How to identify the early symptoms of premature birth?

There is a higher risk of issues among kids who are born prematurely. Preterm babies tend to grow at a slower pace than full-term babies

By Dr Joshitha Naik

When your body starts to get ready for birth earlier than it is supposed to, you go into premature labor or preterm labor. If you go into labor three weeks before the due date, it is premature labor, which can result in early or premature birth. Thankfully, doctors can still help you to delay premature birth. Before the due date, the longer the baby grows inside the womb, the less likely it is that they would have problems after birth.

Risk factors for preterm labor and birth

Various things can increase the risk of preterm birth. Some of them include:

– Being underweight or overweight prior to getting pregnant
– Improper prenatal care
– Using drugs or consuming alcohol during pregnancy
– Smoking
– Health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, preeclampsia, infections, or blood clotting disorders
– Twin or multiple pregnancies
– Conceiving with the help of in-vitro fertilization
– Presence of certain birth defects in the baby
– Being pregnant again too soon after delivering a baby
– A personal or family history of preterm labor and birth

Look out for the warning signs

If you want to avoid the premature birth of your baby, you need to look out for the early symptoms of premature labor. You can make a huge difference by knowing the symptoms and acting fast on them when they appear. You should contact your healthcare provider if you have:

* Frequent contractions (every 10 minutes or even more)
* Backache, typically in the lower back. The backache may come and go, or be persistent. Regardless, you won’t get relief by doing something for comfort like changing positions
* Menstrual-like cramps or cramping in the lower abdomen, which may feel like the abdominal pain you experience during diarrhea
* Leaking of fluid from the vagina
* Increased pressure in the vagina or pelvis
* Vaginal bleeding
* Increased vaginal discharge

Some of these symptoms, such as backache, can be hard to differentiate from the usual pregnancy symptoms. Being cautious, however, is never wrong. If you notice any warning signs, you should have them checked out.

What happens if the baby is born early?

Around 10 per cent of babies are born prematurely. Most preterm babies, however, go on to live healthy lifestyles as they grow older and eventually get to be like those born full-term.

There is a higher risk of issues among kids who are born prematurely. Preterm babies tend to grow at a slower pace than full-term babies. There is an increased risk of some long-term health issues among premature babies like autism, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, hearing and vision loss, and lung issues.

The baby is more likely to have issues the earlier he/she is born. If a baby is born after 7 months, he/she would need to stay in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at the hospital for a short time. A baby who is born even earlier than that is at a much higher risk, and may need specialised care at the time of birth.

(The writer is a consultant, obstetrics and gynecology, at Apollo Cradle & Children’s Hospital, Jayanagar)

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