A full-term pregnancy typically lasts 40 weeks, but babies born before 37 weeks may have difficulty breathing, eating, and staying warm.
Preterm birthoccurs between the 20th and 37th weeks of pregnancy, when uterine contractions cause the cervix to open earlier than usual. This can lead to premature delivery. Preterm birth is a serious health concern, as babies born prematurely are at greater risk of brain and other neurological complications, as well as respiratory and digestive problems.
It is important to be aware of the warning signs of preterm labor and the risk factors that may increase a woman's chances of having a premature birth. Some risk factors for preterm birth are out of a woman's control, such as having a premature birth in a previous pregnancy. Other risk factors include smoking, drinking alcohol, being underweight or overweight before pregnancy, having an infection during pregnancy, or having a multiple pregnancy. If your healthcare provider determines that you're at greater risk of preterm birth, he or she may recommend that you take additional steps to reduce your risk.
These may include avoiding certain activities such as lifting heavy objects or engaging in sexual intercourse. Some women with premature birth and early cervical dilation stay in bed until their pregnancy progresses. It is important to be aware of the warning signs of preterm labor and to seek medical attention if they occur. These signs include regular contractions, abdominal cramps, backache, increased vaginal discharge, or leaking fluid from the vagina.
By knowing the symptoms and avoiding certain risk factors, a woman can reduce her chances of giving birth prematurely. Children who are born prematurely are also at greater risk for cerebral palsy, learning problems, and behavioral problems. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with preterm birth and to take steps to reduce them.