A pregnancy is regarded as being full-term between 37 and 40 weeks of pregnancy. If a baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy it is considered a “preterm” or “premature” birth. This is one of the main issues that most pregnant mothers are concerned about, as it can affect both the mother and the newborn baby. Preterm birth may be caused by a variety of factors, such as maternal smoking during pregnancy or regular exposure to secondhand smoke, alcohol consumption, certain types of medications, poor maternal nutrition, a strenuous workload during pregnancy, and infection during pregnancy.
Additionally, mothers who have a history of preterm birth with their first pregnancy have up to a 15% higher risk of preterm birth in the second pregnancy, and this risk increases gradually according to the number of preterm births a mother has experienced.
Preterm birth from a first pregnancy is a key factor for an increased risk of preterm birth in the second pregnancy, and causes many mothers to become anxious or fearful about becoming pregnant again. However, if mothers can learn what steps to take to prevent it, the risk of preterm birth in the second pregnancy can be reduced through the following methods:
Preterm birth risk assessment and screening for second pregnancies is another contemporary and effective prevention method. This can be carried out using a variety of methods including:
Preconception genetic testing is a “precision medicine” health check-up that helps to identify genetic risks in an individual including those influenced by family history, genetics, environment or lifestyle. It utilizes modern technology to detect preterm birth risks and to provide a treatment plan. The process begins with a detailed review of the patient’s medical history. If it is found that a patient has a history of preterm birth, she will immediately be placed in the at-risk group.
There is also a screening test to measure cervical length via transvaginal ultrasound. A cervical length shorter than 25 mm is considered a warning sign that the mother is at risk of preterm labor. This test can be carried out starting at 16 weeks of gestation.
If inflammation is found inside the uterus, the doctor can provide medication to prevent and reduce inflammation and therefore reduce the risk of preterm birth. The doctor may also carry out a fetal fibronectin test to search for the fibronectin protein in the area between the fetal sac and the uterine lining in order to identify any possible tendencies toward preterm birth.
In case a risk of preterm birth is detected, the doctor may carry out preventative measures as follows:
Babies born prematurely are at risk of a variety of medical issues affecting organ development and may also experience other complications including difficulty breathing, very high or low body temperature, jaundice, anemia, choking or gagging on milk, bloating, and developing infections easily, among others. Premature infants are also at increased risk of death, and they may experience a variety of issues such as congenital heart defect leading to heart attack, brain disorders, seizures, deafness, blindness, abnormal body movements, lower IQ, and more.
Therefore, when risk factors for preterm birth are detected, mothers should strictly follow their doctor’s advice. Mothers who have a history of preterm birth from their first pregnancy should not allow themselves to become overly anxious or to develop antenatal stress, particularly not from the very beginning of the pregnancy. These steps, when taken along with proper health care, sufficient sleep and relaxation, stress control, and regular doctor’s appointments, can help to reduce the risk of preterm birth.
Diploma Thai Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology Faculty of Medicine Vajira Hospital, Navamindradhiraj University , 1995