A premature birth increases the risk of potential complications in your baby, but unfortunately it also increases the chances of death. Generally babies born prematurely weight less than 5.5lbs.
In 1950 the neonatal death rate was about 2% per 1000 live births, but nowa days the rate is less than 1% over 1000 live births.
What are the causes of Premature Birth?
Unfortunately in most cases the causes of premature birth and labor are unknown, however there are a few reasons that we do know which may cause premature birth:
- Abnormally shaped uterus
- Multiple babies
- Polyhydramnios or hydramnios
- Placental abruption
- Placenta Previa
- Incompetent Cervix
- Severe maternal illness
Doctors will always try and find what may have caused premature labor, and in finding a possible cause further treatment may be more successful in preventing further cases of premature birth.
What tests are there for premature labor?
Your healthcare provider may run a test called SalEst to try and determine if you may be prone to premature birth. This test measures the levels of the hormone called estriol, as past cases have shown that there is often a surge of this hormone in the weeks prior to premature labor beginning.
A positive result may indicate that a women has up to 7 times more chance of going into labor prior to the 37th week of her pregnancy.
Treatment of Premature Labor
Once premature labor sets in there are a number of important questions which need to be asked:
- Is it better for the baby to remain in the uterus or to be delivered?
- Is the given gestational age of the baby correct?
- Is this really labor or just Braxton Hicks?
There are in fact now several methods which are used to treat premature labor. In most cases bed rest is used to try and prevent the labor from going any furtherand may actually do the trick.
There are also treatments that make use of medication. Beta-adrenergic agents may also be used to prevent labor from going any further. These medications relax the uterus and decrease contractions. At this time only Ritodrine is FDA approved to treat premature labor. Ritodrine is given in 3 forms; intravenously, a pill and as a tramuscular injection, although it is usually initially given intravenously.
There are a number of different side effects related to the use of Ritodrine:
- Rapid Heart Beat
- Increased Blood Sugar
- Lower blood potassium
- Fluid in the lungs
- Maternal metabolic changes
There are benefits in preventing premature labor from turning into premature birth like reduced fetal complications which may result from a premature birth.