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Preterm Delivery

A full-term pregnancy will keep the baby inside uterus for 38 to 42 weeks before delivery occurs. If delivery starts between 20 to 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is defined as preterm delivery.

Preterm babies tend to have long-term health problems as their organs, especially the heart and lungs, are not fully develop and mature after birth. Babies who are born before 24 weeks of pregnancy have slim chance to survive. But if the pregnant women manage to carry their babies at least until 32 weeks of pregnancy, their babies will have less problems than those who born earlier. The earlier the delivery, the greater the risk of serious problems for the baby.

The Cause

Preterm delivery may happen to every pregnant women, despite they are healthy and do "all the right things". Most of the time, preterm delivery starts spontaneously before term and the cause is not known. However, the risk factors that listed below may put a pregnant woman at greater risk of preterm delivery.

Previous preterm delivery.
Certain pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure and leaking of protein in the urine) and placenta abruptio (separation of the placenta from the uterine wall before delivery).
Infections such as urinary tract infection, uterine infection and infection in the bladder.

Abnormalities of the baby, cervix, uterus or placenta.

Smoking, abusive of alcohol or drug during pregnancy.

Multiple pregnancy (carry more than one baby).

Premature rupture of membrane (PROM): breaking of the water bag before delivery starts.
Cervical incompetent (inability of cervical canal to close firm during pregnancy) which might be treated with cervical cerclage.
Lack of antenatal medical care.
Underweight before getting pregnant.
Under 18 or over 40 years of age.

The Risks on Baby

As mentioned above, preterm babies tend to have health problems which may be long-lived or even life-threatening. The earlier your baby is born prematurely, the greater the risk he will have long term health problems. The risks of preterm baby include:

Respiratory distress syndrome (have breathing difficulty): The newborn may need ventilator support.
Difficulties in feeding and keeping warm. The newborn may need special medical care and incubator support.
Greater risk of getting infections.

Death, because the baby is too small and not strong enough to live.

Tend to have long-term health problems such as blindness, cerebral palsy, learning difficulty and walking difficulty.

Signs and Symptoms of Preterm Delivery

Having signs and symptoms of delivery before expected due date (EDD) does not necessary mean that you will deliver soon. Some of those who experience signs and symptoms of delivery before EDD manage to carry their pregnancy to term. However, if you are experiencing the signs and symptoms as listed below, go to the hospital immediately and let your doctor diagnoses if you are in preterm delivery or just having contractions. The doctor will try to delay the delivery if possible.

1. Uterine contractions that do not go away.
2. Constant menstrual-like cramping.
3. Pain in the lower back, pelvis area and lower abdomen that does not go away.
4. Water leaking from vagina which is pink or red colour.

Feel that baby is pushing down.



Delay the delivery with medication.

2. If your water bag is broken, medication will be given to you to prevent infection.

Corticosteroid is given to you to help the baby's organs to mature.

4. Allow the delivery to go on if both mother and baby are safer after delivery.

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