When a baby is delivered before the 37th week of pregnancy, that baby is considered to have been prematurely born. Premature (or “preemie”) babies born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy are considered late pre-term preemies. Moderately pre-term babies are those born between the 32nd and 34th week of pregnancy. Those born between the 26th and 32nd week are very pre-term, while babies born at or before the 25th week of pregnancy are extremely pre-term. So, what exactly is the chance that your baby could be born prematurely, and what are some of the risk factors for preterm birth? Let’s take a look at the five biggest risk factors.
In This Post:
1. Already Having a Preemie Baby
Almost 1 in every 10 babies is born prematurely, making the grand total of babies born prematurely each year around 15 million worldwide. Many preemie babies face difficulties straight out of the womb, including birth asphyxia and various types of respiratory distress. Additionally, women who have a preemie baby are also increasingly more likely to have any successive children also be born prematurely.
2. Pregnancy with Multiples
Those who are pregnant with twins or larger sets of multiples are more likely to have their babies be prematurely born. Preeclampsia, problems with the placenta, and ruptured amniotic membranes are some of the most common reasons as to why women who are pregnant with multiples give birth early. In fact, full term for multiples is considered 37 weeks instead of the typical 40.
3. Smoking and/or Drug Use
Many babies who are born to mothers who smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, and/or use illicit drugs are born too small and prematurely. Babies born at low birth rates (of about 5½ pounds or less) tend to have life-long health issues. Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs can all reach the baby through the placenta just like actual nutrients. Babies of mothers who drank while pregnant often suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and experience life-long heart defects, intellectual disabilities, and physical defects. Even Aspirin and some vitamins might be harmful to unborn babies, so it is best to consult your doctor before trying anything over-the-counter.
4. Poor Nutrition
If you’re not getting proper nutrition, your baby isn’t, either. Eating a well-balanced diet at the time of conception up through delivery is crucial for delivering a healthy baby. Even moderate dietary restrictions could have dire consequences. Also, plan on taking in about 250 to 500 additional calories per day in your second and third trimesters.
Stressful life events trigger all kinds of physical reactions. Chronic stress can trigger a physiological feedback loop which causes the adrenal cortex to create too much cortisol, the stress hormone that is released as a “fight-or-flight” response. The overabundance of cortisol leads to the production of too much prostaglandin E2, a hormone that creates more cortisol and E2 when triggered. This is why it is important to relax as much as possible.
While there are many unknown factors that cause premature births, these five risk factors can, for the most part, be negated. Remain in contact with your doctor, and let them know if you start to experience any abnormalities during your pregnancy. Follow their instructions, and remember to allow yourself time to relax.