Premature baby birth is stressful for young mothers who have dreamt and planned everything to welcome their little angel at the right time. According to a research report by the World Health Organization, in 2020, the preterm birth rate was 4-16% across various countries. India has alarming rates and was amongst the top 5 countries in 2020 where children were born before the full term.
There are several premature birth causes, and thus, every expecting mother should be aware of the conditions so that they can take all essential steps to reduce the risks and ensure healthy and safe baby delivery.
What is Premature Birth?
Premature or preterm births are defined as infants born alive before the full term, which is 37 weeks of gestational age. Below are three preterm categories defined according to the gestational age of the baby:
- Extreme preterm birth, where the baby is born less than 28 weeks
- Early preterm, where the gestational age of the baby is 28-32 weeks
- Moderate to late premature birth that ranges between 32-37 weeks.
Over 1 in 10 babies are born preterm, of which some children die due to severe complications, and some suffer from issues like learning disabilities and hearing and visual problems. In India, the birth ratio is higher in rural areas due to a lack of health facilities and less awareness among expecting moms.
Whenever a premature baby is born in a family, it becomes a physical and emotional roller-coaster ride for the mommy as well as the family since parents need to take extra care as the baby is delicate and his body parts still haven't developed to the level that would let him adjust well in the world outside. This makes him prone to infections, and that's the reason most premature babies are kept in the NICU under expert supervision until the baby adapts to the conditions.
Causes of Premature Birth in India
If you have entered the beautiful pregnancy phase and want to know what is the most common cause of premature birth, here we are stating all the significant reasons that you need to be aware of:
- Maternal health factors: one of the most common reasons for premature birth is the health condition of the mom. This includes factors like age and nutrition since a fetus entirely depends on the mother for nourishment. Conceiving a baby for full-term becomes a challenge as the mother ages, and there are considerable body changes with growing age. Also, food consumed during pregnancy has a direct impact on the child in the womb. Mothers who have pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, etc., also are at higher risk of delivering the baby before full-term.
- Socioeconomic factors affecting pregnancy: Mothers who have limited awareness and belong to an economically weak segment deliver more preterm babies compared to educated, well-off women who understand their pregnancy and associated risks.
- Infections and their role: Mothers who have frequent infections like UTI, bacterial vaginosis, Syphilis, gonorrhoea, etc. tend to give birth to preterm babies.
- Multiple pregnancies: Every year, several women are bestowed with twins and triplets, which means that the womb needs to bear double the weight, which sometimes leads to complications that further result in delivery before the due date.
- Lifestyle choices: Smoking and alcohol consumption in pregnancy have adverse effects on the fetus and usually result in preterm delivery.
- Stress: One prevalent cause of premature birth is high levels of stress and anxiety during pregnancy. The stress can be the result of personal or professional issues, and hence, health experts recommend expecting moms to let go of activities and routines that would increase stress levels.
Also Read: Stress Management Tips For New Moms In India
Identifying Signs and Symptoms
Once a pregnant woman gathers all the info about what causes premature birth, the next step is to be aware of the signs that indicate preterm labor since knowledge of this aspect allows mommies to take relevant steps and seek medical advice in time. Below are a few conditions that mothers should not ignore and reach out to an expert without delay:
- Experiencing regular contractions in the abdomen region
- Sensation around the pelvic area with regular tightening and cramps
- Continuous lower backache
- Premature membrane split that leads to fluid discharge.
- Vaginal spotting
Now that we have stated the reasons why premature birth happens, we would like to highlight the importance of regular prenatal check-ups since a healthcare expert examines the position and vitals of the fetus during every visit and allows regular updates on the mother's and child's health.
Regular check-ups enable in-time diagnosis of a crucial condition like cervical insufficiency, which refers to an issue where the mother's cervix is unable to retain the fetus until full-term due to weak pelvic muscles. In case a pregnant woman suffers from this condition, the doctor can suggest treatments to reduce the chances of preterm birth.
How to Prevent Premature Birth in India?
With technological advancements in the medical field, it is possible to prevent premature births; the only need is to take proper prenatal care and opt for regular check-ups. An expecting mother should eat a good diet with high-value nutrition for premature birth prevention.
Protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, fats: a mother should consume all possible sources of nutrients so that the health of both mom and child stays good. Also, every pregnant lady should practice activities like prenatal yoga, meditation and follow an exercise routine so that the stress levels remain low throughout the pregnancy.
In case doctors are doubtful of preterm delivery, they suggest antenatal steroids, cervical cerclage, or progesterone therapy to cater to the condition. Here are the details of treatments that are successfully used according to the health condition of the mother and baby:
- Antenatal steroids: The corticosteroids are used whenever the health expert sees chances of preterm birth. These steroids are known to accelerate the growth and maturation of the organs involved in the respiratory system, like the lungs, which ensures healthy childbirth along with a low mortality rate.
- Progesterone therapy: The progesterone therapy is administered through the vagina and works well if the mother has a short cervix which is a reason for preterm birth. This therapy is mainly used when the lady does not have a history of preterm birth.
- Cervical cerclage: This is a surgery where the doctors stitch the area around the womb's neck, known as the cervix, to let the cervix support the growing baby well and let the fetus develop until full-term.
Another way that doctors use to reduce preterm birth cases is to prescribe folic acid as a supplement in daily routine. There have been indications that mothers who have high folate levels have reduced chances of delivering a premature baby.
Also Read: Garbh Sanskar For Working Moms
Neonatal Care in India
Even though the awareness about how to prevent premature birth is increasing in India, thousands of premature babies are born every day. Thus, it becomes vital for parents and family members to know the right way of taking care of the little angel and letting him grow healthy.
If women take proper care during pregnancy, the child develops well, and there are fewer chances of the baby being born with a disability or infection. To support new moms and premature babies, hospitals have set up specialized NICU facilities with appropriate equipment and a suitable environment for the delicate babies.
Doctors suggest that kangaroo care has proved helpful in neonatal care, where the mother carries the baby along with her, ensuring maximum skin contact, which makes the little one comfortable and boosts his growth.
Mothers who are still confused about facts related to premature birth should refer to different resources online as well as groups where one can find parents who have nurtured a premature baby and have a lot of info to share.
Raising Awareness and Support in India
The World Health Organization, UNICEF, and various hospitals have introduced programs for young mothers who have given birth to premature babies.
The WHO's initiative is called the Kangaroo Mother Care Program, which educates pregnant women to understand the various complexities involved in pregnancy that may result in preterm birth and the right approach after childbirth.
If you are an expecting mother curious to know everything related to pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care, you can join various programs or be part of a mother's group for the best advice.
Mothers here share their experiences and stories of giving birth to a healthy yet preterm baby and then raising him without any concerns.
Also Read: Things Your Baby Loves In The Womb
Premature birth should not be a shock for an expecting mother, and the best approach to this is to prepare well beforehand and be aware. Undoubtedly, regular medical check-ups are the best way to detect such conditions in the early phase so that the healthcare provider can share treatment options to avoid premature birth.
If your baby is born premature, keep the child in the NICU for a few days so the baby adjusts to the outer world. As a young mother, whenever you feel exhausted or have questions, seek help from family members and the mother's support groups to provide the best care to the munchkin to let him grow and stay happy.