Rarely, during pregnancy, some complication may arise that can cause a threat both in the baby's and the mother's health. You can read more about several of these complications in this section.
What is Preterm birth?
Preterms, are the babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy. Despite the fact that the baby is continuously growing and developing while in the womb, an important part of this process happens during the last months and weeks. Consequently, a preterm birth is a problem because preterm babies lose the opportunity of staying longer inside the womb and fully grow and develop their organs and systems.
What are the consequences of preterm birth?
Preterm birth is an important cause of neonatal death, particularly for those babies born before 32 weeks of pregnancy. Those that will survive will need to spend many weeks or months hospitalised in the neonatal intensive care unit and suffer from lifelong disabilities, such as:
Eye problem (including prematurity retinopathy)
Hearing impairment or deafness
Gastrointestinal (gut), or feeding problems.
Preterm birth in Greece
The issue of preterm birth that has transformed into a modern 'epidemic' is evident from research we conducted and published in international medical journals. This was the first time that the incidence of pretrm birth was recored and studied and we concluded that preterm birth was constantly on the rise. For 2008, the incidence of preterm birth was approximately 10% and kept growing. For more details, please see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23259874 and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23360152. The majority of preterm babies in Greece are between 34 and 36 weeks. Although these are considered to be relatively mature, the still face significant morbidity due to prematurity. Therefore, conditions such as jaundice, respiratory problems, longer hospital staying etc are more common in these babies than in babies born at full term. Every day inside the womb counts and helps in the development and growth of your unborn baby.
Even if a woman does everything right, there still exists some degree of preterm birth risk. There are the, so called, risk factors that increase the likelihood of a preterm birth. Despite extensive research, we still do not know exactly why preterm birth happens.
Some risk factors include:
- Previous preterm birth
- Multiples pregnancies (twins, triplets etc)
- Structural problems of the womb (bicornuate, septate etc)
- Problems of the cervix, the neck of the womb (cervical incompetence, short cervix, cone biopsy)
- Diabetes mellitus
- Increased blood pressure
- Bleeding during pregnancy
- Specific infections during pregnancy
- Smoking, alcohol, drugs
- Black race, Philipino origin
- According to some, a previous cesarean section can cause earlier delivery in the next pregnancy.
What are the warning signs of preterm birth?
You need to inform us urgently if you notice one of the following:
- Your vaginal discharge changes and becomes watery, mucus- like or blood
- Increase in the quantity of your vaginal discharge
- Pain or pressure in the lower back or pelvis
- Continuous, dull pain of your back
- Mild abdominal cramps with, or withour, diarrhea
- Womb tightenings that are regular, or frquent, sometimes painless
- Waters breaking (if this happens you will notice amniotic fluid leakage, sometimes like a gush, others like a slow trickle).
However, most of the times, preterm birth happens unexpectedly or without any obvious cause. If you have any of the above preterm birth risk factors , please discuss it with us at the time of your next appointment. If you have any of preterm birth symptoms, please contact us urgently.
We can also provide you with more information about preterm birth and the consequences it has on your baby. Elective cesareans should not be scheduled earlier than 39 weeks. If preterm birth is imminent, then we need to discuss the need of administering cortisone to induce maturity of the baby's lungs and practices to protect the baby from cerebral palsy.