Mother and Baby

Premature Birth: Understanding The Risks And Signs Of Early Labour

Premature Birth: Understanding The Risks And Signs Of Early Labour

You’re expecting your baby to arrive around your due date, but what if she has other ideas? There are factors that can help you weigh up your risk of a premature birth

Premature labour can happen for a number of reasons, although in many cases, no concrete reason will be given. Any baby born before 37 weeks is considered premature, but serious problems are rare with babies born after 32 weeks.

Babies born before this point may need help with breathing, feeding and temperature control, and often spend many days in an incubator on a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

What causes premature labour?

The most common are being overweight and smoking, but there are some more surprising factors, too.

Multiple pregnancy

One of the most common reasons for giving birth early is a multiple pregnancy.

‘Spontaneous early labour is common with multiple births for no particular reason, but other factors include preeclampsia and gestational diabetes,’ says Andrew Shennan, professor of obstetrics at Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital, London. ‘A high percentage of multiple births are delivered at 35-37 weeks.’

Your medical history

If you have previously had a premature baby, there is a slightly increased risk of future babies being born early, but many second- or third-time mums do carry their baby to term.

Certain pregnancy complications may lead to a second premature birth, these include infections in the vagina or uterus, placenta praevia, placental abruption or preeclampsia.

Over exertion in pregnancy

Another factor that could mean you go into labour early is if you are working long hours in a physical job in the late stages of pregnancy.

Bending and stretching for more than an hour a day could triple your chances of going into labour early, so make sure you change the way you work.

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