Causes and Risk Factors - a quick look

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Although the cause of preterm birth is often unknown, expectant parents need not leave it purely to chance. There are a number of things a potential or expectant mother should and should NOT do, to limit the chances of preterm birth.


Healthy mother, healthy baby

The cause/s of preterm birth may be due to a number of very different events or triggers. Although there are a lot of risks identified there are no good predictors of preterm birth. This section is intended to give you a guide and a better understanding of the risks, some of which are easier to avoid than others depending on your personal circumstances.
Preemie help is here to help you identify any factors you may be able to avoid.


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Multiple Birth Pregnancy

Having a multiple birth pregnancy is more likely to result in a premature birth than a singleton.

Multiple Birth Pregnancy

Multiple gestations account for only 2-3% of all infant births, but they carry a high risk for preterm birth. Multiple births result in 15-20% of all preterm births. Approximately 60% of twins are born preterm and almost all higher multiple gestations result in preterm birth or are delivered early by elective caesarean section.
Approximately 40% of twins will have spontaneous labour or preterm premature rupture of membranes (or PPROM for short) while the remaining 20% have an indicated preterm delivery due to preeclampsia or other maternal or fetal disorders. PPROM is defined as spontaneous rupture of the amniotic sac at less than 37 weeks’ gestation at least 1 hour before the onset of contractions. Preterm labour in multiple gestations is believed to be caused by uterine over distension (i.e. over-stretched), resulting in contractions and PPROM.

(Goldenberg, Culhane, Iams, & Romero, 2008)(Goldenberg, et al., 2008; Romero et al., 2008)

Technical Reference List

Goldenberg, R. L., Culhane, J. F., Iams, J. D., & Romero, R. (2008). Epidemiology and causes of preterm birth. Lancet, 371(9606), 75-84.
Romero, R., Espinoza, J., Kusanovic, J. P., Gotsch, F., Hassan, S., Erez, O., et al. (2008). The preterm parturition syndrome (vol 113, pg 17, Suppl. 3, 2006). Bjog-an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 115(5).



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Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



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