Common Causes and Risk Factors of Preterm Birth
Preterm birth results from preterm labor. Preterm labor occurs when the mother already experiences regular contractions as early as 20 weeks into pregnancy. These contractions can lead to the opening of the cervix.
The earlier that premature birth occurs, the riskier it is for the baby and the higher the likelihood for birth injuries. Preterm babies, also known as preemies, need more special and dedicated care. Preemies need to stay in neonatal intensive care units for specific periods of time. Many preemies grow to be healthy children. For some worse cases, however, preemies can also suffer long term physical and mental disabilities.
Babies need the full nine months in the mother’s womb to develop fully. If the baby is born too early, he may not be fully developed enough for his body to function properly. The unprepared baby may also suffer some injuries during childbirth.
Common Risk Factors for Preterm Labor
There are no known established causes why preterm labor happens. Some known risk factors increase the risk of preterm labor. However, some pregnant women do not have these known risk factors, yet they still go into preterm labor.
Preterm labor can happen anytime without warning. These risk factors, however, indicate that the mother may go into labor before the expected due date. Some of these factors can be changed to help reduce the risk of preterm labor, while some cannot.
- The mother has had a previous preterm birth.
- Pregnancy with twins or other multiples.
- The mother has certain abnormalities with her reproductive organs, such as a short cervix.
- The mother is a smoker or is using illegal drugs.
- Pregnancy was done via in vitro fertilization.
- There is a short period between the last and the present pregnancy (less than 6 months between the last birth and the start of the new pregnancy).
- The mother has had previous abortions.
Some medical conditions, including those contacted during pregnancy, can increase the risk for preterm labor. These conditions include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Vaginal infections, such as trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis
- Sexually transmitted infections
- High blood pressure or preeclampsia
- Vaginal bleeding
- Weight problems before pregnancy
- Placenta previa (The placenta grows at the lower part of the uterus, blocking the opening of the cervix.)
- Diabetes and gestational diabetes
- Blood clotting problems
Other non-medical factors can increase the risk of preterm labor. Some of them are:
- Age of the mother. Pregnant women below 18 years old are more likely to give birth prematurely. Pregnant women above 35 years old are also at risk of having a preterm baby
- Certain lifestyle and environmental factors
- No health care during pregnancy
- Domestic violence
- No social or emotional support
- Stress and trauma during pregnancy
- Long working hours
- Exposure to certain pollutants
Your doctor must be able to identify if any of the risk factors above are present in your pregnancy. Your doctor must take all the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of preterm delivery. If a doctor ignores these risk factors, he can be deemed negligible for any injuries incurred in preterm birth.
Reducing the Risks of a Preterm Labor
If your doctor determines that you are at risk of giving birth prematurely, he may recommend that you take the following precautions.
- Take preventive medications. Your doctor may recommend that you take shots of progesterone hormone as a precautionary measure against preterm labor.
- Manage your existing chronic medical conditions. Your doctor may take necessary steps to keep any existing medical conditions under control. This will reduce complications during your delivery.
Premature Birth Injuries
The baby is at risk to many health problems if he or she is delivered prematurely. Here are the most common health problems caused by premature delivery.
- Respiratory problems
- Brain hemorrhage
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delays
- The risk for heart disease and Type II diabetes
- Visual and hearing problems
- Feeding and digestion problems
- Jaundice and Kernicterus
- Weak immune system
Most preemies suffer from lack of oxygen days, even, weeks, after birth, leading to brain injuries and damage. When the brain is damaged, it cannot send the necessary signals to other parts of the body. This, in turn, results in cognitive and physical problems.
Doctor’s Liability and Premature Labor
It is the responsibility of the doctor to look out for the pregnant mother during and after pregnancy. It is his responsibility to give the best possible prenatal care to the mother. There are times that the doctor fails to diagnose any risk factors and problems early in the pregnancy. This negligence can lead to many complications and problems during childbirth. He can be held liable for the injuries that the mother and baby incur at delivery.
Did you and/or Your Baby Suffer Injuries Due to Your Doctor’s Negligence?
Preterm birth is not only financially expensive, but it can also lead to lasting and lifetime impairments for the baby. It is critical that you can identify whether your doctor has been negligent and if the preterm birth could have been avoided. We can also help you determine if the birth injuries you and your baby have incurred resulted from medical malpractice. Our experienced Michigan personal injury lawyers will be there with you every step of the way. Give us a call for a free legal consultation.