Premature birth: your comprehensive guide

A woman's normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks since her last menstrual period, but childbirth may occur early before her due date, so what is a premature birth? How is it handled?

Premature birth: your comprehensive guide

When a baby is born alive before the 37th week of pregnancy, the condition is called a premature birth. Here are more specifics about it:

premature birth

It is the birth of a child before completing the 37th week of pregnancy. There are three main categories for premature birth:

  • Prematurity in adults: less than 28 weeks.
  • Extreme prematurity: between 28-32 weeks.
  • Intermediate prematurity: 32-37 weeks.

Causes of premature birth

Premature birth can occur for a variety of reasons and factors, some of which include the following:

  • the mother's history of illness leading to premature birth.
  • a cervix injury in the past.
  • multiple pregnancy
  • placental abruption
  • placenta previa.
  • smoking or using stimulants like cocaine or other drugs.
  • pregnancy-related lack of prenatal care for the mother.
  • the fetus's having congenital abnormalities.
  • Poor fetal growth.
  • a difference between the amount of amniotic fluid, either too little or too much.
  • Premature rupture of membranes.

Symptoms of premature birth

Premature birth symptoms may differ from one patient to another, but what distinguishes these symptoms is that they occur before the 37th week of pregnancy. These signs include the following:

  1. The feeling of the pregnant woman with frequent contractions in the abdomen, and the frequency of these contractions more than 4 times an hour.
  2. Dull pain in the abdomen.
  3. Feeling of heaviness or pressure in the abdomen or pelvis.
  4. Presence of vaginal bleeding .
  5. Preterm rupture of membranes This condition is characterized by the outflow of amniotic fluid from the vagina.

Diagnosis of premature birth

Premature birth must be diagnosed by gathering the mother's medical history, performing a clinical examination, and running a few laboratory and radiological tests.

Some of the following procedures may be carried out by the doctor in order to diagnose a premature birth:

1. A pelvic clinical examination

The doctor will examine the pregnant mother's pelvis to make sure there is an expansion of the cervix or the rupture of the amniotic membrane. In order to confirm that the mother's uterus is experiencing contractions, the doctor will also examine it.

2. Ultrasound examination

The physician will use an ultrasound machine to ensure that the cervix has expanded. The ultrasound machine can also be used to check the amount of amniotic fluid present, the location of the placenta, and the position of the foetus.

3. Non-stress cardiotocogram

Although not specifically for preterm birth, this test is a first step in making sure the foetus is safe.

4. Pap and vaginal smear

This is so the doctor can check for fibronectin, a substance that can tell the difference between true labour pain and premature labour.

When combined with an ultrasound exam, the foetal fibronectin test has a high predictive value because the presence of both fibronectin and cervix dilation strongly suggests that the foetus will give birth soon.

Diagnostic criteria for preterm birth

The presence of uterine contractions 4 times every 20 minutes or 8 times every hour, as well as any of the following, are necessary for the diagnosis of a preterm birth.

  1. Cervical dilatation of 3 cm or more.
  2. The length of the cervix is ​​less than 20 millimeters. 
  3. The length of the cervix is ​​between 20-30 millimeters, in addition to the presence of fetal fibronectin.

Dealing with premature birth

The effect of premature birth on the fetus is concentrated in two organs, the lungs and the brain. The pregnant doctor may administer the following medications to prevent premature birth:

  • corticosteroids

If the premature birth occurred before the 34th week, corticosteroids are given to the mother to help the fetus's lungs finish developing.

  • magnesium sulfate

If the baby was born before the 32nd week, the doctor might give the mother magnesium sulphate to prevent cerebral palsy and protect the baby's brain from harm.

  • Uterine contraction blockers

It is possible to use uterine spasms for up to 48 hours to give the steroids time to continue promoting lung growth.

  • Antibiotics

If a premature birth is followed by an early membrane rupture, antibiotics may be administered. This is because an early membrane rupture increases the risk of chorioamnionitis.

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