Preterm or premature labour is when labour comes earlier than expected during pregnancy. This is usually before 37 weeks but after 20 weeks. It is termed as a miscarriage at 20 weeks or less. Every woman looks forward to holding her baby in her hands and usually envisions labour pains coming on at the right time when her baby is physically ready to see the world.
This doesn’t always happen though. Research shows that about 11 percent of all pregnant women end up having premature labour. This figure is not that bad but considering that millions of women fall pregnant every year, the actual numbers may still be quite many.
Possible causes of Preterm labour or Premature labour
- Pregnancies too close together
Women who wait longer to get their next baby have a lower chance of going through preterm labour. The recommended amount of time is 18 months. This is because a recent study showed that 20 percent of women who take less than a year to get their next child will have their baby before 37 weeks. This figure drops to 10 percent for those who wait between a year to 18 months and drops even further to 8 percent for those who wait longer than 18 months.
- Alcohol, smoking and drug use
These habits increase the risk of a miscarriage, preterm labour and also increase the risk of having a baby with low birth weight. This happens because the toxins from these substances may cross the placenta and reduce the baby’s oxygen supply and it is necessary for growth.
- Physical abnormalities in the uterus or cervix
A short cervix or one that doesn’t stay closed as it should during pregnancy could cause problems during pregnancy. A uterus that is not properly formed, is too large or has any other physical problems can lead to an early birth.
- Complications related to pregnancy
Some of these include placenta praevia, preeclampsia, placental abruption, gestational diabetes and too much amniotic fluid.
- Gum disease
Pregnancy hormones make pregnant women more at risk of periodontal disease and, in pregnant women, it does more than just hurt gums. A section of specialists are of the opinion that the bacteria that cause the inflammation in the gums may skip over into the mother’s bloodstream and cause havoc with the foetus. Another school of thought is that the bacteria that cause the inflammation in the gums can alert the immune system to cause inflammation in the uterus and cervix and this may trigger premature labour.
Science says that stress from a traumatic experience could trigger labour. You can relax knowing that your crazy hormones and having your day messed up with will not cause you to go into labour before time.
Very young mothers (less than 17) and those older than 35 are more susceptible to preterm labour. This means that doctors will usually consider their pregnancies ‘high risk’ even when they seem healthy and strong.
- Carrying multiple babies
The more they are, the sooner they seem to want to see the world.
- Occupational reasons
Women who have to spend long hours standing or doing heavy work are more likely to give birth prematurely than those who don’t.
- A history of premature labour
If it has happened before chances are that you may have another preterm birth.
- If you were born prematurely
About 14.2 percent of women who were born prematurely are at risk of having premature babies themselves, according to a 2015 study.
Keeping it at bay
Doctors may have a difficult time treating premature labour but thankfully, you can try a few things to keep it at bay.
- Keep your babies more than 18 months apart.
- Get a thorough check up to find out and treat any conditions you may have.
- Watch your weight, cut down on smoking, drinking and drugs not prescribed by the doctor.
- Maintain good oral hygiene.
- Eat well and often and be sure to take your prenatal vitamins. Stay hydrated while you’re at it since dehydration can cause premature contractions.