What is pre-term labour & how to promote an optimal pregnancy

Premature birth is more common than many people may realise. Around 1 in 10 babies are born premature in Australia, that’s approximately 27,000 babies each year. 

These babies will require the specialised care of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN). Premature babies are not the only babies that may need this care, some babies are also born with complications or conditions, even if born at full term.

Though it can be worrying, be reassured that if you do find yourself in this situation, you are not alone and that your baby is in the best possible care.

Knowledge is power. The more information you can seek during pregnancy if you are at high risk of premature birth, the better you will be prepared in case there will be difficulties. 

Be assured that there will be support available specifically for yourself and your entire family, whether parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or friends, to help you manage and navigate the NICU and Special Care experience. Existing play and support groups specifically for families who have had a baby born that requires specialised care, offer the opportunity to meet others who know exactly what you have been through and make lifelong friends as your babies grow. Find out more at www.miraclebabies.org.au

What causes pre-term birth?

Sometimes, preterm birth occurs for no known reason, and other times it can be due to a medical or non-medical reason. These reasons could include social, personal and behavioural factors. 

Take a look at some of the medical and other causes for preterm birth that the Miracle Babies Foundation summarized here.

The below social, economic and behavioural factors can also increase risk of preterm birth:

  • Mother’s Age If you are younger than 18 or over 35 years old.
  • Lower socioeconomic situations.
  • Race – Women of African descent have a greater risk of premature birth.

Some behavioural issues that might cause preterm labour include the following:

  • Smoking, drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs can be linked to preterm labour
  • Late antenatal care – It’s best to seek early care, to ensure that any conditions or risks can be identified.
  • Stress can also sometimes lead to preterm labour.

Taking care of yourself and your baby is the priority and there are many things that you can do to help prevent preterm birth, this includes:

  1. Seeking appropriate, early antenatal care.
  2. Gaining weight carefully – 11-16kgs.
  3. Eating a healthy diet and making sure the increased nutritional needs are met.
  4. Avoiding smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs while pregnant.
  5. Spacing pregnancies at least 6 months apart.

Miracle Mum, Amber shares how Preeclampsia caused uncontrollable blood pressure issues for her before and after the birth of baby Melody.

“I had a hard pregnancy losing around 25kg from morning sickness throughout the pregnancy. However, I didn’t have many other issues, until I got to 30 weeks and was diagnosed with Preeclampsia.

Blood pressure meds kept it under control for a few weeks and thankfully I was also given steroid shots at 30 weeks as well.

I ended up going back to hospital with intense pain which had grown increasingly unbearable throughout the week. I was admitted to hospital at 33 weeks exactly with uncontrolled blood pressure.

The doctors decided to give me an emergency C-section due to Pre-Eclampsia and low platelets. At 33+1 weeks (34 weeks?) Melody was born and I was thankful for the steroid shots which helped her. She weighed just 1.7kg and was only 41cm.

She was whisked away to NICU at the same time I was rushed to the ICU for monitoring. I didn’t get to see her for 24hrs. I ended up being in hospital for a week with blood pressure issues.

She was in NICU for 4 weeks and finally came home able to bottle-feed. At 9 weeks old (2 weeks corrected) she is now the weight of a small newborn (3.3kg). She’s our little fighter and has always been so strong.”

For support for families who have had a premature or sick newborn, or for emotional support during a threatened pregnancy: 

Visit www.miraclebabies.org.au or call the Miracle Babies NurtureLine
(1300 MBABIES / 1300 622 243).

Sources: 

Australian Mothers and Babies Report 2012 (full)
Deaths in Australia Report, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
www.miraclebabies.org.au – Developed in partnership with Health and Medical Professionals

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