In general, most pregnancies last about 40 weeks. So what determines whether a birth is premature? According to the Mayo Clinic, a premature birth is when delivery comes more than three weeks before the due date.
The dangers in premature births lie in the fact that the baby has not had enough time to develop fully in the womb. Of course, there are risks if such is the case. What are the risks and what can be done if you find that you are going into labor too early? Firstly, the Mayo Clinic lists symptoms so that preterm labor can be identified right away.
Early signs may include:
• Contractions that occur more than eight times each hour — you'll feel a tightening sensation in your abdomen, often reminiscent of menstrual cramps
• Low, dull backache
• Pelvic pressure or pain
• Vaginal spotting or bleeding
• Watery vaginal discharge — this may be amniotic fluid, which surrounds your baby in the uterus
When you start experiencing any of the above, it is best to seek medical help as soon as possible. If the doctors find that you are going into labor too early, more than likely, your doctor will attempt to delay it. The Mayo Clinic indicates that even if the delay is just a few days, this may be just enough time to allow for much needed growth.
No one really knows what causes premature births, but there are clear-cut risk factors such as:
• Having a previous preterm labor or premature birth
• Pregnancy with twins, triplets or other multiples
• An interval of less than six months between pregnancies
• Conceiving through in vitro fertilization
• Problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta
• Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs
• Poor nutrition
• Some infections, particularly of the amniotic fluid and lower genital tract
• Some chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
• Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy
• Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or domestic violence
• Multiple miscarriages or abortions
• Physical injury or trauma