One in every 8 babies (12.5%) in the United States is born prematurely. Prematurity, usually considered the same thing as preterm, is defined as more than three weeks before term. Any baby born before 37 weeks is considered premature. However, some health care providers stress that the premature label should be used more sparingly and that a baby born at 36 weeks, for example, might not be premature if her lungs and other organs are fully developed.
Here are a few important premature birth statistics:
- There are over 500,000 premature births every year in the United States
- Over the past 36 years, the premature birth rate has increased 36% (though, this is partially due to advances in medical technology which allow for emergency preterm delivery when other serious complications are present)
If your child suffered complications, birth injuries, or wrongful death as a result of premature birth, you may be able to file a birth injury claim. Contact the Ohio premature birth injury attorneys at The Becker Law Firm to find out how we can help you.
Call (440) 252-4399 or fill out and submit an online contact form to schedule your free, no-risk consultation with our team today.
Risk Factors for Premature Delivery
Premature delivery has many known risk factors, including:
- Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Previous preterm births
- African-American mother
- Chronic health problems, including diabetes, hypertension, and blood clotting disorders
- Smoking, alcohol, and other drug use
- Obesity or underweight mother
- Some uterine infections
- Incompetent/ineffectual cervix
Birth Injuries Caused by Prematurity
Babies who are premature are at a higher risk of numerous complications:
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delays
- Vision and hearing loss
- Digestive injuries
- Jaundice and kernicterus
- Respiratory difficulties
- Death (preterm delivery is the largest cause of infant death)
Preventing Premature Labor
Women should monitor their own condition throughout pregnancy and should alert their doctors at the first possible signs of labor. Doctors and their staff should have the training necessary to recognize potential preterm labor (which may include contractions, change in vaginal discharge, increased pressure in the pelvis, backache, and cramping) and must follow standard guidelines to prevent premature birth, when possible.
In order to prevent preterm labor from causing premature delivery, careful doctors may need to provide medication to stop contractions, to speed up the baby’s lung development, and to prevent infection (because a premature baby’s immune system may not be fully developed).
Doctors typically impose requirements of bed rest, pelvic rest (abstaining from sex), and increased fluids, though modern studies are debating whether those actions are effective at preventing preterm labor. Finally, doctors may surgically close the cervix to prevent early delivery (cervical cerclage).