Many will never know the reason for their baby being born prematurely. It happens spontaneously or there may be no reason as to why a baby is in distress, they just are. This can be really hard to accept. We live in an age where we continually seek answers and are used to getting many things answered quickly. Google has become our best friend with many answers we seek appearing at a few taps of a keyboard.

Doing the research for this blog really highlighted just how many factors can cause babies to be born prematurely. To some it will be a scary read, to others it will offer comfort as they might find a possible answer. I think the biggest message though is that having a baby prematurely is very rarely a mothers fault (the exception being drug abuse).

Cone Biopsy and LLETZ procedure

If your smear comes back with abnormal cells then you may be invited in to undergo one of these procedures to remove those abnormal cells. The LLETZ (Large Loop Excision of the Transformation Zone) procedure is something I have had to have. It is uncomfortable but I wouldn’t describe it as painful and afterwards there was a mild ache.

Doctor caring for patient. Photography credit: Arvin Chingcuangco
Doctor caring for patient. Photography credit: Arvin Chingcuangco

The risk increases of a premature birth if there is more than 10mm excision area or if the procedure has been needed multiple times. The risk isn’t just for these two ways of removing cells it applies to any procedure that involves removing cells from the cervix.

Pre-eclampsia

This is something that can only happen during pregnancy. It is a combination of high blood pressure and protein being found in your urine. It usually happens after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which makes attending antenatal appointments so important. Most cases of pre-eclampsia are mild. If the condition develops to the much more serious condition eclampsia which is when fits or convulsions happen.

HELLP –H is Haemolysis where red blood cells disintegrate, EL is elevated levels of liver enzymes and LP is low platelet count. HELLP Syndrome is rarely seen before 20 weeks of pregnancy and is sometimes seen after 20 weeks of pregnancy but it is usually seen immediately after the baby has been delivered.

PPROM

This is where your waters break early. PPROM stands for preterm pre-labour rupture of the membranes and this usually happens when you are due to go into labour. In 2% of pregnancies waters will break early. In more than 80% of cases where waters have broken the baby is delivered within 7 days.

Pregnant woman holding her bump. Photography credit: Michalina
Pregnant woman holding her bump. Photography credit: Michalina

Multiple pregnancy

The most common multiple pregnancy type is twins. The more babies there are though the higher the risk goes for them being born prematurely. You are likely to be monitored a lot more closely and possibly be asked to attend more appointments. The risks for things like pre-eclampsia, placental abruption, gestational diabetes etc. are also higher. The average gestation for multiples making up twins, triplets and quadruplets ranges from 32 weeks to 37 weeks.

Diabetes

There are three types of diabetes that can affect pregnancy: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. With type 1 and 2 diabetes your body changes and so do your hormones this means that medication doses also change. You will probably attend a lot more appointments. Gestational diabetes often doesn’t have any symptoms however will be picked up in your routine checks. An important part of controlling this type of diabetes diet will become really important.

Where to find out more

I have only covered a few things that could result in a premature birth in this blog. I am not a medical expert but realise that some women are desperate for answers so this blog might be helpful. Here is a link to Tommy’s website where these conditions are explained in more detail and a lot more conditions are covered. Always talk to the medical professionals as they should be able to provide you with some idea as to what has happened.

My little boy was born prematurely to a heart condition called SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia) which doctors believe went on to cause his other condition Hydrops Fetalis. If you want to read more I have written blogs on both SVT and Hydrops Fetalis.