What Are the Risks of Premature Labor?

Having a

preterm birth

can be a frightening experience for expecting parents, as it can lead to a number of health problems for their baby. Complications of preterm birth include low birth weight, breathing difficulties, underdeveloped organs, and vision problems. A premature baby may have trouble breathing due to an immature respiratory system, and may develop respiratory distress syndrome if their lungs lack surfactant, a substance that allows them to expand and contract normally. Hypothermia can also cause breathing problems and low blood sugar levels in premature babies, as they may consume all the energy they get from feeding just to stay warm.

While not all premature babies have complications, being born too soon can cause short- and long-term health problems. Researchers know that certain medical conditions, including some that only occur during pregnancy, put women at greater risk of having a premature birth. Black women are more likely to have a premature birth than women of other races, though the reasons for this are unknown. Women who conceive using antiretroviral treatment are also at greater risk of having a preterm birth, mainly because they are more likely to be pregnant with more than one baby at a time.

Fortunately, there are steps pregnant women and their partners can take to reduce the risk of

preterm birth

. Women should wait at least 18 months between pregnancies, and should take steps to improve their overall health during pregnancy. While some risk factors for preterm birth cannot be eliminated, others can be reduced or avoided altogether. It's important for expecting parents to be aware of the risks associated with preterm labor so they can take steps to reduce their chances of having a premature baby.

Thinking about the risks of having a premature baby is not always the first reaction to a positive pregnancy test, but it is an important one. Knowing the signs and symptoms of preterm labor can help parents get the care they need as soon as possible if they do experience it.

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