World Prematurity Day 2022: What Are The Causes Of Preterm Birth? How To Prevent It

Every year, on November 17, World Prematurity Day is observed to raise awareness for the millions of children every year who are born prematurely.

Preterm birth, the birth of an infant before 37 weeks of pregnancy, is the largest contributor to infant death. Babies born before 32 weeks of gestation contribute to 50% of it. In India, out of 27 million babies born every year, around 3.5 million babies are premature.

Around 40 to 50% of preterm births have no known cause, 30% are related to premature rupture of membranes and 15-20% are attributed to medically indicated or elective preterm deliveries. “The most common causes include a history of previous preterm birth, extremes of age during pregnancy, undernutrition, obesity, infections or chronic illnesses like diabetes mellitus and hypertension, genetic predisposition, addictions like smoking/drugs/ alcohol and excessive mental or physical stress,” Dr. Divya Vora, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.

If the mother suffers some kind of infection like urine, vaginal or is anaemic, pre-term birth is possible. Multiple pregnancies – twins, more water around the baby- polyhydramnios, someone with the previous history of preterm birth, structural problems of uterus, pregnancy with fibroid uterus are factors too. Preterm birth can cause breathing difficulty in babies, brain damage, damage to eyes and food system and many more.

What can you do to prevent preterm birth?

Get registered as soon as you know about your pregnancy with a gynaecologist. “Be regular with your visits and blood and urine tests as prescribed. I always tell my patients to have a very good diet -rich in iron, protein, calcium, anaemia is a very common problem in our country and mere dietary corrections can help us through it,” says Dr. Mridula Raghav, Fertility Doctor.

If you have twin pregnancy learn about your exercises, and exertion from your doctor. Any pain which is coming in regular intervals, increasing in intensity, lower abdominal radiating to thighs can indicate preterm labour, in that case immediately show your doctor. “In early pregnancy, a stitch at the mouth of the uterus if your cervical length is less can help postpone preterm birth. There are various drugs that relax your uterus and help continue a pregnancy. In the end, being regular with your visits can help your doctor to catch things early and can be taken care of,” adds Dr Raghav.

Prevention of preterm birth can be achieved by preconception counselling in order to take care of any issues before the pregnancy, optimum care and antenatal visits during the course of pregnancy, use of steroids for foetal lung maturity and tocolytics to prolong the pregnancy.