In about 1 out of every 10 pregnancies, the baby is born before the end of the 37th week of pregnancy. This is called preterm labor and delivery. If your baby is born too early, he or she may have not developed enough to be prepared for life outside the womb. This can lead to long-term health problems for the baby, and may even be fatal.
There are many different reasons why premature labor can occur. For example, it can happen if:
· There is an infection somewhere in the body,
· The mother has high blood pressure,
· Or there are problems with the placenta such as placenta previa or placental abruption.
But, in many cases, the reasons are not known.
You should call your doctor right away if you begin to show signs of labor before the end of your 37th week of pregnancy. The treatment will depend on the reasons why you have gone into early labor, and how far along you have progressed. If it is safer or even possible to continue the pregnancy rather than deliver the baby early, labor may be stopped. Then the baby can continue to develop in the womb. But it is often impossible to stop preterm labor.
Some women may develop these same problems -infection, high blood pressure, and problems with the placenta- but do NOT go into labor spontaneously. In cases where the mother or baby is in danger, the doctor may RECOMMEND the early induction of labor.
Some women are more likely than others to be at risk for preterm delivery. You should talk to your doctor if you want more information about your situation.