Preterm Labour

What is preterm birth?

Preterm birth is the delivery of the baby before 37 completed weeks. Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant mortality and morbidity and is therefore considered the foremost problem in obstetrical medicine. The progress in neonatal intensive care (NICU) in saving the lives of smaller and preterm babies,does increase survival but cannot guarantee normal health of these little ones. This is because nature intended for babies to mature inside the womb and then be born.

The majority of preterm births occur because preterm labour is not detected in time to avoid imminent delivery. Sometimes, preterm birth is necessary and medically indicated if there are complications that can be resolved only by delivery. These could be fetal problems (such as severe growth restriction) or maternal conditions (such as severe pre-eclampsia).

Are all preterm babies at risk?

NO, it depends on the stage at which the baby is born and also its weight.

If babies are born between 34-37 weeks, although considered ‘preterm’, these babies are relatively almost mature and they do well. Babies born between 30-34 weeks are likely to need some help, but with good NICU care, they also do well in the long term. However, babies born very preterm, between 24-30 weeks, have a high risk of handicap, hence the outcome / prognosis is guarded.

If babies are normally grown for their age, without growth restriction inside the womb, then they do well. If there are other problems that caused the preterm delivery, those will also affect the outcome for the baby.

Next Questions in Preterm Labour