On average, a pregnancy lasts between 39 and 40 weeks. Sometimes a newborn is delivered sooner than expected. A premature birth may start when the mother has regular contractions that cause the cervix to begin to open. That would mean the mother is in preterm labor. However, just because contractions start early doesn’t always mean that the mother will deliver a preterm baby.
It happens that about ¼ of preterm births are planned by the parents. In those cases where the medical team may believe that the fetus or mother are in trouble medically, the doctors and medical providers may decide that the best alternative is to induce labor early or order a Cesarean delivery.
Otherwise, preterm births are spontaneous. If the mother’s water breaks early, often referred to as preterm premature rupture of membranes, or if the mother’s cervix opens prematurely with no contractions, then preterm birth will likely occur.
Approximately 12% of babies born in the United States are born prematurely. That rate has been reported to be about one-third higher than it had been 30 years ago. With many more women utilizing fertility treatments, there is a higher likelihood to have twins or higher multiples which tend to be born early or preterm.
If a baby is delivered before 37 weeks, that event is called a preterm or premature birth. The newborn is referred to as a “preemie.” If a child is born before 26 weeks gestation, the baby may be born with serious, permanent injuries. Any delivery of a newborn that occurs before 32 weeks can expect the newborn to have undeveloped lungs which can result in breathing problems. Lungs are known to develop fully in the 32nd to the 34th week of gestation. Because the baby’s lungs haven’t fully matured, the baby is unable to receive sufficient oxygen. In a case of a baby born before the 32nd week, the child can develop hypoxia, which is the lack of sufficient oxygen to the brain. This can cause permanent brain damage or cerebral palsy. The longer the fetus remains in a mother’s uterus, the lower is the risk of brain injury and birth defects.
Some premature births are unavoidable. The most common premature births are associated with:
- A mother with a history of premature deliveries;
- An incompetent cervix;
- A thin cervix;
- Preeclampsia or eclampsia, which is the mother’s high blood pressure during the pregnancy. Pregnancy induces hypertension in some cases;
- Diabetes or gestational diabetes;
- Maternal age, a mother over 30 or under 18 years old;
- Poor prenatal care;
- Mother’s poor nutrition and vitamin deficiencies;
- Low body mass index;
- Urinary tract infections untreated;
- Group B strep infection;
- Cigarette smoking; and
- Drinking alcohol during the pregnancy.
In cases where the expectant mother has an incompetent cervix or a premature dilation, opening of the cervix too early, the obstetrician may call for a cerclage procedure, which is a tiny stitch placed in the cervix to help to keep it closed keeping the baby in the uterus where it is safer and allows for natural maturity of the baby.
Doctors, midwives and obstetricians are trained to do everything they can to lessen the risk and occurrence of a premature birth. With a preemie, many babies are born with breathing problems or intestinal problems, organ damage, infection, high bilirubin, jaundice, kernicterus, blindness, deafness from antibiotics, respiratory distress syndrome, brain damage, brain hemorrhages, mental retardation, neurological deficiencies, developmental delays, learning disabilities or even cerebral palsy.
Many preterm children have lifetime problems that may include chronic lung disease, vision and hearing problems and developmental progress issues either in physical capacity or cognitively.
If you or someone you know or love has delivered a premature baby in Illinois and there has been negligence related to that delivery, please call us for an immediate free consultation. Robert Kreisman of Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Chicago and Illinois birth injury cases for more than 40 years.
With our years of experience in trying and settling birth injury cases, Kreisman Law Offices provides the best possible services to our clients and have achieved unsurpassed results. Our service is unmatched. Please call us 24 hours a day at 312.346.0045 or toll free 800.583.8002 for a free and immediate consultation, or complete a contact form online. There is no charge for a consultation that will include an evaluation of your case.