Dr Tan.



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