There are many causes of preterm delivering or the need for medical intervention to deliver the baby early if there is risk to the health of mother and infant (1, 2). The longer the pregnancy can be maintained, undoubtedly translates to better outcomes for the infant, particularly if the infants is within the 22-25 week period. Common causes of early delivery include:
• Urinary tract infections • High blood pressure • Bleeding from the vagina • Pregnancy resulting from in vitro fertilization • Being underweight or obese before pregnancy • Short time period between pregnancies (less than 6 months between a birth and the beginning of the next pregnancy) • Placenta previa, • Being at risk for rupture of the uterus. Rupture of the uterus is more likely if you have had a prior cesarean delivery or have had a uterine fibroid removed. • Diabetes (high blood sugar) • Gestational diabetes • Blood clotting problems.
In situations in which the above conditions are not present, women may still deliver early. In these cases there is very little warning and the cause(s) are largely unknown. However, there are certain factors that are believed to increase the “risk” of early delivery. Analogous to the well publicised risk factors linked to heart attack, such as cigarette smoking, diets high in cholesterol, obesity, so too identified risk factors for preterm birth increase the likelyhood of preterm delivery. Important risk factors include:
Age of the mother. Women younger than age 18 or older than age 34 are at risk of having preterm infants because they are more likely to have other conditions (such as high blood pressure and diabetes) that can cause complications requiring preterm delivery, (3).
Lifestyle and environmental factors:
• Delayed health care during pregnancy • Multiple births, twins ,triplets • Smoking • Alcohol consumption • Using illegal drugs
1. NICHD http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/preterm/conditioninfo/Pages/who_risk.aspx 2. Merck Manual online http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/perinatal_problems/premature_infant.html#v1086294 3. Beck, S. The worldwide incidence of preterm birth: a systematic review of maternal mortality and morbidity. http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/88/1/08-062554/en