With all of the medical miracles we hear and read about everyday, one would think that premature birth would be a thing of the past. Of course, incidents have decreased in recent years, but about 380,000 babies are born too soon in the United States. (Too soon is defined as before 37 weeks.)
Even with numbers dropped, premature birth, according to the March of Dimes, is actually the leading cause of infant death in the world. In fact, the organization recognized the issue in November with Prematurity Awareness Month. Since 2003, the group has shone a light on the problems associated with premature births to raise awareness and hopefully decrease the number of babies more prematurely.
One of the things the March of Dimes supports is encourages doctors to implement detection risks and recognize risk factors in their patients. Some risks that can be diagnosed when a physician is properly monitoring a pregnancy include:
- Poor nutrition
- Increased stress
- Over or underweight birth mother
- Uterine over distention (multiples, polyhydramnios)
- Insufficient cervix
- An infection
- Hormonal or vascular changes
- Short time between the last childbirth
Lifestyle changes, doctors say, can change the risks for many women. However, if doctors fail to identify the possible risks, they can’t be mitigated. Dr. Rita Driggers, MD FACOG, gave a lecture at the 2015 American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Annual Clinical and Scientific Meeting. She focused on how doctors can handle preterm labor in a variety of situation. She pointed out several ways to prevent or delay premature birth, depending on what is causing the problem.
It’s well-documented that preterm birth puts babies as a higher risk of many medical problems including: heart, brain, gastrointestinal, breathing and immune system problems. Longer term problems include vision and hearing issues, cerebral palsy and other health issues that can be life-long.
It is imperative that doctors monitor pregnant women carefully throughout their pregnancies and, of course, during labor, delivery and post delivery. Failure to identify risk factors or to act appropriately when a diagnosis is made may constitute medical malpractice.