Prematurity Explained

What Causes Premature Births?

Most premature births result from spontaneous preterm labor -- and about half the time, the doctor can't determine the cause. However, studies suggest that your body's natural response to certain bacterial infections, such as those of the uterus, may play a role. These can lead to inflammation and the release of hormone-like substances that can trigger labor. Unfortunately, women with uterine infections often have no symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose and treat them in time; plus there's not much you can do to prevent them in the first place. But other infections that may contribute, such as urinary tract infections (common symptom: frequent urination accompanied by burning and pain) and STDs (potential symptoms: vaginal discharge and burning during urination), are easily diagnosed. If you think you have one of these, see a doctor immediately.

Many preemie deliveries are done via cesarean -- in fact, most of the growth in the number of single-baby premature births is attributed to c-sections, according to a recent March of Dimes study. This may mean that some early deliveries aren't medically necessary. Before you decide whether to move forward with a c-section, discuss the potential benefits and risks with your doctor.

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