A common question among parents of premature babies and even those who are not yet premature: What do we do or don’t do as parents to make our little one premature? Is there a way to prevent it? Questions that soon appear in our minds, but that do not always have an answer.
A baby is considered premature or preterm when it is born before 37 weeks of gestation. Babies are usually born between the 38th and 42nd week of gestation, with the 40th week being the ideal. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born prematurely every year, that is, one in 10. In Spain the story is no different, 10% of births are premature.
The causes? Well, the increase in premature births has to do with some population factors, and others beyond our understanding. For example, in Spain, women become mothers around the age of 32, which implies an increase in assisted reproduction techniques, and therefore a higher number of multiple pregnancies.
Multiple pregnancies are prone to prematurity, and this, together with the complications derived from delayed childbearing age, work stress, and bad habits in general, has caused a 200% increase in premature births during the last 20 years.
But beyond the aforementioned circumstances there are other risk factors such as
– Having had a previous premature birth.
– Abnormalities in the uterus or cervix.
– Being younger than 17 or older than 35.
– Having chronic diseases such as heart, kidney, or thyroid disease.
– Drug use or being a smoker.
During pregnancy, situations can occur that favor premature delivery
– Placenta previa or placental abruption.
– Eclampsia and preeclampsia.
– Urinary tract infections.
– Consumption of drugs or alcohol and smoking.
– Fetal malformations.
Now the most recurrent question, what can I do to prevent preterm labor? Sometimes a healthy lifestyle and the support of specialists will be enough to carry the pregnancy to term. A healthy diet will help to avoid the development of diseases such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Monitoring during pregnancy will allow early detection of any risk factors such as placenta previa or preterm labor.
The good news is that treatment is available to help the fetus grow and the pregnancy reach 38 weeks. In addition, the mortality rate of premature babies has decreased considerably over the last few years. Between 1990 and 2014, premature infant deaths in Spain were reduced by half. It is important to keep in mind that a premature baby can achieve full development despite complications at birth.
Premature babies should have a correct medical control during the first five years of life, involving specialists such as pediatricians, cardiologists, pulmonologists, neurologists, gastroenterologists, among others. Despite the challenges of parenting a premature baby, be confident that your little one will lead a full life.