Premature birth

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What is a premature birth?

The definition of premature or preterm baby is one that is born before 37 weeks gestation. There are three level of prematurity and each have their own risks and complications.

  • Moderate to late preterm – 32 to 37 weeks
  • Very preterm – 28 to 32 weeks
  • Extremely preterm – less than 28 weeks

What are the signs of possible premature labor?

  • Pain and cramping in the abdomen
  • Lower backache similar to period pains
  • Bleeding
  • Loss of the mucus plug that seals your cervix during pregnancy
  • An increasing feeling of pressure within the vagina or rectum
  • Discharge or a trickle or gush of fluid which could mean your waters are broken

If you have any or a combination of these symptoms contact your hospital.

What are the causes of premature labor?

In many cases the causes of premature labor are unclear. Infection, problems with the cervix, multiple births and lifestyle during pregnancy can all influence premature labor.

What are the complications of premature labor?

Thankfully advances in neonatal care have increased greatly and special care units and staff are equipped to support a premature baby until they are able to support themselves independently. The earlier a baby is born the higher level of care they will need and the greater the risk of complications. The highest risk is to babies born before the 26th week of pregnancy.