Some babies are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. This is called premature birth. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. Premature babies may have health problems that can affect them for life.
But what causes premature birth? And can it be prevented? Here are some of the reasons why some babies are born too early.
Causes of Premature Birth
We don’t always know why some babies are born too early. But some things can make it more likely. These things include:
- Infection: Some infections can make mother or baby sick and start labor early. These infections can be in the mouth, vagina, uterus, or kidneys.
- Cervical problems: The cervix is the opening to the uterus where the baby grows. Sometimes the cervix is weak or short and can’t hold the baby inside. This can cause labor to start early.
- Smoking: Smoking is bad for mother and baby. It can make the blood vessels in the uterus smaller and reduce the blood flow to the baby resulting in early labor.
- Stress: Too much stress can affect mother’s hormones and immune system and can cause labor to start early.
- Short time between pregnancies: Having another baby too soon after the last one can increase the risk of preterm birth. The body needs time to recover from one pregnancy before starting another.
- Carrying twins, triplets, or more: Having more than one baby in the uterus can make it stretch too much. This can cause labor to start early.
- Genetics: Some mothers or babies may have genes that make them more likely to have preterm birth.
- Water breaking early: The water is actually a fluid that surrounds and protects the baby in the uterus. Sometimes the water breaks before 37 weeks. This can start labor or cause infections.
- Medical problems: Some mothers or babies may have health problems that make it safer to deliver early. These problems include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, bleeding disorders, severe infections, placenta problems, fetal problems, or abnormal heart rate.
Premature birth is a serious event that can affect mother and baby’s health for life. While some causes of preterm birth are unknown or unavoidable, some factors can be managed to lower the risk of having a baby too early. By getting regular check-ups, taking care of your health, treating any infections or health problems, waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies, you may be able to prevent preterm labor or delivery.