Saturday, June 4, 2011

Preterm Births a Real Concern

From The Washington Times, a column by Brighid Moret, a freelance writer and first time mother.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While I may be pregnant with my first child, this is not my first pregnancy. The first one ended in a miscarriage in the first trimester, and left me, like many women who this has happened to, nervous about the continued healthy development of the child I’m now carrying.
While the chance of miscarriage drops drastically after the first trimester, the risk of a terminated pregnancy still exists, but changes character. A loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks is considered a miscarriage, something the American Pregnancy Association says occurs in 10-25% of all pregnancies.
After 20 weeks, many women think they are out of the danger zone for a pregnancy loss, but there is still a risk. Preterm labor can occur anywhere after 20 weeks and is the birth of any baby prior to 37 because uterine contractions cause the cervix to open earlier than normal.
The World Health Organization says that the rate of preterm birth in developed countries is 5-7%, however, The March of Dimes reports that the rate in the United States is 12%. To put that in perspective, The CDC says 1 in 8 babies are born prematurely every year in the U.S. and cites premature birth as the leading cause of death among newborns.
Infants born early typically have low birth weight and underdeveloped organs.
Given advances in medical care and technology, the survival rate for premature infants has increased. There are charts that list the estimated survivorship for infants born as early as 25 weeks – that’s 12 weeks preterm – all the way up to 36 weeks. The youngest surviving preterm baby was born in Germany in 2011 at 21 weeks and 5 days, and at first, medical professionals did not expect her to survive. The Quint Boenker Preemie Survival Foundation places the likelihood of survival of preterm birth at 23 weeks at 17% and 50% for births at 25 weeks. They say that most babies born at 32 weeks or later will be able to survive with medical assistance.

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