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Preterm Birth

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Preterm birth refers to the delivery of a baby before reaching the full term of 37 weeks of pregnancy. It is an undesired condition for the mother, but sometimes it can happen unavoidably. The causes of preterm birth are varied, including infections during pregnancy, preeclampsia, chronic diseases in the mother, or abnormalities in the fetus. This condition can significantly impact the baby’s health and lead to numerous complications.

Causes of Preterm Birth

  • Infections During Pregnancy: Certain infections in the mother, such as urinary tract infections or vaginal infections, can trigger preterm labour.
  • Preeclampsia: This condition involves high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine, which may necessitate early delivery to protect the health of both the mother and the baby.
  • Chronic Diseases in the Mother: Conditions such as diabetes or heart disease can increase the risk of preterm birth.
  • Fetal Abnormalities: Issues such as slow fetal growth or genetic abnormalities can lead to preterm delivery.

Complications of Preterm Birth

  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS): Due to underdeveloped lungs, preterm infants often have difficulty breathing and may require ventilator support. These infants are also at a higher risk of developing chronic lung disease and lung infections, such as those caused by the RSV virus, which can worsen lung conditions and cause more severe symptoms than in full-term infants.
  • Infections: Preterm infants have an immature immune system, making them more susceptible to infections such as sepsis and respiratory infections.
  • Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH): This is a type of brain haemorrhage that is more common in preterm infants, especially those with low birth weight.
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP): Incomplete development of the blood vessels in the retina can lead to ROP, which can cause blindness if not treated.
  • Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC): This severe intestinal condition involves infection and inflammation that can lead to tissue death in the intestines.
  • Jaundice: Preterm infants often have an underdeveloped liver, leading to jaundice, a condition characterized by yellowing of the skin and eyes.
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Prevention Strategies for Complications

  • Monitoring Post-Birth Symptoms: Close monitoring of the infant’s breathing, heart function, feeding, excretion, temperature, and blood sugar levels is crucial. Any abnormalities should be promptly addressed.
  • Weight Monitoring: Regular weight checks are important to assess the growth and development of preterm infants.
  • Vaccination: Ensuring that preterm infants receive all recommended vaccinations is essential as they are more vulnerable to infections.
  • Administering Lung Development Medications: In some cases, medications to enhance lung development may be given before or after birth to help the lungs function better.
  • Care in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU): Preterm infants may require specialized care in a NICU, which is equipped with the necessary medical technology and staffed by healthcare professionals trained to provide intensive care.

Preterm birth is an undesirable condition, but with careful monitoring and follow-up, the risks and complications can be minimized. Providing information and knowledge about preterm birth is crucial to help parents and caregivers understand and effectively manage this condition.

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