Causes of Premature Birth

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Although it isn’t always possible to determine the reason a baby is born early, there are some possible causes;

  • If you’ve had a previous premature birth, you might be more at risk of the same happening again
  • If you’re diabetic
  • If you’ve smoked during your pregnancy
  • If your nutrition has been particularly poor
  • If you have an incompetent cervix, when the cervix dilates and opens too early (although this can be treated with a stitch placed around the cervix muscle at 12-14 weeks to ensure it remains closed until week 36 or when your doctor determines is appropriate)
  • If you have a condition known as intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR)
  • If you develop placenta praevia, where the placenta is lying abnormally low in the uterus and may be covering the cervix
  • If you develop pre-eclampsia, a condition characterised by high blood pressure and protein in your urine. Pre-eclampsia occurs in around 1 in 14 pregnancies and is thought to cause around a third of premature births. It can develop into eclampsia and can be dangerous for both mother and babies, particularly if it develops quickly. Bed rest can help, but the only cure for pre-eclampsia and eclampsia is to deliver your babies
  • If your membranes rupture prematurely. Again, there may not be a clear cause for this, but possibilities include vaginal infection and excessive amniotic fluid. If you think your membranes have ruptured, you’ll need to contact your midwife or doctor immediately as there’s a chance you’ll go into labour. You might need antibiotics to prevent infection or medication to delay birth, or you may even need to be induced if there is infection or risk to your babies. If you’ll likely deliver, you may be given medication to help your babies’ lungs mature more quickly
  • If you’ve experienced a particularly stressful or traumatic event, such as the death of a family member or close friend. There’s no evidence of normal day-to-day stress brings on early labour, though
  • If there’s a problem with the placenta or umbilical cord, or you’ve experienced bleeding
  • If an antenatal screening test shows your babies aren’t growing well in the womb, perhaps because of a shortage of blood flowing to and from the placenta. If your doctor believes your babies will be safer outside the womb, they’ll likely advise you to deliver early and will often suggest a Caesarean as this puts less stress on your babies
  • If your twins have (or have previously had) Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome or Twin Anemia Polycythemia Sequence.

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