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All About Premature Labor


Any baby born before 37 weeks of gestation is considered a premature birth. A woman can eat all the right foods, attend every prenatal appointment and overall be in good health but still have her baby before her due date. In fact, the American Pregnancy Association shared that up to 12 percent of all pregnancies end in premature labor. For many pregnant women, this term is scary. Quell your fears with this closer look into what it all means:

  • Preterm labor
  • While a full pregnancy lasts around 40 weeks, preterm labor occurs when a woman goes into labor before 37 weeks. The cervix begins opening and telling the woman to push. In some situations where the woman seeks medical care, physicians decide to stop the labor with medications and bed rest. When the child comes to full term, they may induce the woman into labor. Not all preterm labors are stopped. Many first-time moms, for example, go into labor a week or two early. They are usually able to have the baby without any damaging affects to mother or child.

  • Premature babies
  • Children that are born prematurely are often referred to as preemies. A baby that is born two weeks early has developed enough to handle the outside world. However, babies that are born significantly early, like after only 25 weeks of gestation, are at serious risks of developmental issues and potentially death. If a woman goes into labor early, her obstetrician will decide ways to keep the baby in the womb so it can continue growing. Another common option is to birth the baby and constantly monitor him or her in a neonatal hospital unit to provide the best chances for survival.

  • Risks of premature labor
  • There isn't always a particular reason why a woman goes into labor early. She may be completely healthy and still give birth a week or more before her due date. There are, however, a few risk factors that increase a woman's likelihood of delivering a baby via preterm labor. Many women who are pregnant with multiples or who have given birth prematurely in the past will go into labor early.

    The Mayo Clinic noted that issues with a woman's placenta, cervix or uterus may also cause premature birth. Women who receive limited prenatal care, have pregnancy complications like vaginal bleeding, fetal birth defects or preeclampsia are also at a heightened risk of going into labor prematurely. Also, women who have preexisting conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes may go into preterm labor.

All of these potential risks can sound scary, so talk with your doctor to learn if you have any potential risk factors of giving birth prematurely. Discuss any concerns you have about premature labor to calm your nerves. Consider your risks when creating a birth plan so you are prepared if the time to give birth comes early.

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